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Whose interests does our government serve?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:35
English to French
+ ...
Mar 24, 2008

I just wanted to check with my fellow Canadian translators how they see our government's latest translation industry efforts. I have been doing a lot of research lately on how the government deals with the translation industry, what they do to promote it and how us translators fit into that picture. From what I have observed, it doesn't look pretty.

The government has put a lot of information online for the translation industry - but they hardly mention those who get all the work done, translators. Instead, they focus on agencies. They have detailed information on how many agencies (800) there are in Canada, how much revenue they generate, how many employees they have (1500 in all, which means that the bulk of work is outsourced), what technologies they use (CAT tools and - guess what? - MT). But the same information is not at all available on freelancers. Last year, in the province of Quebec, out of all new jobs created, a whopping 60% were independent worker jobs. This means that freelancers greatly contribute to the economy. Freelancers are a great source of income for the government because they don't get any funding but do pay higher taxes than employees do. It is in the government's best interests to foster the growth of freelance translation. Yet, they don't post any information that could help our businesses to grow. If there is no information, I can only guess that this is because they didn't make the effort to search for the information (I was never contacted by the government for any details on my business - the only information they have on me is my yearly revenue). This would mean that the government is not interested in freelancers. What I don't understand is how can they not be interested when those agencies would simply not exist without freelancers. Freelancers are the driving force of the language industry - yet they are the only term that is not part of their equation.

They also have a technology roadmap, which is basically a plan to improve translation technology. Increasingly, they discuss machine translation - not good. They are also saying that because the demand for translation services is sharply increasing, translators will have to get used to working faster. They consider that CAT tools are the way to go. However, I think they are not aware that even with the use of CAT tools, the quality issues are not being addressed (the government is completely mum on translation quality). Moreover, this makes me think that they consider translators as mere Trados operators, which is not what we all stand for.

Am I the only one who feels that the government is making a big mistake in not having more consideration for freelancers? On the one hand, they have been ringing the alarm, saying we need 1000 new translation graduates per year but we only churn out 300, and the shortage is becoming a nuisance. On the other hand, they expect those 300 translators to be Trados operators, thereby contributing to the problem of rates decreasing thanks to CAT technology. How can they expect that more young people will enroll in translation studies when all that young people see is that translators have the lowest revenue out of all graduates? How can they expect young people to enroll into studies that will lead them to modest revenues, when some college programs already offer them much better revenue perspectives?

Please, comment. I would also like to know if somebody thinks there is a way to raise the government's awareness to this issue.


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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:35
English to Russian
+ ...
they do not bother to look deeper Mar 24, 2008

Most likely the freelancers as individual performers are too many for our government to be focused on them. They? probably, consider the agencies as the smallest independent entities viewable through their governmental Hubble)

To support this i may say that if, for instance, you want to work for the government endorsed Translation Bureau you may need to be registered with Contract Canada and have your PBN (personal business number) which, in turn, may require a freelancer to be registered with local Registry of Businesses i.e. to become a business.
I mean i am a freelancer and do not have any employees (never had), but probably I am among those 800 you mentioned because of the registration formality; and I am sure I am not alone.

Mind, that "raising government awareness" may stir up a bureaucrats' itch to regulate (as they did with, say, immigration consultants).
Government has created CSIC (Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants) with $2500.00 annual membership fee plus mandatory paid exams and paid training, and now, if you're not a CSIC member no government agency will deal with you on any professional matters.

I am not saying whether it is good or bad, - i am only saying that 'raising government's awareness' may bring some unexpected results)

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
Please, comment. I would also like to know if somebody thinks there is a way to raise the government's awareness to this issue.


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xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 13:35
French to English
+ ...
Where is the information? Mar 24, 2008

Hi Viktoria, I'm just wondering where your information appeared. I've been a FR-EN freelance for many years, the last 10 almost (but not quite ) exclusively for the federal government. My experience? Very positive. Quality control? Quite rigorous, is my impression. Trados? I've only translated "tradosed" files on one project, was always paid the full rate for all matches, including 100% matches (we are expected to check everything and make everything consistent), and was never required to purchase the software (I did, took a day's training in Vancouver, and found it to be a big pain in the you-know - I don't use any CAT). As far as I can tell, my decision to use or not use a CAT is simply that - my decision. I regularly translate one type of text that is extremely repetitive, and rely on memory, plus a small inexpensive tool called X1 that gives me access to all previous translations when I query a term (and shows the previously translated text in its entirety so that I can see the context). As for deadlines, trust me, the government is FAR more realistic than any agency. If you contract for 2,000 words a day, that is exactly what you will get. It's up to you if you want to run two or three contracts simultaneously and work harder. No one forces you.

In reading the previous posts on the long forum in the Translation in Canada section, I noticed a lot of griping about the government, inability to find clients, need to be certified, and so on. To me it's really so straight-forward - get certified, get in the inventory, get work. I regularly, and I mean regularly every week, have to turn work down because I simply cannot handle the volume. I have declined to bid on very large contracts that would last two to three years, because I already have my fill. They really do need translators - skilled, certified ones. I don't understand the reluctance on the part of freelances to fulfil the requirements. As for freelance versus employee treatment - I'm an employee of my limited company, and am treated accordingly tax-wise. There's no discrimination there.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you?

