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A labour of love?
Thread poster: Terry Richards
Terry Richards
France
Local time: 23:34
French to English
+ ...
Mar 26, 2012

I have posted this as a separate thread because, even though it relates to today’s (26/3) poll, the poll discussion thread is only visible as long as the poll is and I think this is too important a point to disappear into obscurity after 24 hours.

Over 70% of the responders have described translation as “A job that I take joy in doing” compared with about 15% who have described it as “Purely a way of earning a living”. Many people (presumably from the 70%) on the associated discussion thread have been less than positive about people in the 15%. They seem to feel that it is impossible to be a good translator unless you are in some way devoted to the art of translation itself.

Of course, they are entitled to their opinion but I wonder if the problem of the ever greater squeezing of rates isn’t a direct result of this attitude. I think most people will willingly accept less pay for something they see as a calling than something they see as a job.

Personally, I suspect that rates would be a lot higher if those two percentages were reversed...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:34
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Where is it? Mar 26, 2012

Terry Richards wrote:

I have posted this as a separate thread because, even though it relates to today’s (26/3) poll, the poll discussion thread is only visible as long as the poll is and I think this is too important a point to disappear into obscurity after 24 hours.

Over 70% of the responders have described translation as “A job that I take joy in doing” compared with about 15% who have described it as “Purely a way of earning a living”. Many people (presumably from the 70%) on the associated discussion thread have been less than positive about people in the 15%. They seem to feel that it is impossible to be a good translator unless you are in some way devoted to the art of translation itself.

Of course, they are entitled to their opinion but I wonder if the problem of the ever greater squeezing of rates isn’t a direct result of this attitude. I think most people will willingly accept less pay for something they see as a calling than something they see as a job.

Personally, I suspect that rates would be a lot higher if those two percentages were reversed...


Could you please paste a link to the poll?

Thanks

Tom


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 23:34
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Today's quick poll Mar 26, 2012

I don't know how to link to a poll but the discussion thread is: http://www.proz.com/forum/poll_discussion/221299-poll:_for_me_translation_is.html

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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 21:34
Japanese to English
Poll is too stark Mar 26, 2012

The problem is with the black-and-white wording of the poll. It jumps straight from "labour of love" to "soulless mercenary" without anything in-between. Of course people are going to pick the 'lovelier' option.

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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:34
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Argument reversed? Mar 26, 2012

Terry, your initial argument might as well be reversed: colleagues passionate about their work are perhaps also more self-confident, and thus in a position to ask (and get) higher rates.

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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 23:34
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Maybe, maybe not Mar 26, 2012

I agree that the poll is very black and white but this is more or less true of any multiple choice question.

In any case, I was more reacting to the subsequent discussion which is free format although I do suspect that it is conditioned by the questions.


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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:34
English to Dutch
+ ...
Love pays no bills, revenue does... Mar 26, 2012

...

Over 70% of the responders have described translation as “A job that I take joy in doing” compared with about 15% who have described it as “Purely a way of earning a living”. Many people (presumably from the 70%) on the associated discussion thread have been less than positive about people in the 15%. They seem to feel that it is impossible to be a good translator unless you are in some way devoted to the art of translation itself.

Of course, they are entitled to their opinion but I wonder if the problem of the ever greater squeezing of rates isn’t a direct result of this attitude. I think most people will willingly accept less pay for something they see as a calling than something they see as a job.
...


I often read how translators (and not only the budding kind) see translation as a glorified hobby. My hobby is board games, but I don't see myself making a living of that. If collecting post stamps would be a feasible way to realise an income, more people would do it. Many more people. Translating is a means to an end to me, and that end is making a living (a good one, if possible). I often see in this peculiar profession that different points of view are not always met with approval (or even a grain of desire to understand someone else's point of view), and I have long stopped my attempts to replace the bickering in such debates with reasoning.

I have just had a look at the poll discussion (8 contributions so far) and the posts are more reasonable than I have seen in similar discussions. Then again, comments as "You can't be a good translator if you only see this profession as a way of earning your living" or "Glad to see that it's a labour of love as well as a job for most. I'll keep my opinion about the rest stewing away under my hat" miss the point somewhat: by stating that I see translation purely as a way to earn a living, I by no means say that I don't like my work. Far from it! But liking it has nothing to do with the fact that I want to be paid well for my services. I'd rather do a boring assignment for good money than an interesting assignment for peanuts. Enough boring assignments allow me to keep up with my hobbies in my spare time.


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:34
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Translator because of free will...? Mar 26, 2012

I'm just guessing the positive side is because most people have become translators because of their own free will - I mean, how many parents hope their children will ever become a translator.... It's mostly a freelance thing, so even though we might hate our clients, accountant, colleagues or tax officer from time to time, we have all chosen to become translators.... Perhaps that 15% is just having a bad day, work inhouse or something...
===
Ed


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Minimal factor Mar 26, 2012

Terry Richards wrote:

Over 70% of the responders have described translation as “A job that I take joy in doing” ... They seem to feel that it is impossible to be a good translator unless you are in some way devoted to the art of translation itself.

... but I wonder if the problem of the ever greater squeezing of rates isn’t a direct result of this attitude. I think most people will willingly accept less pay for something they see as a calling than something they see as a job.

Personally, I suspect that rates would be a lot higher if those two percentages were reversed...


True, it is possible that this attitude might have something to do with the increasing pressure on rates, for example I am usually less concerned with the amount of money I get from a job if I find some sort of enjoyment or interest in it.
However, I'd still venture that the influence is negligible compared to that exerted by the general widespread desperation and competition for translation work, compounded by the ubiquitous availability of would-be panaceas (pax Google) and grasping, hard-nosed intermediaries.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:34
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You can click to view the results from the top of the discussion Mar 26, 2012

Terry Richards wrote:
I don't know how to link to a poll but the discussion thread is


You're so right - just because we enjoy it, that doesn't mean we don't have to pay the bills, educate our children, save up for pensions and so on like everyone else.

