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How \"independent\" are you?
Thread poster: Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:50
German to English
+ ...
Feb 25, 2002

Over the last few weeks, I have been inundated with e-mails from other ProZ members as well as \"translators-to-be\", and they all asked me about the future of our profession - in particular with regards to the Spanish/English language pair. Apparently, many of them are quite despondent: those that are about to enter the profession have second thoughts about becoming translators, and even some established colleagues have voiced their concerns (one colleague was even wondering whether it was still possible to make a decent living as a full-time translator without falling back on odd jobs here and there).



That\'s why I am creating this forum thread: tell us what the situation is like in your language pairs. Do you work as a full-time translator? Do you feel the need to look for part-time work to supplement your income? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our profession\'s current state of affairs and future? Are you ready to throw in the towel? Are you a student of translation? (If so, what are your views? Are you going to stick with translation or not?)



Feel free to let it all out


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xxxwilliamson
Local time: 12:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
The translator in 2012 Feb 25, 2002

That\'s why I am creating this forum thread: tell us what the situation is like in your language pairs. Do you work as a full-time translator?



Of course, the author of this thread will jump to my language-pairs and scream that \"it is unethical to translate in a language which is not your mother-tongue\".

Don\'t worry; the languages which are not my mother-tongue are passed on to qualified professionals, whose mother-tongue is the target-language. If I were to translate into my mother-tongue only, I could forget translation and do something else.



That is why,I try to add business-and computer-skills to my curriculum.



Food for thought for students of translation:

*****************************************

On the one hand, professors in T&I-schools aren\'t translators & interpreters, but Dr.Phil. (PhD. in Germanic, Romanic and Slavonic languages). Bureaucrats, who live in an ivory tower, with no feeling with the outside world(of the freelance translator and business). They will not teach you that the market-niche of translation is but a small part of that business-world and that competition in that niche is very though. On the other hand, professors at business schools are a part of the business-world. What they teach you stems from their daily business practise.



Do you feel the need to look for part-time work to supplement your income? Yes, although fiscal reasons play a role here too. If you live in a country where being independent is not so heavily taxed and where the profession of translator is being protected by law, fine. But, in some European countries, if you are independent, you become a \"fiscal outlaw\". Suddenly you \"pollute\" more and you have to pay higher environmental taxes, as well as advanced direct taxes to the state, revisable social security contributions,…

If the going rate in your country is €0.07 and payment is end of month + 60 days, I leave it up to you to calculate if you can survive on these conditions.

Translation combined with a part-time job results in less taxes and social contributions.



Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our profession\'s current state of affairs and future?



Draw your own conclusions. When I decided to go to a T&I school somewhere in the beginning of the \'80s, there was a 16 k Texas Instruments PC on the market, followed by an Apple II and AppleLisa. Programs back then where Apple Writer (Word-processor), VisiCalc (Spreadsheet) and DBase I (Database). No PowerPoint back then.

Now, we have Office XP with speech and translation tools integrated in the Office suite. Go one step further and what will be in Office 2004: You use the speech-recognition tool in one language and it may well be that it is automatically translated into another. How will this evolve? What will the market-niche be in 10 years time?



In Europe, T&I-schools make a lot of publicity with the E.U. as a potential employer. In 2004, there will be 28 Member-States. In order to reduce costs of Translation and Interpreting, there is a tendency to adopt only a few official languages and \"forget\" about the \"smaller\" languages. If you are a young student in translation or a potential student in translation and you are aware of these evolutions, what is your conclusion?



In marketing terms:

*******************

You are 18 years old and you want to go pursue a degree in



a) Translation and Interpreting: job-market niche: Translation (small-fierce competition) and Interpreting (smallest-less competition).

b) Computer programming: No nagging about rates there, enormous shortage of programmers.

c) Business education: broad job-prospective in government, international institutions and the business world (banking, multinational corporations,...).

d) Law: broad job-prospective. Most leaders of the Western World have studied law (or business).

e) Engineering: goes without saying.



What would you choose? Just have a look at the jobsites on the internet and in the papers.



The future of the profession:



Globalization and sites such as Proz and Aquarius have contributed to a sharper global competition (a lot of bickering and much ado about nothing going on on the forums) and somewhat lower rates.





