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The translation profession
Thread poster: Luís E. dos Santos
Luís E. dos Santos
Brazil
Local time: 10:06
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sep 25, 2009

Hello.

I've always wanted to be a translator. When I was a teenager, some of my idols were great Brazilian translators. Now that I finally made my dream come true, I realize that translation is not such a valued profession in Brazil. In fact, sometimes it seems to be an invisible profession.

I'd like to ask you two things:

1) How is the translation profession perceived by society in your country? Do you think it is valued or depreciated?

2) Have you ever had privileges for being a translator? Have you ever been discriminated against for being a translator?

Thank you.


[Edited at 2009-09-26 02:29 GMT]


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Rick Henry  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:06
Italian to English
+ ...
It's valued by my clients. Sep 25, 2009

It's valued by my clients, which is really all that matters.

No matter what profession you're in, you're going to feel under-appreciated at times. And sometimes the work is fun, sometimes it's not. That's the nature of work. I think the best part of my job is that I'm constantly learning something. Yes, I have my specialty fields, but even working with my specialties, I'm learning something, whether it's simply about the company or it's products, etc.

I don't really understand your second question. Privileges? I've certainly never been discriminated against because I'm a translator.

R.
==


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
In USA Sep 25, 2009

In my country, USA, it does not appear that any translators are held up as idols. If anything, very few people even have any idea we exist, let alone what we do or what it takes to do it, so in general there is no opinion, good or bad.

Personally I have had no privileges nor have I been discriminated against. I am just one more who makes an honest living.

Those people who have a chance to see and hear me work in public (I am also a conference interpreter) do express an admiration for the kind work we do, because they can see right there how they benefit from it. But when doing translation we are hidden.

Of course my clients do value my work, and that's the bottom line.

[Editado a las 2009-09-25 18:23 GMT]


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Klaus Urban  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:06
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
In Germany Sep 25, 2009

Henry Hinds has just expressed exactly what I am feeling about my situation as a translator.
Klaus


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:06
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
In Germany, Part II Sep 25, 2009

Ditto (Klaus & Henry). I don't need to be loved and respected by the public at large for my profession. If I wanted that I suppose I would go into politics or become a demagogue of some other sort. My clients know what I do, appreciate it, pay on time and we're all happy. I get a kick out of doing the occasionally useful text and get paid to do what I like best (read and write). What more could I want?

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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:06
Member (2002)
English to German
Translators are cheaters Sep 25, 2009

A plumber once giggled when I told him that I am a translator. I asked him what was wrong. He said that he means no offense and it's certainly very nice for me that I can make my money in such an easy way. But how can companies be so dumb that they still haven't noticed Google Translate being around and that they could have all their documents translated free of charge that way...

I guess that pretty much sums up what most people are thinking (and I guess not just here in Canada).

Best regards

Andy
www.interlations.com


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Klaus Urban  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:06
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
@ Kevin Sep 25, 2009

Motivation theory distinguishes "extrinsic" and "intrinsic" motivation, with "extrinsic motivation" requiring something like money or public recognition, versus "intrinsic" motivation not requiring anything from the outside.
I have always been intrinsicly motivated, powered by intrinsic motivation!
Poor those who need extrinsic motivation!
Klaus


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
My thoughts Sep 25, 2009

I had never really thought of the idea of translators being held up as idols, but I have to say it does appeal to me. Think of the possibilities: trading cards, action figures, adoring fans waiting for you to emerge from your office after a long day of work; paparazzi tracking your every move, maybe even enshrinement in a Hall of Fame for the select few, complete with a bronze bust and a tearful induction ceremony.

On a more serious note, I generally agree with Henry. I would only add that I would not necessarily advise younger persons considering career options to become professional translators. There are many uses to which knowledge of a foreign language(s) can be put. Being a translator is but one option. There are other possibilities that might be more interesting, remunerative and secure.

[Edited at 2009-09-25 19:31 GMT]


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Personal thoughts Sep 25, 2009


1) How is the translation profession perceived by society in your country? Do you think it is valued or depreciated?


Like "Bacteria"
Everyone knows about their role in fermentation process but people concentrate on what they put and what they take.


2) Have you ever had privileges for being a translator? Have you ever been discriminated for being a translator?


Privileges (for a freelancer):
- Never-ending learning.
- Unlimited Mobility options (live where you wish)
- Quick orientation into any culture.

Discrimination:
-No discrimination.


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Caridad Rios  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
The value of translating Sep 25, 2009

Hi Luis,

Interesting you ask those questions now that you're about to start working as a translator.
As others already mentioned, idolizing the career doesn't make it better. And there may just as well be other options. However, in Geneva where I live now (I am Peruvian though), translators are quite well recognized because the city is headquarters for many international organizations who need the "lonely intellectual slave" to translate plenty of documents. On the other hand, in such a globalized world, even if your society does not value translators as it values other métiers, many people need us and I genuinely believe that there is a role in translating and in being a translator even if you're behind the scenes.
So, enjoy your role as a cultural bridge. No electronic translator will compare to human translating machines!

