Better Translating – Part I: Set up your workspace

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In Part one of our guide to becoming a better translator, let’s talk workspaces. Many of you translators probably work on laptops or desktop computers. I doubt you have considered working on an iPad, for example. And it surely will stay that way, at least for a few years. In this mini-series, I would like to give you some advice in order for you to become a better, more efficient, and more relaxed translator. They key to becoming a successful translator is  to get your work done. Simple as that. Translation is boring, but if you can do your job efficiently, and to a reasonable standard, it pays very well. So what we are going to try to do in this series of articles over the next couple of weeks is make the translation process less painful, make you spend less time on it, and help you be more productive when you’re at it.

Before we go into things like software and actual translation techniques, let us set you up with the right equipment.

Step 1: Get a proper chair and table

No-one says you can’t take your laptop and lie down on the sofa, if you feel like stretching your legs for a bit. But most of the time you should be sitting on a proper table in an office, or at least a space you’ve set aside to do your work. That way, you can leave what you’re working on in that space, you won’t have to see your work when you’re actively trying to relax, and it’ll take you 10 to 15 minutes less to start and finish work every day.

Make sure you get a more than decent desk. Money should not be too big an issue here. I’ll tell you why: If you buy the right furniture to start with, you’ll be using it for years and years. Make sure your table is high enough. Keyboard drawers are great, ergonomically: It’s great to have your arms a bit further down, under the table, and type away comfortably. But at the same time, there is nothing worse than not having space for your legs. I am 1.86 meters tall and have long legs, so even if I do buy a desk with a keyboard drawer, it is typically the first thing that comes off. Your screwdriver’s your friend. Make sure it’s in a quiet and well-ventilated room, and you might position the desk a meter or so away from the wall so that you can stretch your legs. Even sitting, they are the first part of your body which will feel numb, and you can enter a tired state as a result. Get a high enough desk, make sure you can stretch your legs, and you should be good to go.

Once we have the desk set up, let’s try to find a proper chair. A lot of people swear on those modern, barstool-like office chairs which are supposed to help you sit correctly. I had one as a kid and hated it. Again, spend the necessary money, make sure it’s high enough and allows you to sit at a good angle, and don’t worry: You’ll recover this money be being more productive, and you’ll find work much more enjoyable.

Getting an adequate desk and chair might well be the most expensive part of our set-up. Tomorrow, we’ll look at monitors, keyboards, and computer hardware. Meanwhile, let us know in the comments how and where you sit while translating, and how much you would be willing to invest in a good desk and chair.

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