The Linguist

The Linguist 56,5 – October/November 2017

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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20 The Linguist Vol/56 No/5 2017 FEATURES How translators deal with their emotions can mean the difference between job satisfaction and burnout, but can emotion management be learnt, asks Séverine Hubscher-Davidson A ristotle once said that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. A recent study that I carried out on the emotional skills of 155 professional translators really brought home the relevance of this quotation. The results of my investigation showed that emotions impact on various aspects of translators' lives and work, and that some are able to manage emotions more successfully than others. What's more, the stakes are high: results indicated that translators who are more skilled at managing emotions in the context of their work tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and to stay longer in the profession. Age and education also seem to play a role in terms of how well translators cope with feelings. There is a fair amount of literature that shows that being emotionally skilled, or competent, goes hand in hand with work engagement, entrepreneurial behaviour and leadership skills. Indeed, when managed appropriately, emotions can promote creativity and improve decision-making. Conversely, it has been shown that a lack of emotional skills can lead to job stress, counterproductive work behaviour and burnout. Translating and interpreting can involve quite a lot of emotion management but many questions remain: What is the secret to good emotion management? How is it linked to variables such as job satisfaction, experience and education? And, perhaps more importantly, can it be taught? Job satisfaction The following anecdote is a good example of how successful emotion management and job satisfaction are inextricably linked. A seasoned translator working in various fields is asked to translate a hospital report for a cancer patient who is the same age as him. That week happens to be the anniversary of his mother's death from cancer. When translating the piece, he struggles to focus, and feels intense and paralysing emotions. He considers giving up entirely, worried that he is becoming too upset to produce a high-quality translation. Instead, the translator decides to take several physical breaks from the text so that he does not have to think about it for long stretches of time and can regain control of his feelings. He also discusses it with a trusted colleague, and this enables him to talk through – and make sense of – his emotions. In the end, he succeeds in delivering a quality and timely translation. He feels a sense of achievement and relief once the task is done. This example demonstrates that good emotion management can impact on performance, mental health and the sources of job satisfaction. Instead of ruminating or avoiding the work, the translator used some adaptive strategies that were conducive to maintaining his well-being and job satisfaction. Using specific emotion management techniques, such as speaking with a mentor or colleague, will maximise the chances of being a competent, happy and successful translator. Experience and age An important finding in my study regards the role that experience and age play in how translators handle emotions in the context of their work. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that people acquire an increasingly sophisticated ability to recognise, appreciate and relate to the emotions of others as they age, and that older, more experienced translators find it easier to control their emotional states. With accumulative experience, translators become more adept at handling client expectations, gauging target-reader requirements and using adaptive coping strategies, which means they are less affected by problems encountered in their daily work. They also increase their knowledge of the language-cultures they work with, and increasingly make use of adaptive and culturally appropriate emotional skills. The seasoned translator Eliot Weinberger once noted that problems such as "the old bugbear of fidelity" are overrated – this kind of unperturbed perspective, denoting a level of resilience to problems, is a product of experience and effective self-regulation. It is also likely to make the job of translating a more pleasant and relaxed experience. Some developmental psychologists argue that, as people age, they become used to the effects of intense emotions – a process known as habituation. Although not particularly comforting for novice translators, it would seem that the saying 'it gets easier with time' holds true. As they get used to coping with Going through emotions © SHUTTERSTOCK

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