Saturday 30 September marks the International Translation Day. This year’s theme is “Translation unveils the many faces of humanity”. The focus on the human experience brings to my mind one thing: a community.
Many of us translators and interpreters are introverts, but we all need human contact. And after a recent conversation with my sister I realised that, even though I am a member of many industry communities, I sometimes feel a little bit lonely. Working from home, living away from my family, and recently having quite a few of my friends move away, I’m itching to make new connections. And I’m talking local, wanna-grab-coffee-tomorrow-afternoon type of connections.
If you’re in the same boat, here are some suggestions where to look for your own community (not just a translation one!).
Find a new hobby (or develop an existing one)
Having a common interest is a great way to meet new people. I am lucky enough to be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking locally-based activities: bike maintenance classes, an amateur choir and different book clubs are just a few ones I’ve found in my area.
About a year ago, I started running regularly and I always train alone. I’ve been rather resistant to the idea of joining a running club, but the more I think about it, the more appealing it seems to me. I guess a good way to see if I enjoy it would be taking part in a one-off event. In Glasgow alone, there are seven (!) different weekly parkrun events. The initiative seems to be growing in popularity and has turned into a world-wide phenomenon.
Donating your time to a worthy cause is not only rewarding, but it can help combat the feeling of loneliness freelancers (and not only!) may experience. There are many places that will gladly take your volunteering services: local hospices, charity shops, community gardens, museums… There is truly something for everyone out there!
Ever since I left my art cinema job, I’ve been volunteering there as an usher. It helps me stay up to date with the most interesting cinema releases, but also makes me leave the house once a week and actually speak to people face-to-face. It’s also great for my subtitling CPD, as many of the screenings at the GFT feature subtitles and captions for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Previously, I also volunteered at the COP26 event in Glasgow. Such opportunities are truly special as they allow you to be part of a unique event and broaden your knowledge on a specific topic. We’ve had quite a number of these in Glasgow in recent years: the Commonwealth Games, BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend, UCI Cycling World Championships… All of these needed a huge number of volunteers. I’m sure there are plenty of similar events in many cities worldwide. (By the way, I'm still gutted we didn't get Eurovision in 2023, but you can't have it all, can you?)
Get to know your neighbours and local community
I moved to my current area six months ago and I’ve only just started a WhatsApp group for our building. I’ve learned a few interesting things about my neighbours (like the fact that one of them works for my favourite gin company!). It’s easy to live our lives without really knowing who stays behind the wall or above the ceiling, but isn’t it nicer to connect with the neighbours?
If, like in my area, your local housing association allows for the tenants and owners to join as a member, why not consider that? This month I attended my first ever New Gorbals Housing Association meeting and it made me feel like a true part of the community. I heard about new developments in the area and met new people. There are a few events in the Gorbals throughout the year, with the summer fair being the most popular one. I’d love to get involved and help organise some of them.
Chat to people who work at your local shops and cafés
Do you have a favourite gift shop in the area? Are you a regular in a little bistro down the road? Or do you often visit your neighbourhood library? All of those places are awesome for meeting new people!
When we moved from Shawlands to Gorbals, I was quite upset that I wouldn’t be visiting my then-local low-impact store on a regular basis. So what do I do? I still cycle to shop there and chat to the staff! It’s not as regular as it used to be, but every visit is worth it.
As a keen reader, a few staff members from my local library have started to recognise me. At the moment, we mostly exchange comments about books, googly eyes someone has stuck on a book scanner and Eurovision, but who knows – maybe these connections will grow into something more!
Why am I telling you all of this?
The fact you go to an evening swimming class, volunteer at a community radio station, go out for drinks with your neighbours or run with the guy who works at a local café could have nothing to do with your business. But not necessarily. The more people connect with you, the more people know about what you do, and the more people get to know you on a human level, the better chances you get recommended for freelance work.
What if your neighbour’s sister-in-law needs a certified translation? What if someone you volunteer with knows a business-owner who requires a translation service? What if the librarian you’re friendly with is looking to hire someone for a language-related event for the community?
We should never build our communities and networks around possible job opportunities, but it’s good to remember that personal connections are a huge benefit when it comes to being referred for work. So if, like me, you’re feeling a little lonely working from home, try establishing new friendships. It might not get you any new business, but at least it’ll be good for your wellbeing.