10 reasons why translating is like marathon running

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  1. It takes a long time to train
    No one really wakes up, has breakfast then, running for the bus, decides simply to carry on running to the office a mere twenty-six-odd miles down the road. It takes training. And for a first-timer, it could take 18 weeks to train. That’s over 4 months. A third of a year. And so it is with translation. Whilst it is true that any person with a computer, internet access and a knowledge of another language could – and does – set him/herself up as a translator, these are not professional, trained, qualified personnel. It may look cute to see a runner dressed up as Tigger (link: zimbio) but we all know we’re really there to see Paula (link: Wikipedia), aren’t we? It’s the difference between the 20-metre dash at your 6-year-old’s sports day and the Olympic men’s 100m final.
  2. It if were easy, everyone would be doing it.
    My first marathon was the Big Sur Interational Marathon (link: BSIM) from Big Sur to Carmel in California. It’s pretty but tough. Vancouver’s nice and easy. Paris is great. And Venice is, well, it’s Venice. And I’ve done London too. Not everyone can offer professional, quality translations. We look for translators with graduate degrees in translation. We look for sector expertise; continous work and development. It’s not easy but we feel that by building quality, we build for the future.
  3. It feels great when you finish
  4. Many people don’t understand why you do it
    We could find so-called bilingual people to translate your text. People whose only qualification is being able to speak two languages. But this doesn’t mean that they can translate. I can count money but I couldn’t be the Governor of the Bank of England. I can kick a football with my son but I’m no David Beckham (I’ve definitely got the looks though). Some clients tell us that one translation agency quotes for 7p a word and ask why our quote is not that low. It’s because we only use qualified, experienced translators. That means they have a recognised university qualification in translating. Many people don’t understand why we don’t choose less-qualified (or unqualified) people to give clients a lower cost. What they don’t realise is that low-qualified means even lower quality. The bottom line is that if you want a crap translation, then go to those agencies but, frankly, we don’t do crap.
  5. There are fun runners and there are serious professional athletes
    There are ISO 9001 certified agencies who also hold UNI EN 15038. And then there are the fun runners.
  6. There are no shortcuts
    Just as a runner goes through every inch of those twenty-six point two miles, so we go through every word of your text. Sounds obvious? The Italians say “squadra del cuore” (lit: team of the heart). They’re talking about the football team you support. A “shortcut” would simply be to translate this literally: Who is your team of the heart? Which is English, true, but makes no sense. Only by knowing the sense of the phrase, can we provide a better translation: Which team do you support? It just takes a bit longer because we’ve got to use our brains and think about what we’re doing.
  7. The support is critical
    A marathon runner – in training or during the run – needs the support from those around him/her. And it’s the same when translating. Resources, expert advice, computer programs (perhaps to do pagination or layout), all focus on the person running. If a runner had to stop to go to a cash-point to buy a bottle of water, it’d be pretty poor. That’s why we follow our “runners” with everything they might need.
  8. There’s always another one to do
    After one marathon, it may take a week or two but many people start planning their next one. The inaugural Brighton Marathon in the UK will take place on 18 April 2010. (link: Brighton Marathon). The next translation comes a little sooner but that’s how we like it!
  9. You can always get better
    Your personal best (PB) is always there to be broken. And at Intrawelt we believe that continuous improvement is essential. We look for ways to improve quality, improve consistency, and increase speed. By leveraging information technology better, by streamlining processes, by opening communication, we continually strive to a better PB.
  10. A disciplined, professional preparation will eventually show
    In practically every market, the client starts to demand more and more. Not only do their needs change but the client becomes more sophisticated. Eventually, the man in his bedroom with his schoolboy French will be unable to keep up and those clients will not accept his shoddy – but cheap – translations. Just as runners don’t collapse but run through the finishing line and proudly wear the finisher’s medal, knowing that they ran the marathon.