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AndrewBM
Ireland
Local time: 11:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Williamson, you've forgotten to quote Bertholt Brecht Feb 25, 2002

In our profession \"war is like love; it always finds a way\".



The rest was (shall I say \'will be\'?) a bit of a nightmare, too








[addsig]


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Anneken
Local time: 12:50
French to Dutch
+ ...
No money worries for now! Feb 25, 2002

I manage to make a decent living and over the past two years I have actually been astonished at the rapid rate in which my income was increasing (and so was my accountant ). I honestly believe that if you deliver a good service and high quality translations at correct rates (not too low, not too high), you have a good shot at making a good living - at least, I seem to able to

Of course that is, in fact, higly dependent on the language combination you work in, and I do have the impression that there are (too??) many translators in the combination Spanish - English, as well as in the combination German - English.

The - sometimes extremely- low rates that are proposed through sites such as ProZ, are in fact troubling and I understand that some people may have second thoughts, especially in language combinations that are not exactly rare. When I started out as a freelance translator, four years ago, I was not aware of the existence of translator sites and internet was just starting out in Europe. So I simply tried to find customers in the surrounding cities and regions, and today those customers are still my main source of income. Gradually, I found some useful sites to supplement this income (and ProZ was definitely the best)when business was somewhat low from my other customers.

Up til now, I have not yet been tempted to take on extra jobs, just the contrary. If I would consider doing such, it would be mainly for tax purposes (less social charges!!!) but not because I can\'t make a decent living.

Machine translations are indeed another troubling point, but I am rather sure that they will not be able to replace the human translator entirely within 100 years. Language is a far too complex and important element in our society... Just try it and you\'ll soon know that there will still be business left after 2012...



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Antonella Andreella  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:50
German to Italian
+ ...
I agree with Williamson Feb 25, 2002

to some extent

\"\"Globalization and sites such as Proz and Aquarius have contributed to a sharper global competition (a lot of bickering and much ado about nothing going on on the forums) and somewhat lower rates\"\"

but I think that if rates decreased, this is mainly due to translators accepting shameful rates (there are more then you believe) simply because they do not attend any School for Translators and Interpreters.

As far as teachers are concerned, mine were all professionals, translators and conference interpreter... most of them were not so willing \'to help us\'!

Williamson\'s analysis in general are not too far from reality, and so I don\'t see a wonderful future for our job in general, yet I firmly believe that translators can only be saved by translators themselves...

we need to reach a higher level of awareness of our profession.

Thanks for opening this forum.

Bye

Antonella
[addsig]


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FrancescoP  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:50
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't worry, be happy... Feb 25, 2002

This an interesting thread: people often think a freelance translator needs to do part-time, dead-end jobs to supplement his income. I personally work full-time and to do just all I have to do there should be 48 hours in a day. Twenty-four are not enough…



As translators are almost always paid by the word, and considering that few translators can do more than about 2,500/3,000 words per day, if you are able to work every day… do the arithmetic. No need to do any other job \"on the side\".



The problem is that translating is not all that you have to do.… you\'d have to translate and at the same time find new clients… you\'d have to be a very fast and efficient translator to complete 2,500/3,000 words of text per day and at the same time search for new clients (and translate their tests)… And not to talk about dealing with desktop publishing, CAT tools, delivery of the material, e-mails messages and so on. But only if you can manage to do this three different task at the same time you\'ll find work for 5 days a week, four weeks a month, twelve month a year…



Therefore I think a translator can live a decent life, if he is efficient enough…Of course I don\'t think a translator can ever became rich…just doing translations. There are easier, faster, more human ways to get rich… Don\'t ask me what they are, if only I knew it… I wouldn\'t be here… No, the truth is I love my job and my main concern in life is not how to get rich but how to be happy…



FP



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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 12:50
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Oh, how I dream of five days a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year.... Feb 25, 2002

My problem is I\'m working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and it feels like 13 months a year!!! When a client phones up, I find it so hard to \"just say no!\".



At the risk of offending anyone, I believe that there is a whole heap of work out there (even in \'common\' pairs, like German-English), but only a very few translators who are properly qualified to do it and who can do a good job.....



So what does that mean? If you\'re good, your rates are reasonable (and that doesn\'t mean low ), if you know your stuff and where to find your clients you will NEVER be short on work.



