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What percentage of translators on today's market are REAL translators?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:39
English to French
+ ...
May 31, 2006

Hello dear colleagues,

Here is a link to a short article dealing with the latest data on the translation market in China: http://english.people.com.cn/200605/30/eng20060530_269766.html

I could not help but notice these paragraphs:

"The profession of translators and interpreters, which started as early as 2,000 years ago in China, now has more than 3,000 registered translation agencies nationwide.

Translation has become one of the most popular and fashionable jobs in the country. Of the 17,704 people who took the national qualification tests for English, French and Japanese last year, only 3,975 got the professional translation certificates."

I have been wondering about this for quite some time, as I have noticed a huge surge in the number of translators advertising their services. I wonder, because I also get to correct fellow translators' work - and can't help but notice that there are many who should not be translators, judging by the quality of their work. I have been thinking that maybe translation is a fashion nowadays - the article seems to confirm this theory. I think many people start out in it because they know a second language, want to make good money and be their own boss and don't feel like taking the bus/metro/highway every morning. But this leaves us with a growing number of incompetent people. The "incompetent ones" - no matter where they are situated on the market - have been accused repeatedly of stealing work from more established translators by charging ridiculous "beginner" rates. But are they really stealing the work? If, like in China, most of them fail to get certified (this means they are not that good after all), soon enough they will be out of work - and competent translators will keep getting more and more of it.

Any thougts on this? Could it be that in the end, everybody gets what they deserve? "Poseurs" get nothing and real translators get lots of work?

[Edited at 2006-05-31 05:36]


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 12:39
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
I'm not worried. May 31, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Could it be that in the end, everybody gets what they deserve? "Poseurs" get nothing and real translators get lots of work?



Oh yes, I think so!

In any business, unqualified people are setting themselves up as qualified this or that (if there are no restrictions stopping them, e.g. national laws on authorisations required etc.).

I'm not worried about this, because we all know that we don't go back to e.g. a carpenter or a plumber, who did a lousy job, no matter how cheap he was. A simple calculation tells us that this is not worth it in the long run.

Agencies as well as freelance translators working for agencies or direct clients must be cautious, because we all need the end client to be satisfied and return with more jobs.

Therefore, those translators (qualified or not), who do a bad job, will soon be out of a job in spite of the low rates, because no agency or end client can afford this in the long run, and those translators (qualified or not), who do a good job, will get more jobs.



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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:39
Italian to English
Lump of labour May 31, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

If, like in China, most of them fail to get certified (this means they are not that good after all), soon enough they will be out of work - and competent translators will keep getting more and more of it.



This is known as the "lump of labour" fallacy.

http://www.economist.com/research/Economics/alphabetic.cfm?LETTER=L#LUMP%20OF%20LABOUR%20FALLACY

Restricting the market in the way you suggest would tend to raise the cost of translation, limit its supply and discourage demand, incidentally putting minor languages at greater risk of extinction.


Any thougts on this? Could it be that in the end, everybody gets what they deserve? "Poseurs" get nothing and real translators get lots of work?

[Edited at 2006-05-31 05:36]


If consumers are free to change their supplier, they are unlikely to tolerate poor quality for long, unless price is the only crucial factor (in which case I don't want to know them!).

Competent translators add value to the final product. There is nothing to fear from competition, except perhaps a possible reduction in your visibility in a much larger market. But this is more than offset by the increased opportunities for employment.


FWIW

Giles


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
French to English
Real or fake? May 31, 2006

I absolutely agree.
At a very different level, though, I feel that somewhere down the line we are all fakes, living in daily fear of being "exposed" or "found out".
I wonder how many of us have recurrent dreams of being phoned up by an irate agency or end client demanding an explanation for the rubbish we have turned in - or even worse have failed to turn in!


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Faruk Atabeyli  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 14:39
Member (2009)
English to Turkish
+ ...
It won't last forever May 31, 2006

[quote]Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Hello dear colleagues,

Here is a link to a short article dealing with the latest data on the translation market in China: http://english.people.com.cn/200605/30/eng20060530_269766.html


Dear Viktoria and colleagues,

Similar problem exists in Turkey, albeit in a smaller scale, which reflects as a negative attribute upon all translators in Turkey, real or “Poseur”.

The Turkish society in general perceives translation as an activity that can be undertaken by anyone who understands and speaks a pair of languages. As a result of this misperception bad translations are seen not as works of incompetent/unqualified translators, but is credited (or should I say discredited) to the translation community as a whole.

This is only one of the problems. Another one is the sheer difficulty of selecting a good translator among vast numbers of translators who all claim to be qualified and have relevant experience. Unfortunately there are no formal bodies or organizations that accredit or certify translators and verify their claims to competency. An international client/agency is likely to have repeated negative experiences until finding a reliable freelancer, and by that time the client’s impression will have been formed as unfavorable.

For competent translators, a positive results emerge among this negative situation. Once a good tranlator is “discovered” among the masses, work keeps flowing in. They can be firm about their charges and selective about the work.

In transitional countries, that is countries that are still in the process of opening up to multinational interaction (economic, cultural or otherwise) and to its inseparable companion multilinguality, quality issues will take a backseat to financial issues at the outset but will eventually catch up with the rest of the requirements and standards.

I see a better future for the professionals in Turkey. Several universities are producing future translators that are well equipped with the fundamentals (sans the experience but that will come in time) and these people will, along with the self taught competent translators, weed out the self proclaimed opportunists and set the standard for the future.

Best regards
Faruk Atabeyli
Istanbul, Turkey


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Indeed...indeed May 31, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
Any thougts on this? Could it be that in the end, everybody gets what they deserve? "Poseurs" get nothing and real translators get lots of work?


