For everyone who celebrated U.S. Thanksgiving, welcome back to work! I always find that a vacation is a good chance to develop some new insights into work and life in general, and this one was no different. My family and I spent the week on a mountain biking and hiking vacation with another family, and on this trip I was confronted with a new realization about translators: we know a lot about a lot. This isn’t to say that translators are more intelligent than mechanical engineers, energy consultants, systems administrators, etc. (to name a few of the people on this trip!), but because of the documents that we read for work all day, we learn a lot of specialized facts about a wide variety of topics.
Personally I think this is a really appealing part of the profession, and one that hasn’t often occurred to me. For example on our trip, the subject of Native Americans’ use of horses came up, which prompted me to comment that horses were actually introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century, before which time many Native American tribes used dogs to pull their belongings around on sled-type devices called travois (I learned that while translating an atlas about Native Americans). Not that people’s eyes didn’t glaze over when I got to the intricacies of how a travois can be pulled either by hand or with a harness on a human, but it was still a fun moment! I also learned that translators know a lot of the answers to the Discovery Channel quiz show Cash Cab (maybe I never realized his before because we don’t have TV at home!).
In sum, although it sounds trite to say, translation is a great job because we’re always learning; and as compared to people who are always learning about a very narrow subject area, our knowledge allows us to be familiar with a wide variety of subjects that sometimes come in handy. Have fun with it!