I would say that the amount of time I spend finding new clients is absolutely minimal - word of mouth is the best kind of advertising anywhere. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have approached a potential new client (since starting out five years ago). But yes, you do need to be able to produce a sufficient level of translation output and still have time for the \"boring bits\" - like filing, invoicing, taxes, etc.



Do I need to look for part-time work to supplement my income? No, but I\'m thinking about taking on a part-time employee to help me with all the \"boring bits\".



Is there a future for translation/translators? Yes, but only for the specialists. Increases in translation technology mean that the \"run of the mill\" stuff (basic letters, etc.) will soon be taken over by computers, weeding the low-end translators out of the market - irrespective of their language pairs. The ones that will survive will be translators who can do what the computers can\'t - making the translation come alive!



Could I imagine working in banking/investment? Been there, bought that T-shirt with many years of my life, and no, I couldn\'t imagine doing it again, no matter how much you paid me.



Engineering? Yuck. Not for me. Too technical. Just as well I don\'t do technical translations.



Computer programming. The life of Dilbert? No, not for me either.



Business education. You mean teaching? You mean me? Nope, don\'t have the patience.



But I LOVE translating - I can\'t imagine doing anything else. For me, translating is like a drug - I guess I\'m just a translation junkie!!!



There are certainly horses for courses, but you just need to work out what kind of courses your particular horse likes!



My two euro-cents



Alison


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Egmont
Spain
Local time: 12:50
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
TRANSLATION+GLOBALIZATION Feb 25, 2002

The best solution is to translate only the preferred texts and subjects. Otherwise translation can become a nightmare.



And do not use the money as the only reference!





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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:50
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Quick reply to williamson Feb 25, 2002

I must disagree with one of your statements: you say that professors in T&I schools are not translators themselves. Wrong! They are practising translators and interpreters (and according to their job description, they must be). This is true, at least, of CIUTI-accredited schools. All of my professors were active translators and AIIC (!!!) interpreters.

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FrancescoP  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:50
English to Italian
+ ...
How many hours a day? Feb 25, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-02-25 12:56, alison1969 wrote:

My problem is I\'m working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and it feels like 13 months a year!!!



Alison





Eh eh eh, you\'re right, I forgot to say how many hours you must work a day...



However, did you know there is a country where each year of service in a freelance translator\'s working life counts double? Where \"normal\" workers retire on a pension after 35 years of service whereas a translator can retire after only 17 years?



Don\'t ask me where it is, I still haven\'t found it, but I know it should exist somewhere...



FP





P.S.: wouldn\'t be nice to start a new thread asking: How \"happy\" are you with your job?



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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:50
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Alison ("translation junkie") and Francesco Feb 25, 2002

Alison:

I fully understand where you\'re coming from: working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, not being able to say no, etc. I also agree with you that any translator who knows what he/she is doing will never be out of work, regardless of economic downturns, price wars, etc.

However, at some point, you have to learn how to say no: after all, there is only so much one person can handle.



Francesco:

Yep, we should start that other thread you suggested - again: I once created such a thread (job satisfaction), but I can\'t find it right now (the forums need to be reorganized!!!)


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xxxwilliamson
Local time: 12:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
My horse likes.... Feb 25, 2002

If I have a look at the qualifications of most professors of CIUTI-schools, your statement is partly true. Some are indeed translators and some interpreters teaching at T&I-schools are members of AIIC, but not all of them. You also find PhDs in Germanic and Romanic and Slavonic languages. My T&I-time was between 1983-1988. It may be that meanwhile T&I-school have adapted to the needs of the industry.



I agree with Alison “There are certainly horses for courses, but you just need to work out what kind of courses your particular horse likes!”



Short reply to Anneke: If I quoted the first pcs on the market it was to illustrate the speed of the evolution of the PC. Now 2 Gigabytes Standard Memory, in 2004, 4 gigs Standard Memory ... evolving to bionic machines by 2020 ? Speech-recognition technology dates from around 1990. Language is complex, but so is the human genome and that has been mapped.



