Tag Archives: chemistry

Chemistry, it makes me SICK!


It’s one of my vivid memories from my first year at university. My friend Catherine waving her lab coat in the air shouting in her Brummie accent. “It makes me physically sick!”

Now Catherine was a straight-A chemistry student. While the rest of us were researching and scratching our heads at isomerism and organic reaction mechanisms, everything just clicked in her brain without trying. But after a few weeks she realised it wasn’t for her. She switched to English and Philosophy and never had to wear her lab coat or safety goggles again.

I thought of her when I attended a training event at the Museum of London and shuddered involuntarily as I walked past display cabinets housing chemicals. It looked just like one of the fume cupboards in our uni lab. Despite signing up for a Chemistry (and German) degree and thoroughly enjoying it, I did not like the 6 hours of lab work we did every week. I was too scared I was going to cause an explosion, mess things up. I got frustrated producing minuscule amounts of a powder after a long 2-week experiment.

The worst thing that happened? I got blisters on my fingers from a leaky burette.

So I wasn’t destined for a life in the lab. At least I knew that and diverted my focus away from the lab coats. It’s given me a great grounding and specialism to offer my clients. I’m more than happy to let you and your colleagues do the hard work and I’ll help spread the fruits of your research to new markets.

Is there anything that makes you shudder at work? Is it a necessary evil like managing your budget or could you delegate or swap tasks with a colleague?

And if everything is enjoyable but you’ve got too much on, here’s a tip: Ask your manager what they consider to be the most valuable task you could be working on. (If you work for yourself, switch positions at your desk and give it some thought). Then put 80% of your effort into doing that task really well. Your manager will be happy, you’ll be getting better results, and your job satisfaction will sky rocket.

I could get better at this too, but I’m getting there.

Oh, and if translating or writing in English isn’t one of those most valuable tasks, why not outsource it? My English Under the Microscope review service will give you an action plan that you can delegate or power through yourself.

Why do translators specialise?

Blog specialise

The other day when walking my son to school, he asked me “How do cars go slowly?”. He’s 5 so I answered by explaining that the driver either brakes to slow down or they press the accelerator really lightly to go slowly. Clearly this explanation wasn’t enough and in trying to answer his next question “But how do cars work?” I quickly admitted defeat. Next, we listed two people who might be able to help answer this question… and any others that are sure to pop up along the way.

What’s this got to do with business? Well, we’re all experts at something. Even if you don’t refer to yourself as an expert, you specialise in a particular field and it’s the same with translation. My degree in chemistry made choosing my specialist area fairly easy and consequently I’m known for chemical translations. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy some variety within this field. Last week I translated an advert for a chemical company that needed an extremely creative approach and was a great challenge.

Translators often come from a variety of backgrounds. I have colleagues who were former nurses, bankers, IT specialists and from many other diverse professions. They have since retrained as translators, using their background knowledge to work in their specialist fields.

If a client contacts me asking me to complete a legal or financial translation, I will recommend a colleague or contact someone on their behalf to help with this project. They will do a far better job than me because they understand the subject matter and work in this field on a daily basis. As a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK, our code of conduct also requires us to refuse work that we know to be beyond our competence because of a lack of specialised knowledge.

I want my clients to have utter faith in me that the translations I deliver are perfect for their brief and hopefully even surpass their expectations. Specialist knowledge helps convey the right concepts in the right way so that your message reaches your target audience. I have nothing but admiration for literary or legal translators. I know my strengths and my limits. I may not know how to explain the internal combustion engine to a 5 year old, but I can explain how to apply anti-corrosion protection to a car and why it’s important. If you need a German to English translation in the chemical field, that I can help with!