Same as before, we are going to explore techniques that computer systems use and adapt them to the process of translation.
So let's get right to it.
Let's take the scenario where you're preparing a healthy breakfast, and say you have 20 minutes to get it ready. Unless you're settling for having just coffee, if you do only one thing at a time, you'll never make it. So what's the solution?
You start making the coffee, and right after that you heat up the pan, and immediately after you put toast in the toaster. As you start doing these things, you keep in mind how long it's going to take for each to be ready and mentally prepare to do them in the correct order, so that everything isn’t ruined (or burnt). You notice that there's a bit of free time, so you pour a glass of orange juice or milk (which happens to fit in nicely).
The result of this is that when 20 minutes are up you'll have everything ready on time, in the correct order, and you'll be able to proceed to your next task for the day... enjoying your meal.
What we just went through is the same sort of thing that Superscalar processors do, i.e. start a larger/complex task first and in the intervals where tasks stall or pause, carry on with smaller tasks needed to accomplish the end result.
Translators should do the same thing.
Without nitpicking the details, a good translator will make use of tools that will allow them to prepare certain tasks while they're unable to tend to the main/larger tasks.
Let's say I'm using a CAT tool (Computer Assisted Translation) and that I'm stumped on a section where I have no knowledge of the specific topic I’m translating. What can I do in the meantime?
I could just study the topic, but that would end up being an inefficient use of my time. If instead I start on the next section of the translation, or work on a glossary related to the topic, or specifically search for terms/phrases that are repeated in the translation, I'll be better equipped to finish off that difficult section quickly when I go back to it.
You may have noticed in the previous section that I just mentioned the use of glossaries and CAT tools. This is akin to pre-fetching in computers. It is the use of various techniques to help computers avoid show-stoppers or slow-downs when dealing with potentially problematic data sets or instructions. A few examples are caches, buffers, and registers where repeatedly used data are put temporarily to avoid retrieving the same information from slower sources.
Even the most powerful computers in the world would slow to a crawl if they didn't use these techniques.
When it comes to translation, the ability to maintain speed consistently is just as important as being quick or knowledgeable in a certain subject. So, what are some practical ways to do this?
CAT tools, for one, can be an incredible aid in dealing with repeated words or sections. Keeping a glossary will often save the translator from having to look up a term repeatedly in a time consuming dictionary. It may seem old fashioned but a notepad and something to write with can be a must for quickly jotting down information researched for the subject at hand that will eventually come up later in the translation or the project.
Spending a little time with such tools can save a lot of time later on.
Modern computers heat up. It's a fact.
Heat is the enemy of performance in semiconductors. That's the reason why high performance systems sport a myriad of advanced or exotic cooling solutions.
Without proper cooling, a CPU or a GPU would have to reduce the frequency it runs at drastically.
Unlike older chips that simply designed around a maximum temperature, newer chips are built taking into account Thermal Design Power or similar techniques, which set an average value for the heat they can generate.
In practice, to stay within boundaries a chip will either stop/pause sections of itself, lower its working frequency, or use other methods to reduce the workload until the temperature forcibly goes back within tolerable levels.
There are mainly two moments when these measures trigger - when the chip reaches a certain temperature or in a scheduled manner so that it never heats up too much. Oftentimes it’s a combination of the two.
Now, the human brain is exponentially more complex and powerful than a chip. If you do a little research, you'll also discover that it has an incredible cooling system unlike any other.
Nevertheless, the principles of Thermal Design still apply.
The brain heats up just like any other processor, and when it does it automatically starts to initiate cooling procedures. This effectively lowers performance.
If you're wondering what kind of procedures the brain initiates, try arguing with a headache, brain fog, translators block, or not being able to remember the meaning of a word that you definitely know (these are just some of the signs of brain fatigue). Anyone that works in a "thinking job" will encounter these symptoms, but translators slam into them a lot more often because of the inherent job requirement - that of understanding the meaning of things.
Most translators work until they are no longer able to think properly and then it takes a lengthier time to recover from exhaustion. If instead we take a few hints from Thermal Design, we can be much more effective.
Two ways of doing this are: taking planned breaks (pacing) to keep your exhaustion levels in check, and recognizing when you're no longer able to work efficiently (stopping).
It is important to remember that what you do must be totally different and unrelated to your work. Therefore, it means that if reading and writing are part of the job, then you'll need to avoid those. Do something different.
In addition, the harder the task and the longer a break you'll need to take.
Initially it may seem like a waste of time, but the efficiency gained more than makes up for the recovery time.
Each of these techniques may sometimes shave off just seconds or minutes, and in other cases, it may cost some time in the first place, but the important thing is that a translator that uses these methods will be able to predict the time it takes to finish a translation reliably.