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Future, or no future? Advice to an 18-year-old linguist
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Jan 27

At a party over the weekend, I got talking to the 18-year-old daughter of a friend who was interested in a career in languages, and was really hoping to be a translator...

Far be it from me to dampen anyone's dreams, particularly as none of us knows exactly what will happen in the future, or exactly when the future will become the present...

When I asked a question recently in a forum about the skills today's youth should be learning. Lots of people said "coding".
... See more
At a party over the weekend, I got talking to the 18-year-old daughter of a friend who was interested in a career in languages, and was really hoping to be a translator...

Far be it from me to dampen anyone's dreams, particularly as none of us knows exactly what will happen in the future, or exactly when the future will become the present...

When I asked a question recently in a forum about the skills today's youth should be learning. Lots of people said "coding".

But what if "coding" sounds as exciting as "eating rusty pipes" (as in my case)? We can't ALL be coders.

What answer would you have given her? Unmitigated encouragement? Scared her off? A cautious approval?
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Oksana Weiss  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:18
Member (2011)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
"Follow your heart" Jan 27

If she is genuinely interested in languages, let her learn them by all means! When I was 16 and lived in the USSR, everybody around me told me: "Foreign language is not a profession, you should be an engineer like your parents and grandparents". I was stubborn, however, and learned English although it offered no prospectives then. No one knew that in a few years the Iron Curtain will fall and that the people with any skills in English will be sought after by the foreign companies entering the ma... See more
If she is genuinely interested in languages, let her learn them by all means! When I was 16 and lived in the USSR, everybody around me told me: "Foreign language is not a profession, you should be an engineer like your parents and grandparents". I was stubborn, however, and learned English although it offered no prospectives then. No one knew that in a few years the Iron Curtain will fall and that the people with any skills in English will be sought after by the foreign companies entering the market. Since then the knowledge of the foreign language(s) was my bread-winner, and I cannot complain even now (although I do, as the other translators too). Deep-L, AI, Google here or there - if you master foreign languages and your own, native one, you will always have bread and some butter to put on it:) And, most importantly, you will have fun!Collapse


Andrew Morris
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Olavo Nogueira  Identity Verified
Brazil
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English to Portuguese
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SITE LOCALIZER
Just do it Jan 27

As you said we don't know what the future will be like, so I think the best thing to do about career paths is just do it.

I know a translator who says "it is true that the translation will be strongly impacted by machines, but all professions will be, so we can't run, we can only adapt".

Today's teenagers are lucky to live in the information age, no matter what they want to do with their lives, they can chat with other professionals around the world, have access to vide
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As you said we don't know what the future will be like, so I think the best thing to do about career paths is just do it.

I know a translator who says "it is true that the translation will be strongly impacted by machines, but all professions will be, so we can't run, we can only adapt".

Today's teenagers are lucky to live in the information age, no matter what they want to do with their lives, they can chat with other professionals around the world, have access to videos and texts, and attend online events.

So what I would say to someone 18 years old would be, look for information, find out what the market wants, what is the appropriate training, what are the trends, what is the day to day of this profession, how much money you can make, so study and work hard.

Just do it.

And don't worry if you want to change your profession later, i myself made it, and everything worked perfectly fine.
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Andrew Morris
Rachel Tibbetts
Oksana Weiss
Angie Garbarino
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Getting real: A fresh-new competitior Jan 28

As far as one couldn't earn for his living in the country, he started learning a foreign language... not to be able to earn for his living in other countries too!


Andrew, she is not a university student yet and a 'hope' is too little to plan anything.
It seems, she knows you as a good example, but she forgot that unlike most freelancers you are a businessperson running his own biz. If this is the case, she was too quick to draw biased conclusions. Though she might be just polite as well.

Moreover, if soon she works in your language pairs and your fields, you will be rivals, dividing mostly the same pool. Lions don't like to share, you know.

So, just ask her why exactly she wants to be a translator, gaining what?
Or just explain her the sit-in deskwork issues, "pure" translators' drawbacks, and the market averages, expenses, retirement, net income, and the such)

Good luck

[Edited at 2020-01-28 02:51 GMT]


Elke Fehling
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Really rivals? Jan 28

[quote]DZiW wrote:


Andrew, she is not a university student yet and a 'hope' is too little to plan anything.
It seems, she knows you as a good example, but she forgot that unlike most freelancers you are a businessperson running his own biz. If this is the case, she was too quick to draw biased conclusions. Though she might be just polite as well.



[Edited at 2020-01-28 02:51 GMT]


As far as I know she drew no conclusions. It was just a chat

[quote]DZiW wrote:


Moreover, if soon she works in your language pairs and your fields, you will be rivals, dividing mostly the same pool. Lions don't like to share, you know.

