Category Archives: Trials

Someone, please put him out of his misery

And no. This is not a post about the current state of our (non) government.

Recently, I was asked to proofread a document that had been written in English by a German native speaker. I agreed (a little reluctantly because you never know just how long it will take. Is their English absolutely fantastic – or am I going to be wading through abysmal Gerlish without a clue of what the author is actually trying to say?)

The English in this case was not too bad but the job posed a few moral considerations.

The first was this:  it eventually became clear that the author was applying – not for a job as I first thought – but for a place at a prestigious business school. His application talked about having studied English at a language school in California. Fair enough. But was he going to pass off my finely crafted and corrected sentences as his own?

Secondly, this young man (well, not so young it turned out. He was 32 although I would have put his maturity at somewhere around 20) did not answer the questions in the right manner. They were fairly standard sorts of questions such as “Describe a situation which went wrong and what you did about it.” I feel sure the assessors were probably looking for an answer something along the lines of “There was this total disaster at work, it looked like we would all be lined up and shot at dawn but with teamwork/my particular skills/taking a big risk/working all night, we/I saved the day and  gained the respect of our clients/nailed a multi million pound deal/learned a lot of lessons about XYZ and everyone got a big pat on the back, which is was our greatest reward.” My young man did not approach it like this. His answer was “Gosh, yes, there was this terrible disaster at work, it looked like we would all be lined up and shot at dawn so I called in sick.”

I was nearly weeping – partly with despair and (as the answers continued in this vein) partly with laughter. I felt dreadful that this chappy was paying me good money to correct his English but what good would it do him when his answers were so inappropriate?  I was visiting the MaPa-rental Seat when doing this job and I read bits out to the Pa-rent who at one point commented, “Oh, dear, I think he’s barking up the wrong tree there”. I replied rather exasperatedly, “Actually, I think he’s just barking.”

He kept reiterating that the course he was applying for was right up his street but he never said WHY. Argh. It was so frustrating!! I felt as if I should rewrite his answers to give him at least a sporting chance of getting an initial interview – but of course, that was not my role.

The cherry on cake of this desperate situation came in the very last paragraph. The question was something along the lines of “if money and time were no object, what would you really, really like to do with your life?” His answer? Blah, blah, your course is just perfect for me because I’ve been working in a related job (although I only did it because my parents told me it was a good idea) [he honestly said this] and so I want to spend thousands of euros to get a Masters in Something I am Not Really Very Interested In blah blah but if I could really do what I wanted, I’d love to be a hotel manager because I love working with people and it would be so satisfying to provide an excellent service in hospitality.

I was so tempted to mail him and say, “Filling in this application form has been a useful exercise because you have finally teased out of your desire to please others (your parents, your boss) that you want to channel your kindness into serving others in a lovely hotel. Please stop slogging your guts out in an unsuitable environment. Invest your euros in a hospitality course and enjoy your life.”

But of course, I couldn’t. My only comment, when I returned the documents to the translation agency, was “I understand this business school has a very prestigious reputation. I would be interested to hear if the applicant is successful. I wish him luck.”

Oh dear.

A jimjams sort of day

I think today is a Jimjams sort of day. It is 3 pm and I am not dressed yet. I completely forgot about the clocks going forward an hour so, once I had finally twigged, half the morning had already disappeared.

I am humungeously busy with work – (proofread a German hotel website today, translate a brochure on cruises in the Antarctic, and translate half a company newsletter – to try and keep ahead of the deadlines) whilst my computer makes funny noises. I think it may be dying – but am hoping it will cling on until Wednesday when it can breathe its last and I can breathe some sort of sigh of relief … about the deadlines I mean, not about the prospect of having to spend money on a new one.

I feel as if there are various levels of irony at play here: I am working like crazy to earn the money that has been thin on the ground in previous months only to find that when I’ve earned it, I’ll be spending it in an area I hadn’t budgeted for. I suppose it could be worse, so mustn’t grumble (anymore). (Although just before I stop, it would be nice to have a day off soon – translating all this touristy stuff about luxurious cruises, comfortable hotels, delicious meals, etc. is a bit galling when I haven’t had time to go to Sainsbury’s for a month. I’m down to my last tin of tuna…)

Anyway, I was just thinking I should perhaps get round to getting dressed when a second thought hit me: why bother? I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not expecting anyone, so I might as well save the time (all 5 minutes of it!) and expend it on my translations (or blog, if I’m honest.)

