When I started my career (in travel, not translation) we had an in-house e-mail system, no internet, no mobile and mountains of files. Looking back on it from where I am now, productivity must have increased incalculably. That is not to say that it is all positive... when I had a problem with a word or concept back then, I would have used the human resources available – now I look it up on the internet and lose out on the human interaction and the wealth of a colleague’s insight and personal experience that comes with it!
That said, avenues are opened to another kind of interaction. This is the time of the internet, and for translators it offers innumerable new ways of networking, research, communication and much more. This article will but scratch the surface of a huge subject.
In a not so distant past, translators used typewriters for their final drafts and if there were any errors, they would have to type that page again. They tended to work locally, geographically speaking, receiving and delivering hard copies by post or courier (or picking it up themselves). When dictionaries weren’t enough, you called a colleague, or visited the library. It is hard to imagine now.
Thanks to the rise of the internet, where you live is no longer relevant, increasing our potential client base immeasurably and there is no doubt that, as well as being fundamental to our business, the internet makes for a better translator, or perhaps I should say, better translations. Should we need to, instead of consulting one or two colleagues, we can swap advice and terminology online with hundreds of translators (though of course you must decide who is expert and reliable).
Now we use the internet to gain clients, to do our job and to run our business. The following is a list, by no means exhaustive, of what we use the internet for today (please feel free to add to the list from your own experience): communication, research, terminology, social media and networking, continued professional development, banking and online book-keeping, online storage and back up (this last one can be controversial, not everyone trusts cloud technology yet...)
Moreover the internet is constantly evolving – what we used ten years ago is a fraction of what we use it for today. Continued education has always been a requirement in order to be the best translator we can be; nowadays we also have to stay up to date with technology including the latest possibilities on the Internet that can optimise our translation.
However, for all its plus points, there are also negatives: information overload is now a recognised term, there are many possible distractions, reams of information from unverified and unverifiable sources... and simply so much potential that you can get lost trying to use it all.
Not to mention our non-work lives; the internet certainly doesn’t help in our increasingly sedentary lifestyle... Last Christmas, I actually managed to buy every present online (I am one of 6 with at least one child average per family and two of my own - it is a lot of presents!), and any moment I am expecting my weekly shop to be delivered to my door while I settle down to catch up with friends on Facebook...!