[Edited at 2020-01-28 02:51 GMT]


Haha is everyone in the same combination automatically a rival? That all depends on your worldview. It didn't even occur to me...


Angie Garbarino
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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Member
Spanish to English
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Sharing lions Jan 28

Of course lions like sharing things. Or perhaps you think the expression "the lion's share" was coined for no reason? So thanks to all you lions out there for sharing.

[Edited at 2020-01-28 12:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-01-28 12:49 GMT]


Andrew Morris
Angie Garbarino
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
The mane point Jan 28

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

Of course lions like sharing things. Or perhaps you think the expression "the lion's share" was coined for no reason? So thanks to all you lions out there for sharing.


Is this the time for us to make all kinds of lion puns, with a sense of "pride"? Or perhaps to "pack" it in?

But yes, not the best example from the natural world. But even if DZiW had said "lone wolf", I still don't think that a young 18-year-old dreaming of entering the profession constitutes a real and present danger to my business.

Should I be quaking in my boots?


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:18
Member
Spanish to English
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Back on topic Jan 28

As for those dreams, I can't remember the last time I dampened an 18-year old's dreams, or if I ever did, but in any case no 18-year old ever mentioned it to me. Life can be so unfair.

In this case I'd have to officially dampen them, though. Translation is for getting out of, not into, and especially not at that age.

I know it's a terrible thing to say, but these days young people all seem to be streaming into the professional nobodyism of Big Brother, The Island, First
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As for those dreams, I can't remember the last time I dampened an 18-year old's dreams, or if I ever did, but in any case no 18-year old ever mentioned it to me. Life can be so unfair.

In this case I'd have to officially dampen them, though. Translation is for getting out of, not into, and especially not at that age.

I know it's a terrible thing to say, but these days young people all seem to be streaming into the professional nobodyism of Big Brother, The Island, First Dates or whatever the other wow-shows are called. You can strip your life and love naked and sell it to the gawking millions on live TV, become a regular feature on the howl 'n' scream sessions that pass for social reality programmes, and who knows, maybe you'll end up with your own prog one day. If you can cope with the hate mail and love mail and crank calls and cameras being shoved in your face by pushy yelping reporters with strange clothes and expertly clipped facial hair, asking about your brother or your mother or your aunt or your cousin any time you leave the house, it beats working.
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Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Don't necessarily agree but... Jan 28

Love your writing style Mervyn!

 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:18
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Spanish to English
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Tell her this ... Jan 28

I fell into it the same way everyone does. Little by little. Gradually. You don’t even notice. You meet people. People meet you. You get to know people. In some smoke-filled joint. On the street corner. In the bingo hall. Wherever. It’s all fine at first, no pressure. They ask you Hey, how ya say dis, how ya say dat? The odd word. An idiom or two. A couple of expressions here and there. One day a man you don’t even know gives you a piece of paper with words written on it. You take it and s... See more
I fell into it the same way everyone does. Little by little. Gradually. You don’t even notice. You meet people. People meet you. You get to know people. In some smoke-filled joint. On the street corner. In the bingo hall. Wherever. It’s all fine at first, no pressure. They ask you Hey, how ya say dis, how ya say dat? The odd word. An idiom or two. A couple of expressions here and there. One day a man you don’t even know gives you a piece of paper with words written on it. You take it and start translating ad hoc, but he says No, s’gotta be written, boy. You can use my PC. Matter of fact, you can use my office. Sure, yeah, and come down for a coupla drinks wid da boys when ya done. All laughy-laughy. You don’t earn much worth talking about, but you have what they want and that makes them happy, so hey.

Time goes on. Suddenly it’s no longer a game. All those friendly faces are gone, and all you can think about is translation because you need the money. It’s only been a year or two, but now you’re hanging around the websites and the forums looking for trade. Hey mister, want me to make you feel good? How about a translation? Whaddya say to a couple of pages on raw sludge, huh? Sometimes they say Fine, sometimes they say Nope. And sometimes they get nasty, whether they want it or whether they don’t. You need protection. You need security.

When I first met Frank of Tradcon, he was real nice. Square jaw, the stern silent type. You should have seen the twinkle in his eye when I told him I would call him Frannie. He only ever allowed ME to call him that! Never let anyone mess with me. Got me set up in my own apartment, too. I’ll tell the world, I thought I was in love. Turned out Frannie wasn’t. Before I knew what was happening, he wanted me to do what I did for him for other people too. Dozens of people, hundreds of them. All day and all night. Frannie, Frannie baby- I squeaked to him when he swung in one time at three in the morning and I was still wearily ploughing through 10K of annual accounts, in PDF, with tables and all, - what’s happened to us, hon, what’s the story?