Vladimir is right, you need to register with Contracts Canada and get a PBN, but I don't think you have to incorporate to do so. Anyway, it's a very simple thing to do.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:35
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Misunderstanding Mar 25, 2008

Hi Paula,

I think there was a little misunderstanding. The data that I've mentioned so far is general translation industry data for Canada and it is not centered on people working for the government. Let me find the sources now (I have too many bookmarks now on the subject and would have to search a bit to find the pertinent ones).

I can imagine the government treats their translators well, I don't doubt that. However, most translators in Canada do not work for the government. These people don't appear anywhere in the statistics, at least not where I was searching, and I searched extensively. For example, I would be interested to know how much profit agencies make (that is, what part of total agency revenue is paid to freelancers) - there is no data on this on any of the government sites. In my opinion, this is valuable data and could help many freelancers in positioning themselves on the market. It could also help people who are considering translation studies to make decisions. And this is just one data out of many that would be very helpful and wouldn't even be hard to get. For example, if you search for salary/rate surveys, only in-house salaries are mentioned.

I believe you when you say that the government never asked you to use CAT tools. But that same government seems to be strongly suggesting the use of CAT tools to the industry (which seems to mean agencies to them) because, as they say, there is not enough manpower to satisfy the demand and therefore, translators need to become more productive.

I am not saying that the government should start handing out funding to freelancers, I am not even suggesting they do anything for us. But it would be nice if they included freelancers in their equations. By not doing so, they are only giving more power to the middlemen, which means they take power away from freelancers. I don't like it when people say "wow, XY agency has produced 3 million words in the past year" - they produced none of it really, the freelancers did. I find pretty much all the merit goes to agencies and little, if any, to freelancers. This is not helping our image, and of course, it doesn't help in justifying the rates we charge to direct clients. To direct clients, the experts are agencies, not freelancers. They often expect us to charge less than an agency would, even if we cover for all tasks the agency would have had to perform and even of often, the resulting translation is of hogher quality than in the case of an agency.

I have also found out that if I want to have more detailed information on the industry, I need to be a registered business, which I am not. Again, the information is available to the agencies but not to the freelancers. It is no wonder many freelancers have trouble managing their businesses - they don't have even basic industry information. Of course, I could register. But I really doubt that becoming a registered business would pay off - in my case, it would simply mean additional paperwork and having to charge taxes to clients. The tax savings are not good enough a compensation for that. As for tax treatment, it is simple, really: those who do not have a company and therefore are no employees count as businesses fiscally. This means that you pay the same or more taxes as an employee, but you don't get any of the advantages employees get. For example, when there is a long dry spell (I had one recently that lasted almost two months), you can't get unemployment insurance. In that sense, freelancers contribute more while not getting anything more in return. Freelancers are inbetween - they don't have access to employee advantages but they don't have access to business advantages either.

In a nutshell, any business can turn to the government for information that they will then use to grow their businesses - but freelancers can't. The government makes surveys and advises the language industry on technology, exporting, etc. - but again, this is usable only by businesses. By choosing to help agencies, they are giving them a boost - that they are not giving to freelancers. I strongly feel that freelancers are at a disadvantage. Out of the many government initiatives I have looked at, none is accessible to freelancers. It is as if we didn't exist. It is not just about wanting a status and wanting to be respected and taken into account - it is also about the long term effects of this on the language industry. There is a shortage already - by not considering freelancers, the government may well be adding to it. And who knows - if there is a shortage today, that may be because freelancers never really had a status. After all, who would want to study for years to make less money than the garbage truck guys who didn't even go to college? And by giving all the power to agencies, of course, the government isn't helping to improve rates.

Let me find my sources - I will edit this message later to include them.

[Edited at 2008-03-25 03:23]


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Suzanne Éthier
Canada
Local time: 12:35
English to French
+ ...
Regroupements professionnels pour les travailleurs autonomes Mar 28, 2008

Bonjour Victoria,

Connaissez-vous les associations professionnelles de travailleurs autonomes?
Je pense, par exemple, à l'ATAMESL (Association des travailleurs autonomes et micro-entreprises de services linguistiques) relativement jeune, mais dynamique... au Québec ou à la CTTAQ (Coalition des travailleuses et travailleurs autonomes du Québec) qui travaillent justement à améliorer la situation et à défendre les droits des travailleurs autonomes. Ces regroupements veulent améliorer le sort du grand nombre actuel de personnes dans notre cas.

Compte tenu de toute l'énergie que vous manifestez dans votre dernière intervention, je trouve que vous pourriez leur être très utile et réciproquement...

Voici les liens :

http://www.atamesl.org/index.htm

http://www.cttaq.ca/ (site en reconstruction...)

Vous pourriez probablement trouver + de renseignements auprès d'eux. Il me semble avoir lu, sur le site de la CTTAQ, le rapport d'une étude menée par un avocat, un responsable de la Coalition, sur le statut des TA. Pour résumer... ce sera une longue démarche ou lutte, juridiquement parlant du moins.

Il y a aussi l'AEDQ dans la région de Montréal : http://www.aedq.org/administration/index.php


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