Spain is now the worst-hit country in Europe after Italy and boy, does the media keep reminding us of that. Has anyone considered a news ban for your own sanity? So, Catalonia is now on lockdown and as of 8am today, we are only allowed out of our homes for emergencies, to buy food, or for work. However, these are things that I can’t change so let’s try and look on the “bright” side of this situation, or at least find a slightly less dull side. This “bright” side doesn’t mean that we will automatically come out of this smelling of roses, but it means that we will remain safe and sane throughout.
People never cease to amaze me! So many people have reached out to me regarding the lockdown. Friends, colleagues and people I have never even spoken to before. Just in case you need a friendly reminder, here it is: we will get through this…together! Whether we are in rural Italy singing our hearts out, or on a flat balcony on the edge of the gothic quarter in Barcelona applauding all the medical professionals fighting to beat this, we are all under the same sky.
I’m trying to remember that throughout all of this, it is important to be thankful for what we do have and not what we don’t. So today I am choosing to be thankful and grateful. Thankful that all the people I love are staying safe wherever they are in the world and grateful that as a freelance translator, I have not had my working life rudely interrupted by coronavirus, as I work from home anyway. As translators, we can adapt easily and although, we are (incorrectly) stereotyped for being introverts and social recluses, quarantine isn’t as much as a shock to our system as it is for some professions. That being said, choosing to socially distance ourselves or limit our social interaction with the outside world is one thing, but having a quarantine imposed on us so we can only leave our own home in certain circumstances is a very different story. That no longer becomes a choice and instead, becomes a necessity. A very candid newsletter that I subscribe to landed in my inbox last week and boy am I glad it did. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this (even though I know I’m not) and being truthful, it was one of the reasons I decided to write this post, so thank you to my fellow translator and neighbour here in Barcelona, Maéva Cifuentes for her comforting words. In her words, “us translators have been practicing self-quarantine for years. We’re pros! Let’s use those skills”. Subscribe to her newsletter here if you fancy some fresh reading material for the coming weeks.
Coronavirus is the trending topic in so many countries but I’m not writing this to be trendy or to boost my blog views, I’m writing this post because I feel like I need to write and keep in touch with the outside world. Before coronavirus turned our lives upside down, I had been journaling every night before I went to bed and I had been finding it very cathartic; it’s helped the quality of my sleep no end so maybe it can help me when I’m awake too. I’m not going to give any advice or pretend to be an expert in anything; instead I’m going to share some thoughts and ideas from a freelance legal translator who has found themselves under house arrest in a foreign land.
On Friday, my parents asked me to fly back to the UK because I have mild asthma and they want me to be at “home” in case I contract coronavirus and require the services of the NHS. My parents are not hypochondriacs, my Mum is a nurse, so she knows her stuff but first and foremost, she is a Mum and you do anything to protect your children, right? They are my parents, it’s only natural that they would want me to come home. But where is home? I thought about going “home”, but I chose to make Spain my home in November and unlike the UK, I don’t just abandon ship (the EU) when the going gets tough, so I am staying put. I made the decision to stay in Spain and not buy a €300 one-way ticket back to the UK (cheers Ryanair). This was just before the decision was taken out of my hands anyway and the Spanish government declared a state of national emergency and put us on lockdown.
I am sat in my flat on the first day of this unprecedented set of events and wondering how I will fill the days, weeks or maybe even months ahead of me. Of course, I plan to werk, werk, werk (I hope) and maybe save some more money thanks to the new corona ISA. We now also have a swear jar in our flat- the swear word being the new dreaded “C” word, anything news-related or just generally depressing. Each misdemeanour will result in a €1 donation to the jar which will be used to fund a holiday when coronavirus is a far, distant memory.
I have so many non-urgent things on my work to-do list that keep being moved down the list from one month to the next. Maybe now those things will finally see the light of day or maybe now it’s time for those books in my reading list to be dusted off? As someone who likes to keep busy, I’m hyperactive and I’m an over-thinker with a pet hate for laziness, so quarantine and I aren’t a match made in heaven. However, when life gives you coronavirus, build your business. I am sure that most of you are familiar with SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and I am choosing to focus on the O in this situation. So, what opportunities can coronavirus present to a translator? Indulge me for a moment, I haven’t lost my marbles just yet.
This is our priority at the moment and in reality, it should always be our priority. If a global pandemic doesn’t remind you of that, then no blog is going to help you. Simples!
I am determined to continue eating my 15 pieces of fruit and veg a day. A great tip from my Personal Trainer is to swap fresh fruit and veg for tinned or frozen versions so that you can buy more, and they will last longer if you need to self-quarantine. This way you get all the goodness at a fraction of the price and you can access all the nutrients from the comfort of your very own sofa or desk…whichever place you have chosen to spend the coming weeks.
Normally, I have Skype PT (personal training) sessions three times a week, but I plan on increasing this while I’m on lockdown to ensure that:
- I don’t go crazy.
- I don’t become a couch potato.
- I maintain my bikini body for the quarantine-free summer (please hurry up).
In an ideal world (what’s that?!), I will start/end every day with either yoga or some form of physical exercise to keep me healthy both physically and mentally. It will also help me sleep when I essentially sit at my desk all day. Don’t neglect your mental health- this whole situation could really take its toll mentally as well as physically, so please reach out if you need anything. Like I said, I don’t profess to be an expert on this situation, but I’m always here for a chat regardless and I promise to always give you the best and the kindest advice that I can. I have made sure that I have reached out to as many friends and colleagues as possible across Europe and the world, to check in with them and their family. Coronavirus has not infected the Internet so make use of it. Use Facetime, WhatsApp and Instagram to your heart’s content.