If anyone knows about computers and whether the sound of the fan (?) going into overdrive (a bit like a washing machine on spin cycle) is A Bad Sign, do please let me know. If it is a death rattle, I’m not sure whether it will make me feel any better but I may be able to make some contingency plans to tide me over until I have time to race down to PC World to buy another (sob…)

A good idea?

I have had a tiring week one way and another. It all came to a head on Wednesday when my computer was soooooo sloooooowwww it took about 5 seconds for each character to register on the screen – and searching the net was completely out of the question (this is something I do several times an hour to research terms, etc.). A document that should have taken about 2 hours to translate took about 6 hours.  I had 20 minutes before the deadline to research the final obscure term (the doc was all about pensions) so I raced round to Mrs Cupcake’s. She was in her kitchen knee deep in a hundreds of cakes she was producing for a big event the following evening. She kindly swept her desk of all papers (an unnecessary act) and let me use her laptop.  The term I sought was particularly stubborn (although Mrs C’s computer was a dream to work with – so smoooooth, so fast) and so I had to literally make up a translation…. not a solution I ever feel happy with… particularly when I feel slightly unsure of the subject matter to boot.

I belted back to my place to meet the 4 pm deadline. By now it was 4.02. An email arrived at 4.06 from the project manager asking when I would be sending the document. I phoned to say it was on its way, apologising for my tardiness. (In case you hadn’t realised, when they give a deadline in this game, dead is the operative word.)

I felt completely stressed by the day (not to mention the pressure I had been under to produce umpteen thousand words over the previous few days… including Sunday…wah. [Can you turn up the volume… I can’t hear those lamenting violins very clearly…] and thought I might go for a little walk to clear my head. As I passed by my bed, I thought a ten minute rest would be a good idea first.  Four hours later….

That evening of course I could not get to sleep at a “normal” time. I was still awake at 4.30 am. Humph. Similar repeat last night (Thursday).

Now it is Friday evening and I have a mountain of work to get through for Tuesday. I’ve negotiated an extra two hours on the deadline – and I’ll need every minute… so why am I spending precious moments blogging about my plight? Well, dear reader, I’ve just poured myself a glass of wine to drink while I tackle the transcription of an interview about a poor chap who at the age of 20 in 1985 became a paraplegic – literally from one day to the next.

I’m now wondering if the wine is a good idea….

Wallpapering over the cracks

that have appeared before the year is yet three full days old..

The first lesson of the year is one your correspondent has noted several times before but one which she is yet to fully learn, it would appear.

In writing the long list of lovely things she would like to achieve/learn/explore/experience this year (which includes many things carried over from several, er, decades), she has this afternoon been reminded of why so many of these things remain on her wish list of life.

Mrs Translating Tiggywinkle would like to share with her long-suffering readers that achieving objectives does not only require writing them down and getting on and doing them but also removing the obstacles from their being achieved.

Today, while it was still light (it is now pitch black), was a bright, sunny yet frosty day – just perfect for a walk. Mrs Tigg thought this would be an admirable way of starting out in the way she means to go on this year in the way of taking in an increase of exercise. Until, that is, that she remembered with horror that despite having told her customers that she was unavailable until January 4, she had in fact cracked on December 30th and promised to translate about 5 hours’ worth of press releases for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to roll around, well, tomorrow and the evil has had to be faced. Poo and piddle.

As previously mentioned, it is now pitch black outside and below freezing. Not really conducive to a pleasant, bracing walk.

It’s a bit of a dilemma: not to take on the work would mean less income in a period which has been a bit draughty on the pecuniary side but taking on work when friends and family are relaxing means that Mrs Tigg has fewer opportunities to socialise and do those things that she would actually *like* to do.

I must resolve to tease a resolution out of this. But right now I must go back and proofread the press releases that are attempting to persuade consumers to part with their cash to buy wallpaper.

Leisure time

One of the reasons for my letting off steam the other day was because try as I might to educate my clients into their seeing me as part of the overall team on a project, I seem to fail.

The problem is not just that I have to educate my clients (in this case, agencies) but I have to persuade them to educate their clients (the end-client who has commissioned the translation).  It doesn’t seem as if it should be too hard to do but it apparently is!

When planning projects end-clients no doubt go to huge lengths to ensure everyone in their organisation produces the text, diagrams, etc for the final document to some sort of schedule. They remember that there are various people involved in the stages and that time has to be built in for the documents to go to print or go live on line. They often seem to forget the small business of translation. Why, oh why, do they not consult the translation agency and ask for their opinion on how long a translator might need to translate a document? And, why, oh why, do they not then build in this extra time into the schedule and adjust the timings as necessary?

