False vs true: translation stereotypes

Greater than 2 minutes, my friend!

Dear colleagues, during the last months I have been reading (and laughing at) a lot of posts and articles that depict translators as strange creatures or even as zombies. So I decided to collect 4 stereotypes that seem to be the most widespread, and write an article about them to tell you if they are a reality for me or just stereotypes. Here they are.


Translators work from the couch or the bed

This was true for me. I say “was” because it is not true anymore. Why? Because over time writing from the couch can cause really bad wrist pain, neck pain and back pain, and I discovered it at my expenses after working for more than six month from the couch. I don’t even comment about working from bed because this is just impossible, you are going to be excruciated by terrible back and bottom pains. In reality, translators normally have an office at home with a comfortable chair and a nice desk, perfect lighting and all the comforts needed; or can also work in bars and places where they can sit comfortably, even when traveling.


Translators work through the night

This was true for me when I was a beginner and couldn’t manage my time, hadn’t enough experience and accepted jobs well above my potential. Things changed years ago. I don’t like working after 6 pm. I am not concentrated, I just don’t want to work after that hour. So I get up every morning (except for weekends) at 7 o’clock and I start working at 8, more or less (it depends on bathroom time, dog’s needs, partner’s needs, etc.). Then I stop at noon for lunch, go back to work at 2 pm and try to stop at 5 or 6 pm. However, I am not the only translator in the world and I’ve heard of many translators that work through the night and enjoy doing so.


Translators have an awful appearance

There are tons of posts that depict translators as zombies, untidy people, even dirty people with uncombed hair, pale skin and huge dark circles under their eyes, wearing a pajama or a tracksuit, never moving their eyes from the screen and never seeing the sun in years. This is absolutely false for me. As I said in stereotype 2, I spend at least half-hour in the bathroom every morning to comb my hair, put make up on, dress and do all the things that other people do. Also because I could have a Skype call or meet a client or just a friend. As for never leaving my seat, I get up every half-hour and every two hours I go out for 15 minutes for a little walk with my dog.


Translators work every day even at Christmas

As I said, I work from Monday to Friday, never on Christmas or other holidays. However, I am the one who offers full availability during summer months. Why? I cannot stay away from my job for more than a week. And as I know that work usually decreases in August and I don’t receive a lot of tasks, I always say that I am there to work for them when they are on the beach (and I am too!) 😉

I find these stereotypes funny and I like to laugh at them, but these stereotypes are spread by translators. I also think that we shouldn’t do it so much because some of them not only aren’t they funny, but also make translators seem unprofessional and strange to the eyes of those who do not know them and need their services.

These are my experiences. Have you ever had a different one? Feel free to share it in the comment section.

Federica Cocuccioni

About Federica Cocuccioni

Italian translator and interpreter working from Spanish, Portuguese, English and French. Specialized in audiovisual translation and liaison interpreting. Passion for animals, environment and ecology.

4 thoughts on “False vs true: translation stereotypes

  1. Ciao Federica! People say stereotypes exist for a reason, so I’m sure a few freelance translators will find it hard to get out of their pajamas on some days (like me *coff coff*) or will maybe work on a holiday “just this once” to make a client happy. What people shouldn’t do, however, is think we’re all the same. For instance, I admire how you manage to stand up from your desk so often and always get dressed in the morning 😀

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  2. Thank God, I’m not a stereotype translator 🙂 🙂 🙂 I never work from a couch or a bed, I never work the whole night, I never work on Christmas and New Year, and I have normal appearance. But… I’m still a real translator, so it’s not that hard to live a normal life while being a translator 🙂

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  3. Hi Federica. I think you have a point when you say that those stereotypes make us look unprofessional. Even if they are true for some translators (I’m wearing sweatpants right now lol)
    And I’m so jealous that you find it in you to put make-up on every morning!

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  4. Thanks for the article, Federica. I think some of those stereotypes come from people misunderstanding what we say/write. And, this is probably what they think of freelancers in general, not only translators.
    With the possibility of working from home, we don’t have to take a car or bus to go to an office full of people, so yeah… the clothes can be a bit more comfortable. If the translator (or any other freelancer professional) prefers jogging trousers than office clothes, why not?
    I, for once, am a person who usually don’t put on make up and my hair is usually down or on a pony tail. And I was like that when I worked in an office as well. Not that I look like a zombie, but I see no need to put make up on if I’m not going to a party or other special event 😉
    Although, as you said on your post I have an office, with a desk, a proper chair and great lighting, sometimes I do sit on the couch, and on the floor. Specially when I’m proofreading, so I don’t have to type a lot. There’s something about cold weather and a fireplace that pulls me away from my desk at times, and, if I can sit nice and warm by the fireplace, why would I shiver at my desk?
    About Christmas, I never worked on Christmas and other major holidays, but I did spend some nights up. That was usually due to technical problems, or when my children were sick and demanded more of my attention during the day. So I don’t do it all the time. Although that is a stereotype that I would willingly fit into. I would prefer to work in the middle of the night, when all is quiet, and sleep til noon next day. That would be awesome if my kids weren’t up at 7am, and didn’t have to go to school. 😉

    Anyway. It’s something to think about. Some of the great things of being a freelancer is being able to manage your own schedule and work from wherever you want. I don’t think that sounds unprofessional, unless you don’t deliver the wok you are expected to.

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