I am not going into a tit-for-tat. I have had the luck (?) to witness somebody starting out as a freelancer : Giving MsWindows and MsOffice for nothing : 0$/€ only to evolve to a successful MsAccess-programmer (€500/day x5 days/week x 4 weeks/month x 12months x 4 years),who now is trying to evolve to being a freelance SAP-trainer (at 900$/day) and Oracle-programmer.

I think I am going to eat some more Access-oats. Cheers.



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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
French to English
Saying 'No' Feb 25, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-02-25 12:56, alison1969 wrote:

My problem is I\'m working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and it feels like 13 months a year!!! When a client phones up, I find it so hard to \"just say no!\".





Hi Alison,



Refusing an offer can be difficult. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way why you should turn down a job if you simply don\'t have the time.



I had accepted a short job on a Friday before a long weekend from an agency I had recently started working for. My boyfriend and I were going away that weekend to visit family, and I took the translation along. I started doing it in the car (!) on the way home, finished it at home after our 12-hour trip , quickly proofread it the next day and sent it.



Two days later, the agency contacted me to say they considered the quality poor (I agreed), had it revised and that the reviser\'s invoice would be deducted from mine. I earned about 10% of what I would have and I never heard from the client again.



Now, if a client, who I know has a database of freelancers, contacts me for a job and I don\'t have the time, I turn it down. Naturally they understand (we *are*, after all, human and can\'t possibly do everything!).



Another option you could opt for is subcontracting to a (reliable) colleague, but since you accept the job, you\'d be responsible for it and would have to check the text before sending it back (also time-consuming).



Erika



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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 12:50
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Don't get me wrong... Feb 25, 2002

I have turned down work before, and agree that it is a must if you don\'t have the time. But I just love translating so much that if a customer phones up with a job, I\'ll probably say yes.



I agree that squeezing in jobs and delivering a poor product is totally counterproductive. That way of working won\'t get anybody anywhere.



My \"safety valve\" is being able to go back to Scotland for the odd weekend - where my customers can\'t reach me!!



And when the baby arrives this summer I will certainly be taking some time off!! (Although I\'ll probably keep right on working until the contractions start.....)



Like I said, it\'s like a drug and I\'m the junkie!!


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:50
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
My two cents... Feb 25, 2002

Quote: \"I honestly believe that if you deliver a good service and high quality translations at correct rates (not too low, not too high)\"



I wholeheartedly subscribe to that. This year is my 23rd in business, and so far, I\'ve been able to make a decent living.



The same goes for Allison\'s statement - there is a heap of work out there. And it\'s an established fact that demand will increase (e.g. a study by the EU predicts a significant increase in demand).



Another asepct I find hard to dispute: 24 hours to the day just isn\'t enough. I demand another 12 hours. (Merely to emphasize that it is not difficult to find work, provided you know your stuff.)



And one final thing I agree to: yes, the market for low-end translations will die out, sooner or later.



Actually, Henry should add agree buttons to the forum



My thoughts on being/becoming a freelance translator:





  • Specialize. Language skills need to be your foundation, but hands-on experience in any given technical field will improve your situation significantly. The more, the better. My apologies for using me as an example. It\'s not meant as a lack of modesty, I\'m positive most of my succesful colleagues follow the same recipe : In my field, I\'m specialized to a degree that I\'m able find technical errors and misconceptions in the source document (has to be expected after 22 years, I suppose). My clients can rely on my translation being as concise as the original document, because I understand the underlying concepts and technologies.



    Which seamlessly leads to machine translation and my take on it: there is a long way to go before I even start to worry about that. In addition to all the well-known problems, I think one aspect that is heavily underestimated. If you want a correct machine translation, you have to supply an 100% error free source document. And these are hard to come by.




  • If you don\'t understand what a document is about, don\'t translate it. Networking with fellow translator is a better alternative. Translating documents on a subject I don\'t know is not only dishonest to the client, it will also take essentially longer. Thus, it\'s a lousy investment of my time.





  • Enjoy what you are doing. Of course, I could be a programmer. I could be an electronics engineer. But I choose to be a translator, and even after 22 years, I enjoy it. Conceded – there are ways to make more money. But why should I spend the better part of my life on something I do not enjoy as much as what I am doing now?







So, to summarize it — if you are prepared to work hard and to keep learning day by day, if working with language fascinates you - translating will be a rewarding business for you.


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