On Friday an agency for which I have worked for several years now and for which I have done thousands of words of translation for a particular end-client contacted me with a translation schedule.  The volume of work to be translated (by me) and proofread (by another) and double-checked (by me) and delivered to the end-client by Wednesday evening (deadline set in stone) is actually too great to be done in the *working days* available.

An organisation does not produce this volume of text in an hour. Someone, somewhere must have known that this project was in the pipeline. Could they not have given the agency (and thus me) prior warning of their intentions?  We could then perhaps have asked them to get their own skates on in order to deliver the work to us a day or so ahead of their original date – and all would have been well.  But no.

This is why, gentle reader, I am sitting at my desk on a Sunday afternoon in an attempt to carve out some extra time to keep ahead of the schedule, looking at a document which has a certain tone of irony. Its title? Leisure time.


Sometimes, just sometimes, your clients can drive you to distraction. And sometimes you need to let off a bit of steam.

Excuse me while I rent my clothes, beat my breast, wail and gnash my teeth and look daggers towards a certain town in Germany.

Gah! and Double Gah!!

You will be pleased to know that some of my ire was dissipated by visiting the Wibsite and reading about BurntSienna’s Flower Child’s accomplishments in the field of music. I think the Wibsite may have (another*) genius in its midst.

Deep breath…. thanks. I feel a bit better now. 🙂

*You can decide for yourself who you think the other/s  is/are! 😉

Tale of an insomniac

Last night, I finally fell asleep at about 3.30 am. I hate not being able to sleep as I lie there thinking “argh, fall asleep, you’ve got to get up again in 5 / 4/ 3 hours”. I don’t suppose it helps.

The alarm rang at its customary 7.30 am, I rolled over, turned it off, knocked it to the floor and carried on snoozing.  Some time later, I heard the telephone ring.  Looked for the clock. Not there. Fell out of bed, ran to the office and answered as perkily as poss

Me: Good morning, Tiggywinkle Translations! 🙂

Client: Einen schönen guten Morgen, Kerensa!

Me: Guten Morgen, Herr Lieblingsklient! 🙂

Client: (in German) We’ve got this rush job, we need it back by 11. It’s only 450 words – do you think you’d be able to do it?

Me: [Argh. I have absolutely no idea what the time is now. Quick bit of stalling for time required] Oh [all innocence] is that 11 your time or mine?

Client: Oh, of course, you’re an hour behind. I’ll tell you what, I’ll mail it to you. Have a look and call me back immediately.

Me: Will do! 🙂

Kerensa turns on computer [couldn’t do that during the call as all the bings and bongs would be a real give-away], dashes back into bedroom to look at clock. Clock seems to have suffered cardiac arrest on hitting the floor and has stopped. Kerensa runs downstairs to kitchen to a) put on kettle and b) find out the time.

Phew! It’s only 8 am here. It could have easily been midday. Pours cuppa, runs upstairs again to the Engine Room. Starts translating. About doner kebabs…

A couple of hours later, the job is finished. Mail it off. Seconds later the phone rings. Mr Client again. The customer has amended the document. Argh! I cry. I’ve just this minute finished it![And I was hoping to have some breakfast…]

Make amendments and mail it off again. Have belated breakfast.

It’s now nearly lunchtime – and I’m still in my pyjamas.  Shall I go back to where I was 5 hours ago and catch up on a few zeds – or soldier on and go to bed early?


So why is it, that when faced with a very similar document to the one I did so speedily the other day, it feels like I am ploughing my way uphill through wet concrete? Do I need to dash to the Indian takeaway for some Chicken Chom Chom (don’t you love that name?) to propel me a bit faster?

How many times am I allowed to check the Wibsite to see if anyone has written some diverting news?  6 times an hour sound reasonable? I think so.

The hermit

I have been away from the active blogosphere for a while – and now I’m back: sort of. Things have changed while I’ve been away and I barely recognise the place! All new, shiny and frankly, a bit bewildering.

The first thing I need to sort out – and have failed to do alone is to work out how to write a post without these boxy things down the right-hand side getting in my way [Publish/Tags/Categories]. They cover up half my finely crafted text – so apologies for any typos but I am almost literally typing blind here! Whoah! Take cover! The word count box is coming in on the attack from below.  We’re a bit hemmed in here, chaps… enemy’s on three sides now. We’re going to have to shoot our way out…and hope there are reinforcements on the horizon. Good luck – and see you in Blighty.

Helpful tactics gratefully received – but plain English please… I don’t understand computer speak. Thanks awfully, old chum.