What is the perception of translation & interpreting by clients, general public in your area?
Thread poster: williamson (X)

williamson (X)
Local time: 04:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jun 27, 2002

I was just wondering how the general public and your current and potential customers in different countries (E.U. and future member-states of the E.U.,Switzerland and Norway,USA and Canada, Australia and New-Zealand,South-America,Russia, China, Japan...perceive the profession of translator and interpreter. Different cultures, different views... As a secretarial job, as a highly demanding linguistic profession...


United States
Local time: 19:23
English to Arabic
+ ...
Customers and targeted industries should be prime concern re perception Jun 27, 2002


May one suggest that one\'s customers and targeted industries (niches in which one supplies T&I language services support the success of the customers\' interests and activities) should be principal concern re their perception an appreciation of us as professionals.



Stephen H. Franke


Henry Dotterer
Local time: 22:23
In the US, the profession is not widely recognized Jun 27, 2002

US: I would say that most people here, who are not in the industry, know little or nothing about translation and interpretation. On the positive side, there is not much of a problem with preconceptions (ex. translator=secretary). On the other hand, the notion that automatic translation either exists or will be available soon may be a little more widespread here than other places. And product managers, etc., who encounter translation prices for the first time are usually shocked at the prices.


Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
In Poland Jun 27, 2002

only simultaneous interpreters enjoy reputation of \"people who can do the impossible\" and they are generally recognised as having unique and extraoridinary skills.

Translation, however, is still considered as something which can be easily done by almost anyone who happened to learn a foreign language at high-school.

Project managers who deal with translators for the first time are very frequently shocked with prices - they budget translation close to low qualified secretarial support. In one case the manager of an accounting software localisation project said to me: \"What? Does it mean that the translator would earn as much as I do?\" He was deeply shocked when I told him that the translator need to know as much as he does on software plus accounting and all of this in two languages. icon_smile.gif

But we are working on improving the image.



Bob Kerns  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2002)
German to English
Response from a Brit in Germany Jun 27, 2002

As we all know there are lots of agencies who treat translators as slaves, but only as long as they are tolerated. I\'ve been in the translation business for long enough, and am successful enough, to be able to ignore the slave-drivers and to work solely for customers (including agencies) who appreciate that I am a professional who plays a part in their success. Once the customer appreciates what a translator needs in terms of background, education, resources and time to produce a quality translation then the role of the translator moves far up the scale of professional esteem. This is a (long) learning process for many customers but I have \"educated\" many of them over the years in this respect. Gone are the days when customers called in the moring and expected 100 pages to be translated by the late afternoon. And gone are the days when customers criticise my work just because someone in the company thought they knew better. Now they include the time needed for their translations in their project planning, right from the start, and now they no longer criticise; instead they ask politely if the phrase X might not be better than the phrase Y. And if I say X is the better translation they accept it; after all the answer comes from a professional.

As for what \"the public\" thinks: 99% of the public have never used the services of a translator and therefore have no basis for \"rating\" a translator with, for example, a lawyer or a doctor. What I often hear, however, particularly from people who have never learnt a second language, is \"I don\'t understand how you can do that\", \"My God, that must be a difficult job\" and so on; all good for the ego.

If you\'re fortunate enough to work for professionals and if you treat them as professionals and they treat you as a professional, then you\'ve achieved professionalism. This is not a question of luck; it requires hard work on the part of the translator, firstly to select the good customers and reject the bad ones, and secondly to stick with the principle of quality first and quantity second. Not as easy as it sounds but it\'s worth it in the long term.

I know, I\'ve been there icon_lol.gif

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-06-27 17:59 ]


Local time: 20:23
English to French
+ ...
In U.S., most are uninformed Jun 27, 2002

I\'ve found that in the U.S., most professionals have no idea at all what the field of translating is about, nor what qualifications they should consider in selecting a translator. I believe they\'re simply uninformed. However, I\'ve discovered that many of my customers are quite appreciative and accept my (sometimes) higher quotes when I explain some basics to them in a non-defensive and sincere way. For example: recently a customer contacted me for a quote on a job, and told me it was much higher than one she had just gotten from a high school teacher (and non-native, non experienced translator, but someone who spoke the language). I explained what qualified translators offer (without slamming anyone else) and she was very surprised and appreciative, and accepted my quote. Maybe we can help \"educate\" some of our customers as we go along?

I\'ve seen however, that there are many people in the U.S. who accept translation jobs having virtually no qualifications or experience because it\'s good money and because they had a few language courses at the university. Obviously, they get the jobs because most people don\'t really know the difference.


Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Switzerland Jun 27, 2002

My country is small, smallest, so it is not very important what people think here in the general context.

But yes, Translation is (still) a very respected profession. The general public believes that translators make a lot of money (they did, once upon a time). I made more money translating than researching and researching as a journalist. Literary translators are thought after, but make little money. They compensate with awards they get.

But. Yes, the but. It changes slowly. The respect is still there, but the economy (and some official institutions (even cantonal governments) try to get quality for cheap rates. Companies outsource their work to French translators for half or less the price we asks. Others ask American translators do do the work - for half or less. I know, I have seen - and first answered - questions only a Swiss translator can answer, on proZ. Those companies forget that some contexts cannot be translated by people ignorant of the Swiss context.

That\'s the country report from Switzerland. Life is not what it has been for Swiss translators.


Erika Pavelka (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:23
French to English
English- and French-speaking Canada Jun 27, 2002

This is probably true for other countries: people confuse translation and interpreting. How often have I seen \"Voice of Translator\" on the television when an interpreter is interpreting for a foreign head of state, for example. People just don\'t know that translation and interpreting are two different animals that require different skills.

Even though Canada is an officially bilingual country, meaning that all federal services have to be provided in English and French, the general public still is unaware of what\'s involved in translation. In the national job bank, I often see ads for translators at $8 an hour (I made more than this 10 years ago when I taught swimming lessons to kids!).

Almost every province has a translator association, and they\'re trying to get the profession and the importance of translation recognized.

Whenever I\'ve had inquiries from individuals or small businesses, I\'ve had the impression (or they told me outright) that they thought my rate was quite high (while I was actually giving them a reasonable one). Recently, I translated a website for a small business here in Quebec. Again, I had the impression they thought the cost of the job was too high, but they agreed to it. I had a look on the website a few days ago and noticed my work, but also some new text translated by an obvious non-Anglophone. So I guess they couldn\'t be bothered to call upon my (or anyone else\'s) services again, and now they have a bad image icon_rolleyes.gif

The only thing we can do is educate clients and do it tactfully (like if you come across a website, don\'t shoot off an e-mail saying it\'s terrible and laughable and whatever). We have to promote ourselves as professionals all the way.

My two Canadian cents,


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-06-28 01:29 ]


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:23
German to English
Misperceptions in the US Jun 28, 2002

I agree with Henry and Lynelle. Many first-time (and some long-time) clients are clueless when it comes to translation services. I\'ve had numerous inquiries about having a German text \"typed into English\" with the expectation that the translation should take about as long as typing and cost not much more. They\'re shocked that a 50 page text will take several working days and cost more than $3.00/page.

On the other hand, I have had clients (mainly accountants and attorneys) who expected me to provide statutory citations referred to in the translated text. Although I am able to provide English references to German accounting practices and legal principles, I don\'t have compendia (in English!) of the corpus of German tax and contract law.


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