The Couch – Techmology….

The Couch is a place for readers to engage in stimulating discussion.

The subject of this month’s Couch is… that’s right, the struggle for “work-life balance.”

It seems that not even the best among us are able to perfectly discipline their use of digital tools. But we need them for work. A well-known interpreting guru has recommended not letting more than one hour go by before responding to a business-related e-mail. No one wants to be left behind, but if we’re available at all hours of the day (and evening or night), is this a future toward which we wish to head? How do you see this?

Let us know, and please also comment on each others’ posts.

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The Couch is where you get to flesh out the discussion and give it life.

As we enter the fall season and the weather gradually cools, technology’s role in shaping our profession shows no signs of relinquishing its throne at the top of many people’s minds (and, often, worries). The multitude of new gadgets continually being produced, admittedly, have their advantages. From term bases to term extractors, machine translation to translation memories, recording devices to sound editors, voice-to-text software to computerized screen readers – to say nothing of the seemingly infinite number of sites and resources available (including this one) through your web browser, and of course, remote-interpreting platforms – translators and interpreters have everything they need to keep up with the hustle-bustle of our digitalized world.

And yet, this editor fears, we seem to lose a bit more of ourselves each time that next gadget takes up a bit more space in our lives. In no wise wishing to discount these tools – I myself make extensive use of them – the old adages about relegating, for our own sake, our blue-screen toys to a specific part of the home, time of day, or function still ring true. That feeling of almost constant fatigue, that vague and unutterable malaise one feels in the nerves, in the eyes, in the neck, after a long day doing what we do best behind a screen (the pandemic sure put that on steroids), that sense we’re never quite there yet and that maybe the gadgets have something to do with it, that longing we might occasionally experience for an idealized or idyllic past, when life was more modest and the world less noisy… all those, and more, are real off and on for most of us.

It’s difficult today, albeit unthinkable, to imagine working in the language profession without making use of such tools. But is this an artificially created need? Are we like the one who makes ten million dollars a year and spends eleven million, who never understands why he doesn’t have enough money and is effectively as cash strapped as a low-income single mother in a nameless big, expensive city? Who could go back to typewriters and paper dictionaries? Is anyone today still doing that? (If you are, it’s more certain that I win the lottery than you read this article and comment on it.) This crypto-Luddite invites everyone else who would be so inclined to comment on what amounts to today’s term “work-life balance” and how your digital tools fit into it.


Body photo: Petrus van Schendel, Reading by Candlelight, date unknown, c. 1840s-50s.

6 Comments
  • NICHOLAS LUTTINGER
    Posted at 19:28h, 24 September Reply

    Who is the author of the article please?

    • Observer Editor
      Posted at 02:05h, 25 September Reply

      The TNO editor – as an invitation to others to discuss.

  • Chris Verduin
    Posted at 23:48h, 24 September Reply

    I am available to certain clients at all times.
    Others I am available within working hours, i.e. daytime.
    To others, some would-be’s, I am not worried about
    being available at all.
    However, I might add, interpreter/translator newcomers
    may need to be more available as they are building
    their business. Those of us who have been developing
    client relationships for many years may have reached
    the point where we have earned the capability of being
    more picky.

  • Madeline Newman Rios
    Posted at 16:52h, 26 September Reply

    I still use paper dictionaries. Not just paper dictionaries, but sometimes they have information that is not available online.

  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 17:23h, 26 September Reply

    I have morphed so many times where this issue is concerned. Right now, I will accept communication from clients on weekends, but will not necessarily respond until Monday. I also try not to take on too much work: there are family issues that I need free time to deal with and I can’t always control when they will happen or how they will affect my schedule.

    So, instead of packing my work week full with jobs, I have it so that I may work late one day or start extra early on another to make sure I deliver my jobs within their deadlines. All without putting too much strain on my life and allowing me to take care of family issues, as they arise.

  • Helen Eby
    Posted at 15:30h, 27 September Reply

    I have two emails, and I often tell my phone to only pick up the most personal email when I need to be quiet. I also have my phone on do not disturb at certain times, and do not answer emails during evenings or weekends… Well, most of the time.

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