I did a bit of "contemplating" (due to limited offers in general, or maybe due to "instant" translators, or whatever).

But it seems this is a natural process, which at some point will mature. In the mean time, though, I would definitely agree on a certain limiting condition to be put in place i.e. certification. As a way of enhancing quality so that levels of certification not only will be benefitting to the already established translators but also not discouraging new supply of younger translators.

It's like picking the rotten apple. Or something like that. Wouldn't you agree?

And time also will be of a determining factor for established translator as they say: translators ripen as time goes by, just like a good glass of wine.

:0)


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xxxtarpo
English to Dutch
I'm not worried May 31, 2006

Everybody with knowledge of two langages can translate a tourism brochure, but only a REAL translators can handle REAL jobs (financial translations, technical descriptions, press releases with a deadline of 4 hours, high volumes, special software, jobs requiring localization, etc.). They have the education and/or the experience to do this.
I am convinced that after a while (one or two years or so, after being established) every translator gets the work he or she deserves.


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
Italian to English
+ ...
also for teaching May 31, 2006

Hi,
I agree completely - there are a LOT of cowboys out there. I check a lot of translations in my job too, and I've had similar experiences.

The same phenomenon is seen in language teaching - lots of English speakers teach English just so that they can travel around the world for free. They are not career teachers and many of them are, frankly, not very professional (though also many are). (I was an ELT teacher myself for around 6 years, btw.)

But it's not a huge problem: if a student doesn't like their teacher, or their language school, they simply change it - and get a new one. Learners often remark that "you need a good teacher" to learn English. Presumably translation customers say the same thing: you need a good translator to get a good translation. QED.
Colm


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
French to English
Translating and teaching May 31, 2006

There are differences between the teaching and the translating situation. The first is that many foreign language teachers do not look upon teaching as a career in the first place. That doesn't make them bad teachers - quite the contrary in my experience. One of the disheartening things about teaching (of the ELT sort) is that in many (most?) cases there IS no career to speak of. I speak from bitter experience! Another difference is that teachers are almost always employees whereas translators are almost always self-employed.
The bottom line: a lot of cowboys in translating - certainly. In teaching? - I don't think so.


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
Italian to English
+ ...
I guess it depends... May 31, 2006

Barnaby Capel-Dunn wrote:
The bottom line: a lot of cowboys in translating - certainly. In teaching? - I don't think so.


I guess it depends on which teachers you've worked with!
All I can say is that I know of many cases where the teacher, for example, uses their students to learn the language of the country they're visiting now; or teachers that just read what it says in the teacher's book and keeps giving the students exercises; or teachers who are just plain bad and don't give a rat's ass about their students. Horses for courses...
At least we agree on the cowboys in the translation industry!


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 12:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
beg to differ with tarpo... May 31, 2006

tarpo wrote:

Everybody with knowledge of two langages can translate a tourism brochure, but only a REAL translators can handle REAL jobs ....


Travel and tourism texts are among my specialties, and I rather resent this comment. Translations in these fields require unique skills that not just "anyone who knows two languages" will have, notably knowledge of the subject and a flair for writing--in my language pair in particular, the source texts are often on the sow's-ear level and extensive rephrasing is required to get a good finished product. I have seen some extremely poor pieces of work in this area turned out by some so-called "professional translators," and have worked on a very large project where several of these "translators" were dropped along the way because of their shoddy work (Viktoria may find this fact encouraging).
Perhaps you should be a bit more careful with sweeping generalizations like this one.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
German to English
+ ...
What percentage of translators on today's market are REAL translators? May 31, 2006

Cindy Chadd wrote:

Travel and tourism texts are among my specialties, and I rather resent this comment.


I sympathize with Cindy. My specialisms are in the area of technical documentation, and I get fed up hearing translators who probably couldn't change a lightbulb relate off-handedly that they do of course "do technical" besides their "proper" specialisms (usually law, commerce or advertising).

There's a widely held view that technical documentation doesn't have to be translated to the same standard. After all, no one actually reads the stuff, do they?

Marc


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 12:39
Swedish to English
+ ...
Thank you Cindy! May 31, 2006

I was about to write the same thing... NOT everybody with knowledge of two languages can translate a tourism brochure - this is a horrible sweeping statement that I also rather resent. Bear in mind that not everybody who can speak the two languages in question is able to write a coherent sentence (or sometimes even semi-coherent) in their native/target language... let alone mange to write something in a manner that would convince someone to spend hard-earned money to visit somewhere.

I personally find it quite sad that not even "real" translators manage to avoid snobbish attitudes about the merits, real or imagined, of their own specialities.

As for the issue of real translators or not - if you provide quality and good service, the customers will keep coming back. As Giles says, I don't want my customers to be the ones that prioritise a low price ahead of good quality.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
French to English
Insecure translators May 31, 2006

I notice no-one has taken up the point I made earlier (only partly in jest):
"I wonder how many of us have recurrent dreams of being phoned up by an irate agency or end client demanding an explanation for the rubbish we have turned in - or even worse have failed to turn in!"

I truly believe that a certain sense of insecurity is often not always the sign of a good translator.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:39
French to English
Correction! May 31, 2006

Barnaby Capel-Dunn wrote:

I notice no-one has taken up the point I made earlier (only partly in jest):
"I wonder how many of us have recurrent dreams of being phoned up by an irate agency or end client demanding an explanation for the rubbish we have turned in - or even worse have failed to turn in!"

I truly believe that a certain sense of insecurity is often not always the sign of a good translator.


Sorry, I meant to say: "I truly believe that a certain sense of insecurity is often (not always) the sign of a good translator."


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