Frannie stared at me and uncapped the beer bottle he’d just taken out of the fridge with his teeth. You don’t get it, do you? he snarled, spitting out the cap at me. You belong to me now. You’re mine.

And then it dawned on me. I did belong to him. I was his bitch. A translation bitch.
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DZiW
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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
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Local time: 15:18
Member (2012)
French to English
... Jan 28

... so now we see why people prefer to apply for Love Island.

Andrew Morris
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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
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Posted via
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Future Jan 28

They told me there was no future in the translation business in 1987. Computers would soon replace humans.

But look at me today. I have been successful in my business since 1987. I live the life I always wanted to live. And computers work in my favor.

So who knows. Maybe I was just lucky and progress went so slow that the future didn't yet arrive. But maybe, just maybe, there are ways to use technology on our favor...


Andrew Morris
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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
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Really Jan 28

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

...
And then it dawned on me. I did belong to him. I was his bitch. A translation bitch.


Really?

I felt more like a prostitute when I was working as an employee in that cable tv company. Working 60 to 80 hours a week, get sick and sicker.

I am free today. I spend an enormous amount of time on a tropical island. I speak at least 3 langus every day. I never work more than 25 hours a week.

It's up to you. If you want to feel like a bitch, go and feel like a bitch. It's up to you.


 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:18
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Go for it! Jan 28

I would encourage the 18 year old person to go for it: You just need SDL Studio, Deepl and a proz account, where you can ask all relevant questions you might have with your translation jobs you are obviously so qualified for, in the KudoZ area. You don´t even need to assign points to the answerers or to say "Thank you!". Just take their answers, be cheaper than your colleagues, ruin their reputation, when reviewing their work for agencies, avoid taxes, and have afterwards a nice time on your tr... See more
I would encourage the 18 year old person to go for it: You just need SDL Studio, Deepl and a proz account, where you can ask all relevant questions you might have with your translation jobs you are obviously so qualified for, in the KudoZ area. You don´t even need to assign points to the answerers or to say "Thank you!". Just take their answers, be cheaper than your colleagues, ruin their reputation, when reviewing their work for agencies, avoid taxes, and have afterwards a nice time on your tropical island. When your business model fails, because others are (even) cheaper than you, too cheap to keep a living in an underdeveloped tropical country, than you (as a native German) can always go back to Germany and benefit (again?) from the (compared to other countries) generous social system.

[Bearbeitet am 2020-01-29 08:44 GMT]
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Jorge Payan
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Nothing is real outside of ‘you’ Jan 29

Run your business life yourself and take pieces of advice with a grain of salt and sense of responsibility.

@Andrew, making no snap judgment, there should be a nitty-gritty reason or at least specific ideas why she wanted to become a translator and for what.

Certainly, an informed and deliberate choice—even if a complete disaster—is not merely a whim from parents or TED talks. Also the definition of success may differ greatly.

Some 10 years ago, translation could boast relatively big money, stability, fame, and prestige. No longer. How about a lawyer or diplomat, or who cares?
In modern consumer society, rather many popular words like ‘translator’, ‘manager’, ‘blogger’, ‘business trainer’,’ crypto-something’ are often nicely misused as synonyms for ‘reject’, ‘jobless’, ‘cheap’, or ‘fraud’. Opposite of what they say, a PC with the internet cannot automatically make a nobody the somebody.

However, if one is able to learn and communicate as an equal, then he will surely get lucrative deals on his own terms in any career, improving the life perception and active intellect, let alone the income and good name.

By the way, why do you call her an 18-year linguist—is she already skilled in foreign languages or studies linguistics? Just curious though.



@Elke, you are one of a few happy and versatile persons, living fully in harmony.
There’re no bad or good people, only happy ones who do what they want and unhappy who must do what they don’t want.

Most “pure” translator can neither negotiate favorable terms, nor enjoy life for they are but CAT/PEMT-operators. In fact, they are the needy, not translators. Such self-proclaimed freelancers are forced (willing?) to take any penny jobbing, churning out and dumping sheer stuff.

Possibly, when they finally realize that “If you don’t respect yourself and cannot substantiate your rates, why should others?” it will be the first day of their real life.



@Matthias, it’s a lively yet rather cruel joke, because so many non-businessmen are hyped into such unfair malpractices. Why, they just take it for granted! On the other hand, spongers are more businesspersons than ignorant freelancers who agree to do a rush job for $0.01/word with huge “discounts” after some 60+ days, betraying their interests and common sense. Should a hard lesson do for both?


 
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