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"So you're a translator? When are you getting a real job?"
Thread poster: Michael Marcoux

Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:45
Russian to English
+ ...
Jan 26, 2015

I've been a freelance translator for nearly 2 years now. You'd think 2 years of running your own business while living on your own would be enough to convince people that you, indeed, are doing something productive and making a decent living. But lo! Family, friends, and relatives constantly bombard me with negativity - not so much with regards to the freelance part, but to the translation part, which is complete anathema to them. In fact, most people I run into seem to think that translation is neither a job, nor a career. Either Google Translate will eliminate me, or there's no opportunity for career advancement, or working from home is something that people with mommy blogs do to earn pocket change on the side...etc.

Do you encounter opinions like these, or do people hold you in high esteem? Perhaps it's just an American thing?...


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Sophie Thereau
France
Local time: 12:45
English to French
"So you're an ignorant? When are you getting a real brain?" Jan 26, 2015

Is what you could answer to these people if they p*** you off too much.

More seriously, Michael, this is definitely NOT an American thing. A lot of French people react like that (extreme negativity) on many subjects. I was prone to think that a lot of people in the U.S. were much more perky, positive persons than here, the "yes we can" kind (in the sense of "there are no problems, there are only solutions", no political meaning here), but it seems that I was wrong...

Anyway, what you can do is first ask these people where and when they got their "knowledge" of the business. Often, a good question is worth a thousand answers. You can also show them studies, facts and figures on the translation business worldwide and say them something like "read, learn, then talk". You can also remind these people that entrepreneurship is an American virtue, that the U.S. was built by people who had a vision, were often misunderstood, but were right in the end.

Besides, don't forget to remind friends and family that they should provide you with support, no harm. Competitors and bad clients are here for that ^^

Last thing, don't stay alone. Meet other translators, even if they do not work in the same language pairs as you. Create your own network, it is worth the time and energy you'll put into it. Support comes from many people and places.

Hang on!

Best

Sophie


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:45
Hebrew to English
Same story in the UK Jan 26, 2015

I'd say that reactions tend to stick to the opposing ends of the spectrum, either people are amazed at it and are really in awe, or (like my old neighbour) are unable to be convinced that you aren't actually unemployed and/or they just don't 'get' it.

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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:45
Danish to English
+ ...
Oh, you translate? Then you probably know this German phrase... Jan 26, 2015

Quite often, when I tell people that I am a self-employed translator, they go blank for a moment, then ask what I translate. Not so much which languages I work with, but what types of texts. As understanding begins to sink in, they then ask whether I can make a living from that. And there lies the problem, I think: People (in Denmark) have a misguided idea that anyone who speaks a foreign language can translate as fast as they can type, hence it cannot pay much more than a typist's salary. (Not even a secretary, just a 'typist', if such a job title still existed). The fact that many of us have MA degrees and many years of experience seems irrelevant... Also to the people who buy our work...

The other day, when I told someone about my work, he answered, "Oh, I only ever learnt German, but you probably already know this phrase..." and then proceded to rattle off something in German that yes, I understood, but German is not one of my working languages. Maybe he thought that translators have a secret Tardis field surrounding us to enable us to magically understand and speak all languages.

Years ago when I was still a student, I told a lady that I was studying Spanish, and she beamed at me saying, "Uuuhhh... then maybe you can become a tour guide in Mallorca some day"... Hmmm...

Maybe it is only the actual translation industry that believes that translators are only capable of translating into ONE language: their mother tongue.


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:45
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Buy a big car... Jan 26, 2015

preferably a SUV, boast, that you employ at least 3 other translators, who do all the work for you, claim, that you translate from a non-native source language into another non-native target language and tell them, that you of course don´t pay taxes. This is the situation for Germany to earn some respect as a male translator in your neighbourhood

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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 19:45
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
I don't have a real job Jan 26, 2015

I don't have to work more than 20 hours a week and I make significantly more money than my accountant friend who works 60 hours a week - if he's lucky.

Given that, I'm ok with not having a real job.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
The same kind of rubbish ... Jan 26, 2015

Yes, I sometimes get the same kind of rubbish.
In an interview with a "financial advisor" at my bank branch (which he probably called to persuade me to buy all kinds of "investments" I didn't want or need), the man asked me what I did for a living and when I replied that I was a translator he said "Oh, but that's all done by computers these days, isn't it?". I said "And I can get all the financial advice I need on the Internet these days, can't I?". I think he may have got the point.
On another occasion I told someone I met at some social event that I was a translator of French and Spanish. She said "Ah, I've got an old handwritten diary in Polish, could you translate that for me?". I said "I'm sorry, I don't know Polish at all". A look of incomprehension clouded her face. "I thought you said you were a linguist" she said.
Heigh ho! And, of course, there's the usual incomprehension about most professionals translating only into their mother tongue.
I comfort myself by considering that most of us don't understand or know much about what other people's work entails.
Keep smiling,
Jenny


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liberfo
Italy
Local time: 12:45
English to Italian
An old arabian proverb Jan 26, 2015

Michael,
I begin to translate (I'm a skill electronic technician and teacher for electronics HW in the high schools) when I was so tired to read instruction and service manual translated in Italian, absolutely out of argument and knowledge in electronics. So, I start to work in this field,as a second job, only for the pleasure to share with my colleagues new and interesting prospective about that matter. A lot of people said to me what they think about translation , but I want to go ahead , always remembering an old arabian proverb that say: If you stop yourself every time a dog barks, you cannot end your way.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:45
German to English
Financial managers and the future Jan 26, 2015

Jenny Forbes wrote: In an interview with a "financial advisor" at my bank branch (which he probably called to persuade me to buy all kinds of "investments" I didn't want or need), the man asked me what I did for a living and when I replied that I was a translator he said "Oh, but that's all done by computers these days, isn't it?". I said "And I can get all the financial advice I need on the Internet these days, can't I?". I think he may have got the point.