The idea of health and using Facetime, WhatsApp and Instagram to your heart’s content leads me onto the next important opportunity that is available to us: human contact. Granted, this won’t be IRL but considering people get married after meeting on dating apps, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that perhaps the odd voice note, or video call will bring a smile to someone’s face. Someone has already offered to have a virtual coworking session with me even though we are in the same city (muchas gracias Maéva) and I already have a few Skype dates in the diary. One of which is particularly important as it’s a friend who is now in the fourth week of quarantine in Bologna and I think she needs to see a friendly face. She is supposed to be visiting me here in Barcelona in a month’s time but that is looking unlikely and may also have to be a virtual visit. Reach out to friends and colleagues who are in quarantine and those who aren’t. Just reach out! If you think that hearing the dulcet tones of a broad Yorkshire lass might help cheer you up, please reach out for a chat. I won’t blame you if you don’t want to as it’s not the nicest accent in the world but us Yorkshire folk are renowned for our friendliness, so all jokes aside, I’m here for you anytime.
Webinars are a great way to learn and they can be done from the (dis)comfort of lockdown. Webinars are also handy because you can often register for them and then watch them at a convenient time for you, so if you don’t even have to watch them live…you have no excuse! They shouldn’t be affected, and they are usually free, so see what’s out there and get a few booked in your diary.
A lot of translation conferences have been affected by the pandemic but instead of being cancelled, some conferences are going online. I really wanted to attend the BP20 Translation Conference this year in Nuremberg, but I couldn’t make it in person. It is now going to take place online and so I might be able to go after all. Life is weirdly ironic at times!
Reading is really important for translators and it’s always helpful to do as much reading as you can in your area of specialism. However, that’s easier said than done between the thousands of words a day that you are supposed to be translating, the millions of emails you are expected to reply to and all the other tasks we have to do on a day-to-day basis to keep our businesses going.
Read as much as you can in your L1 and your L2 etc., just read! I usually read a lot of news and legal publications in French and in English so that I am always aware of what’s happening in the legal world and business in general. Usually I would recommend reading the news to keep up to date with everything but unless you want to increase your blood pressure, maybe restrict the amount of news you read at the moment as it’s all quite dreary. You could even watch a film or a series in your L2 etc., technically the subtitles would class as reading, right? I have decided to use Audible to listen to a new book recommended by Susie Jackson in the latest version of the podcast mentioned below. I thought Audible was a good option right now as it leaves my hands free to type so I can multitask, plus I’m trying to mix things up a bit while in quarantine and do things a little differently, so I figured listening to a new book, instead of just reading one was the way to go. I do have a confession to make…I left my Kindle back in the UK and short of it growing wings and bypassing the travel ban, I won’t be reunited with that anytime soon, so the Kindle edition of this book wasn’t an option. I also didn’t want to use Amazon’s delivery services for something so trivial at such a crucial time.
I have become a big fan of the Smart Habits for Translators podcast. It is marketed by Veronika Demichelis and Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo as a podcast by translators, for translators and it does exactly what it says on the tin. They cover a whole variety of topics from “Imposter Syndrome” (Episode 2) to “Reading More When You Are Not Working” (Episode 5). I think Episode 6 (Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Habits for Translators) is particularly important at the moment as we need to prioritise our health and keep ourselves active, either to keep cabin fever at bay or just to counteract sitting at a desk all day. Maybe now is the time to start decluttering? If so, Episode 11 should be right up your street.
Yesterday, I got around to listening to the latest episode of Smart Habits for Translators and I was not disappointed. It’s a podcast that’s going to keep me company in the weeks to come. Their guest Suzie Jackson provided wonderful insight into how she runs her business and thanks to these ladies, I now have lots more tasks, reading and inspiration to start the first working week in quarantine, whatever that may bring! Just one podcast has given me so many ideas and tasks to do during the quarantine, so fear not, because with productivity, we’re going to get through this. I’m already over the Netflix method for coping on lockdown and it’s still early days, so this seemed like a much better option.
Learn a language
I am going to use this time to listen to lots of Spanish podcasts, watch a lot of Netflix in Spanish and dust off my Spanish grammar books, so that I can really improve my Spanish in the coming weeks. Luckily, I live with a native Spanish speaker who also happens to be working on his English, so this is a match made in heaven at a time like this. It’s also important not to neglect my French as that’s the language that keeps me fed and watered, until I can add Spanish to English translation to my list of services.
And here was you thinking this was just a legal translation blog, I have barely mentioned it this week (luckily for you)! I feel that as time goes on, I will no doubt have more to say about the lockdown life and if I find myself discovering new things which may help you too, I will be sure to share them. I expect to find myself excessively cleaning the flat (guilty on day 1) and binging on Netflix in Spanish, when I’m not throwing myself into work. Honestly, this is quite possibly the most productive I have ever been but surely it shouldn’t take a global pandemic to make that happen? Life moves in mysterious ways sometimes. I would love to hear any tips that you may have for how you are passing the time and more importantly, how you are feeling while on lockdown.
I think it’s best we don’t try to speculate about what is to come but just focus on staying safe, sane and taking care of ourselves and those around us.