Off topic: One way of looking at our profession
Thread poster: Jack Doughty
| | Jack Doughty
Local time: 08:17
Russian to English
Just found this short story on another website & thought it worth sharing.
The Oldest Profession in the World
by Tim Nicholson
My first contact with the world of translation was in Madrid in the early
1980s where I was living in a garret flat, my only source of income a
monthly wad of notes pressed into my hand by an unregistered staff member
of the Irish embassy at a prearranged venue.
It was on a balmy evening in late spring that I first met Amaia who was
working the terraces in the Plaza Mayor. Of course I had seen the
\"palabreras\" before, shuffling from table to table offering cheap
translations, with one eye over their shoulders for the police, but I had
always avoided entering into conversation with such people. Amaia, however,
was different. Unlike the others, she held her head proudly, and her first
words were: \"Any of these (she waved a dismissive hand in the direction of
the other translators on the beat) could do the job in half the time and
for half of my price, but if you believe that quality is worth paying for,
I\'m the one you\'re looking for\". I had been brought up a strict
monolinguist, and I was instinctively repulsed by her offer, but I invited
her to stay for a drink with me.
After that, we began to meet regularly, though in all the time I knew her I
never once paid for her to translate for me. Her story was all too
familiar. She had had a respectable job as a prostitute, working in some of
the better clubs in the area, but desperation and an ugly knife scar across
her right cheek had led her into the sordid world of translation. Her
brother, Javier, sent by the family to Madrid to try to rescue her from
immorality, had fallen into the same trap. The first time I met him I knew
from the glazed eyes, ghoulish stare and nervous inability to stay quiet
that he was a simultaneous interpreter.
After a change of government in Ireland and a new policy on international
\"diplomacy\" even my pitiful income for \"information\" had dried up, and I
eventually went to live with Amaia and Javier and inevitably to work with
them. Despite the apparent misery of our existence, they were not unhappy
times. I worked mainly as a \"frilansa\", having learnt from my new friends
to avoid the agencies, which tempted innocent young translators in with
promises of steady work and careful client control, but which always ended
up sapping the spirit of even the hardiest, forcing them to work
unbelievable hours at low pay, and never allowing them the chance to turn
down a trick, whatever the subject matter.
Of course, we were continually hounded by the police, and could not afford
the back-handers paid by the agencies to keep the Civil Guard away. On man y
occasions I was forced by unscrupulous policemen to do free work for them,
and on a few occasions even ended up doing court translations. Eventually
though, my luck ran out, and I spent six months in Carabanchel for
\"comercio linguistico con el agravante de estilo libre\". Naturally we were
deprived of all writing instruments in the cell; no paper, no pencils, just
an old Apple Mac, sarcastically referred to as a computer by the wardens. I
found it easier to use dried excrement to mark the walls with.
After Amaia\'s tragic death, Javier went gradually downhill, working first
in a cheap agency and then translating computer manuals. When I last heard
from him he had become a lawyer.
I drifted north to the Basque Country. On her death bed, Amaia had asked me
to visit her parents but not to tell them how she had spent her final
years, and when I eventually found them, a poor but proud family of sheep
farmers, I assured them that she had managed to get away from the world of
translation and had been working in a strip club near Cuatro Caminos.
As for myself, once exposed to the \"mundillo\" of professional linguistics,
I could never escape. These days, Spanish law is more lenient towards us.
The revised Penal Code practically legalises translation, stating in the
preamble that \"...while the practise is generally considered vile and
repulsive, [...] and condemned by many religious groups, it is our opinion
that it is a necessary evil, and that no attempt on the part of the
legislators will ever succeed in entirely ridding society of the practise.
We also consider that legalisation of translation may help to ensure that
it is carried out under better and more salutary conditions\".
I am always heartened by the support of LANTRA*. Who would have thought just
a few years ago that so many people from all over the world would be
prepared to stand up in public and admit \"I am a translator\".
| || || |
I sometimes feel like Amaia, and at first the opinion my parents and friends had of my work was quite pejorative too. But I am one of those who openly declares: \"I am a translator\"
| | Raluca Ion
Local time: 08:17
English to Romanian
My name is Raluca, and I am a translator... Thank you for sharing, very funny...some truth in there too
| | Edward Vreeburg
Local time: 09:17
English to Dutch
| maybe we should put it all in a book || Jan 12, 2003 |
I hope my son will grow up and proundly say:\"my father is a translator\", instead of introducing me as \"a male stripper in a gay bar\"...he\'s only 4 now...
That piece captures one of my mood modes so purrfectly! Fondest regards.
| | Marijke Singer
Local time: 08:17
Dutch to English
Very funny! I have felt this way many a times especially when explaining my profession to other mothers at my children\'s school. Oh, you are a secretary ... Oh, it must be easy since you already speak the language ... And they pay you for that?
I am a frilansa and I am a translator!
I knew things were going to be hard for me when, as I was in college, someone asked me which would be my career; when I said I was studying to be a translator, I was asked \"Oh, but you need to study for that?\"
Actually, people don\'t think my work is similar to prostitution... they don\'t think it is that glamorous. More like making silk flowers at home. Something a lady would do in her free time to earn pin money.