Translator OCD

by Julie Anne Lingust & Mental Health Speaker

So, what is it really like to be the friend of, or in a relationship of any kind, with a translator? Naturally, it can have its advantages. Understanding menus, travelling abroad, needing the odd language related favour or two. However, as with any habits, traits or instincts one acquires over the course of a career, those of a linguist can stand out just as much as those of any other professional. What’s more, their charm may be in the eye of the beholder: they may be quite adorable or completely annoying.

What sort of traits and habits are we talking about that you need to look out for?

Typos and spelling

It goes without saying that all qualified, trained and competent linguists, that is translators, editors and proof readers are the type of people who pay painstaking attention to detail. The professional translator is very likely to undertake proofreading and editing work regardless of whether the translator works between European languages or others.

In the language services business this can involve editing a text written by a non-native speaker, or by someone who appreciates the importance of a second pair of eyes. You must be aware that the attentive linguist will find every minute typo, spelling, grammatical and punctuation error. Only give them something to check that you yourself have written if you are confident it is fairly error free or you don’t mind your translator friend’s scowls and eye rolling. You may even receive the odd politely sarcastic comment. Linguists can be talented in that department.

It is important, though, not to be selfish or too critical because it is most likely your friend will get the utmost pleasure out of reading almost anything and finding linguistic mistakes. Remember: if the author only used spellcheck as a minimum precaution or took the time to double check what they had written, your friend would not be placed in the position of having to pick up their typos. The translator beast simply follows its instinct.


It’s not to be insulting but anyone who spends a large amount of time on the internet double, triple, quadruple checking definitions, monolingually, bilingually or otherwise, will more than likely admit to having a hint of geek about them. And they will be proud of it.

The typical linguist will enjoy double meanings, puns and linguistic humour that very often only other linguistic types will have an equal appreciation of. Most other people will just groan and respond as other people do when they hear a cringeable joke.

Again, be kind. Your translator friend probably spends so much time correcting other people’s bad spelling and typos that when something appears before them out of the office that makes them laugh, that is a good thing. Don’t be alarmed by this next statement, however. Many friends of translators even come to appreciate and “get” this sort of humour which only strengthens the bond.

Business critic

Amid the cries of despair and horror over poor translations, spelling mistakes, blatantly automated online translations and the likes, nothing is more likely to cause hysteria among the professional translator than a badly translated business website.

The shock is several times worse when the site belongs to a large and/or well-known business. This is when you will hear cries of the “you’d think they’d know better” genre. The translator then becomes an expert in dishing out commercial advice on what these large companies should be able to afford when it comes to hiring translation providers.

The only thing worse, as you can by now no doubt guess, is when the large successful company has a “Google Translate” box at the top of their website for the benefit of other language speakers. It is at this point that you will hear gasps, splutters and half whispered exclamations of “unbelievable”.

Most annoying for translators specialising in the English legal system is when they work with professionals from law firm services and their files are fraught with typos frequently caused by failing to read through the file before publication or, contrary to other situations, where a spell checker has been used and the absence of any human revision has left words like the spell checked “judgement” in the text instead of its juridical variant that is “judgment”.

Native or not

Most people have at some time had the dubious product manual experience. This is the type of item you may wish to keep hidden from your translator friend for all of the reasons mentioned above. It’s similar to the situation where a person “knows” when another is not from a given region or is not a native speaker of a certain language owing to some little clue that pops up once in a while. The translator absolutely knows when the manual has not been translated by a native speaker and not always when this would be obvious to the non-linguist.

There are other circumstances, however, such as when the translator is hired to edit a previously translated document. Often this involves a translation that has allegedly been completed by a native speaker but it has clearly been done either by (i) a non-native speaker (ii) someone in a great rush (iii) someone who has been so confident that spell checking or revising their work has not come into the equation or (iv) all of the above. This frequently results in one thing: the opportunity to correct not just any old person’s work, but that of another translator! And complain. And enjoy doing it.


To give them their dues, linguists are not a bad lot. If you know one who displays the traits mentioned in this article, you can be sure you are the friend, colleague or acquaintance of a committed translator or editor who takes his or her job seriously and does the job he or she is hired to do within an inch of its life.

In brief, these are the traits that ensure a translation project or any document is presented as professionally, correctly and accurately as possible. These are the habits that confirm that the translator is switched on to what should and should not be and so has a strong sense of right and wrong. Chances are they are a perfectionist that can be relied on to get the job done.

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About Julie Anne Advanced   Lingust & Mental Health Speaker

29 connections, 1 recommendations, 127 honor points.
Joined APSense since, December 20th, 2012, From North West, United Kingdom.

Created on Dec 31st 1969 18:00. Viewed 0 times.


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