Not that I'm complaining too loudly... Danish proofreaders are discussing whether it would be legal to join together and push rates up in another forum - not a competitor to this one, but no names, no pack drill.

I think that is what we have to do. As far as I can see, under Danish law small entities like us CAN form groups to some extent without violating the monopolies legislation, and we should do so.

Please folks, bring your POSITIVE suggestions to this thread, not just moans about how low rates are!

My suggestion is to ask for a realistic, well-paid rate for every job you are offered, even if you end up going along with a slightly lower one. Or tell clients you need to earn so much per hour/week/month, and their job will take XX hours, so it should cost YYYY in your currency.

So why should you do it for half that?

If necessary, secure the job first, but add a comment to the invoice.
We all have to join together, and it is no use waiting for the end of the crisis. Wear them down, drip by drip!

Happy translating!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Glass half empty Mar 26, 2012

Theo Bernards wrote:


... by stating that I see translation purely as a way to earn a living, I by no means say that I don't like my work. Far from it! [/quote]

Er, analysing the statement in question item by item, we find "purely" (= only, uniquely, solely), i. e., obviating the notion of translation as a vocation or "labour of love" rather than just another way trousering some lucre. At least that's how I see it.

However, I won't rush to judge others' opinions on the matter.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:34
French to English
Usual wording problem? Mar 26, 2012

Rightly or wrongly, I decided that (as with most polls) the options were, despite their polarised wording, intended to cover the whole range of possibilities. I happen to think I'm a fairly good translator, I take some satisfaction from that and positive customer comments (and the near absence of negative ones, if we're allowed to be immodest!) but would I describe that as "joy"? I think not.

Equally, it's not "merely" a way to make a living. For instance, I am also interested in some of the material I translate - but not all of it. Some projects, yes, really are just a question of paying the mortgage.

Plus which, I'm a contrary bugger, and past experience shows that polls & discussions of this type feature the p-word to a disconcerting degree. FWIW (and I mentioned this on my blog a while back IIRC) I agree with whoever said they think it might influence rates negatively. Optimum economic decisions need to be made rationally, so the theory goes. Now, we don't behave economically rationally all the time (if so, I would not live where I do, for instance). But allowing emotions to colour economic decisions is undoubtedly sub-optimal.

[Edited at 2012-03-26 17:45 GMT]


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 18:34
Real labour of love Mar 26, 2012

A girlfriend of mine makes Chinese oil painting in her spare time. She organizes exhibitions to show and sell her works from time to time, at the price of 1000-2000 euros for each piece. As a matter of fact, she is able to sell only one or two pieces of her paintings, if at all, at one exhibition, but she never thinks of lowering down the price to sell more, and her clients never bargain, they either buy it or leave it. As for the rest of her master work, she gives them as gifts to her friends, or stores them in the cellar.

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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 23:34
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Bear with me Mar 26, 2012

I'm taking everybody's comments on board but I'm on posting preview (in my own thread!) so I'll try and batch up my replies.

Theo Bernards: I think you have stated my point better than I did myself!

Edward Vreeburg: I'm not entirely convinced that theres such a divide between free will and whatever the opposite is. Obviously, any one of us has the ability to go away and do something else - nobody is holding guns to our heads. But, if the alternatives are less palatible, is that 100% free will? I know of several translators who would rather be working in IT but who are considered too old. Are they working in translating because of free will or the lack of a realistic alternative?

neilmac: You say that low rates are caused by "grasping, hard-nosed intermediaries" (amongst other factors). Do you suppose that they go out of their way to drive rates down or are they simply reacting to market conditions and choosing the easiest way to maintain their own incomes. I doubt that many agencies view their work as "joy" but are more likely to see it as just a way to make a living. If that's the way you see it, it makes perfect sense to squeeze the translators rather than the customers, particularly when 70% of those translators don't see making money as the primary reason for their work.

Charlie Bavington: I pretty much agree with what you said (but I'm a contrary bugger too!) Just because somebody approaches translation as a business (or job) rather than an art form doesn't mean they can't do a good job. In fact, it is in their interest to do so - good jobs please customers who then tend to stay around reducing the amount of time you have to spend finding new ones.

Terry.


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:34
English to French
+ ...
Used to love it, not any more Mar 26, 2012

I have been translating full-time professionally for over 30 years, both in France and in the USA.

Until about 10 years ago, I loved it, in spite of low (and getting lower) income, of the stress caused by ever-reducing deadlines, and of having to deal with customers who had no idea what they were buying.

These trends have simply become worse and worse, here in the USA.
Translation agency project managers have absolutely no idea of the work involved, are usually fresh out of college and don't seem to stay in their jobs more than a few months, at best.
Rates in the USA have been going lower (I have not been able to increase my rate in over 20 years).
The work itself has been getting ever more difficult, with new technical, marketing and corporate jargon terms coming out by the bucket load, without any dictionary or data base being able to keep up. So terminology research takes up more and more time.
Writing skills have gone down the drain, with a significant majority of English source text not even spell-checked, let alone edited for grammar, style and clarity.
TenTs have not helped productivity ether. I have been using one or another for a bit over 10 years, thus having a vast TM corpus, but matches are few and far between, simply because I rarely translate updates of previous documents.

So, whenever I can charge what I consider a fair rate, I still do enjoy translating.

The rest of the time, I barely can stand to sit in front of the computer. That applies to the vast majority of what I translate.


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