There’s a report in today’s Financial Times under the heading “Human investment managers risk obsolescence”. It continues: "Human investment managers are at risk of being rendered obsolete by rapid advances in algorithmic trading technology, according to the brains behind one of the world’s leading computer-driven hedge funds.

Leda Braga, who runs the $8.9bn BlueTrend hedge fund, said traditional investment approaches might soon struggle to keep ahead of so-called “systematic” computer models, as human fund managers are undercut by cheaper and more efficient technology."

If highly paid investment managers are at risk, the prospects for common-or-garden financial advisors must be pretty dire.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What do you do for living? Jan 26, 2015

When people ask me what I do for living, I usually reply: “I eat, drink, sleep and breath". Papageno comes on my mind, but not many people know him, unfortunately.

Now seriously, the answer: “Oh, I also kind of use Google Translate. It’s awesome”, is in top two. The other one being: “So, you work from home?” followed by pitiful yet innocent facial expression.

I’m still puzzled why on earth people should even ask what others are doing for living. Are they all investors?

[Edited at 2015-01-26 09:00 GMT]


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:45
German to English
An American thing? Jan 26, 2015

Michael Marcoux wrote: Do you encounter opinions like these, or do people hold you in high esteem? Perhaps it's just an American thing?...


Maybe it’s “an American thing” to ignore what the U.S. government and the U.S. media are saying. Here are a couple of articles, one from 2013 and one from 2014, that you can wheel out to confront and confound your doubters:

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/30/news/economy/job-skills-foreign-language/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/30/24-7-wall-st-fastest-growing-jobs/14816553/

And the Department of Labor continues to consistently rate translation and interpreting as professions for which demand will be very strong in the future - which is why translators and interpreters are among the highest-scoring professions in the green card lottery, for example.

And when it comes to professions that are likely to be substituted by computers in the foreseeable future, translators in particular are not regarded as being at any great risk, and certainly at less risk than a surprising number of other prominent professions, including lawyers, journalists, and a number of medical specializations (there were media reports about this in the past 12 months as well).


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:15
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Same story in India Jan 26, 2015

When I tell them I am a freelance translator - two incomprehenisble terms for them, they blink a couple of times and giving up on the first term, ask me, what do you translate, books?

I enter into a lengthy explanation that I translate "everything" from websites, to software strings to documents, and very rarely, books too, but they would have already lost interest and would have moved on to some other topic.

Many times, I decide it is not worth it, and tell them that I am now a retired person and am not doing anything in particular, just some freelance work.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Who runs the fund? Jan 26, 2015

RobinB wrote:

Leda Braga, who runs the $8.9bn BlueTrend hedge fund, said traditional investment approaches might soon struggle to keep ahead of so-called “systematic” computer models, as human fund managers are undercut by cheaper and more efficient technology."


Will Lady Gaga... no, sorry... Leda Braga (provided you resist the temptation to translate her last name into Spanish) agree if that $8.9bn fund of hers is run by comuters instead? I guess she won't, as the post goes: "Leda Braga, who runs...". It does not go: "Computers that run..."


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The Misha
Local time: 06:45
Russian to English
+ ...
Why are you so concerned about what other people think? Jan 26, 2015

Let them wallow in their ignorance all they want. What do you care? The money you make should speak for itself.

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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:45
German to English
Duh? Jan 26, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote: Will Lady Gaga... no, sorry... Leda Braga (provided you resist the temptation to translate her last name into Spanish)


She’s Brazilian. Do you have something against Brazilians? Or successful women?

I guess she won't, as the post goes: "Leda Braga, who runs...". It does not go: "Computers that run..."


For “run” read “manage”, not handle the day-to-day trading. People run funds, like people run banks. Computers do the grunt work. And the computer algorithms for which Leda Braga is responsible run fund trading operations faster and more effectively (and more profitably) than humans.

I suggest you read the rest of the article on the FT website, where it says e.g.

"Ms Braga, a Brazilian-born engineer, is one of a handful of women to have risen to the top of the hedge fund world. Her comments come as many traditional fund managers have struggled to make money for clients in the past year, with computer-driven hedge funds outpacing most of their human rivals in 2014.

Late last year Ms Braga, who created the systematic computer trading business at hedge fund BlueCrest, spun off her funds into a new separate hedge fund called Systematica Investments.

While human fund managers had the ability to interpret market colour and psychology in a way computer-driven systems could not, Ms Braga said the human mind would never be able to keep track of the quantity of information that systematic funds can."


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