I am not quite sure what you mean by your second question. In any case, no, I have never been discriminated against for being a translator.

Caridad


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Luís E. dos Santos
Brazil
Local time: 10:06
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks and clarifications Sep 25, 2009

Thanks to all who have replied so far.

The translators I admired when I was a teenager were literary translators, those who translated masterpieces and appeared in the newspapers.

When I mention privileges, I'd like to know if you have ever been favored or treated better in daily situations just because you are translators.

[Edited at 2009-09-26 02:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 08:31 GMT]


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Gad Kohenov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:06
English to Hebrew
+ ...
In Israel Sep 26, 2009

People think you are no more than a typist. "Why do I have to pay 200NIS for a few pages, when I can get a book for 15$us"? (actually happened!). I see ridiculous offers on Proz too. I am staying away from certain countries and certain types of clients. Interpreting is more remunerative since it's more difficult and you are not in the shade as the translator is.
I am staying away from Israeli clients. I was clever enough in the past to study other languages besides Hebrew and English. There is a tough competition in HebrewEnglish compared to Spanish, Italian or French into Hebrew.
It's all a question of age. If you are young you can combine your knowledge of languages with a better paying job.
I translated books for 7 years. Because of the large volume the price for word was a joke. I am staying away from that (keeping in mind that you have to "starve" for months from the moment you start the translation of a book till they pay you.
Translation is an excellent way of "staying tuned" with what happens around you, but this ancient profession is considered in Israel as a work for students or retired persons and is paid for accordingly.
We should all stick to our prices. I prefer to reject a few offers and do some reading until I get a well paid interesting translation. If we all refuse to work for 0.04$us per source word, the serious clients will understand. If you agree once to work for less - you lost if for ever with that client.
The $us will continue to go south (down the toilet), so try to get paid in GBP or Euros (when possible).

D.F.


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Barbara Cochran, MFA  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translator Status Sep 26, 2009

As a literary translator, I believe that translators sometimes get looked down on as "second-class citizens" because our work is seen as secondary to the original work. This may be because the original work is seen as being much more creative than a translation of the same.

Also, the existence of the concept expressed in many languages, and in many cultures, "to translate is to deceive" doesn't help the reputation of the profession. A person whom I had just been introduced to said that phrase to my face many years ago, right after he asked me what I did for a living. I couldn't wait for him to go home. I think this idea is often held to be true for many in the case of interpretation, too, because of the many very public snafus when interpreters who have worked for the American government, but then got fired (for example when President Jimmy Carter's interpreter said, in Polish, that Mr. Carter "lusted" for the people of Poland) made very embarassing errors. There have been at least a few very public (and very embarassing, for everyone concerned) translation errors since.

But in fact, my status as a translator causes my friends, many who are published writers like myself, and with whom I share my work, librarians, educators, and waitpersons who work where I hang out with my laptop to hold me in high esteem. I especially get the royal treatment at libraries, both public and college.

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:03 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:10 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-26 09:36 GMT]


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James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Russian to English
+ ...
My take on it Sep 26, 2009

Translators are rare enough in my part of the United States that people I meet are generally surprised and admiring when I tell then what I do. Most people have little or no knowledge of a foreign language. They perhaps studied a little Spanish or French in high school and quickly forgot it upon graduation. All they remember is how hard it was.

That said, translators are not well paid here -- and maybe that's the true measure of how much we are valued. I translate because I love the challenge, not because I expect to get rich.

I started as an inhouse translator in an organization where translators were considered "support" to "production," the people who did the "real" work. Translators were valued somewhat below the "producers" but above the people who did copy prep, say.

I switched sides at the earliest opportunity. And I did quite well on the production side of the organization precisely because I knew a couple of foreign languages and didn't need to wait for translations.

Not long ago I ran into one of my old monolingual colleagues on the production side of the house who who has used Google Translate. He told me how impressed he was with it and stated his opinion that the end of human translation was near. As a guy who depended on translations, he should have known better, but he didn't. And that is a little frightening.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:06
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
I don't follow you Sep 26, 2009

James McVay wrote:
Not long ago I ran into one of my old monolingual colleagues on the production side of the house who who has used Google Translate. He told me how impressed he was with it and stated his opinion that the end of human translation was near. As a guy who depended on translations, he should have known better, but he didn't. And that is a little frightening.


Frightening? Why is that? I think it's wonderful! The more, the merrier!

I used to have a colleague in the support group at the German software company I worked for who had a similar opinion of Babelfish and viciously attacked me for pretending not to understand his English entries in the support database which had been translated with that tool. I'll never forget the e-mail with 24 point red type informing me how irresponsible it would be not to make use of such excellent technology.

With employees that smart, it's little wonder that the company nearly failed.

Any time you feel discouraged or think you might be losing your competitive edge, spend a little time with people like your avid Google translator and you'll realize that there still is a niche on the planet for sentient life. While he is Googling away, you can be putting the final polish on the competitive product literature that will see his kind off to the reward that has been earned.


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