What do you do? An attempt to explain a profession

by Uta Lange on February 21, 2017

Sunday afternoon. Coffee and a black-forest cherry cake. Great aunt Else pats the back of my hand. “And you, child? What do you do?”

I, the child, 51, have got three options now:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Stuff a huge piece of cherry cake into my mouth and hope that auntie Else forgets her question.
  3. Say I am a translator.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. © VRD | Fotolia.com

I look at the cake and decide to go for option 2. But aunt Else’s 87-year-old memory is as crisp as the chocolate flakes on top of the cake. She waits until I have swallowed. Then she asks, impatiently: “And?”

Aunt Else must have put a lot of cherry liquor in the cake. Boldly, I announce: “I am a technical writer.”

„Oh. Do you work for a newspaper?“

I shake my head. „I write operating instructions”, I reply and let the small silver fork slide back into the cake.

„Operating instructions?“ Aunt Else’s eyebrows begin to tremble. „You mean like for my new washing machine? That one was in Spanish. I didn’t know you knew Spanish.”

“The instructions were translated into German, aunt Else. They were at the end of the book.”

„What a waste of paper!“ Aunt Else looks at me skeptical. “So you are a translator then.”

„Exactly“, I mumble with my mouth full.

„Why didn’t you say so in the first place, child?“

The story isn't true, of course. But sometimes, we find it difficult to explain what we do.

Read our knowledge article „What does a Technical Writer do?.

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