Research:The Translator's Role in Society
Thread poster: Wendy Cummings

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 5, 2005

I am writing a dissertation on Combating the Translator's invisibility: raising profiles, fighting ignorance and ensuring appropriate recognition for the work that we do.

I am still in the research phase, and would very much appreciate as much input as possible from others. I will probably be posting other questions in the forums, but for now, I would be grateful for your comments on:

What role does the translator have in today's society (compared perhaps to previously)? & What is the 'status' of the translator today?

Many many thanks in advance.

Wendy


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Flemish to English
+ ...
Status? Apr 5, 2005

What do you mean by status? If you mean that the public appreciates the job of translator, forget it. "Oh, you are one of those who write from one language into another". If you look for a job in the corporate world, a T&I-degree is not exactly the basis for landing in a senior management position. These people reason in figures, not in words.


[Edited at 2005-04-05 19:08]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
status Apr 5, 2005

Williamson wrote:

What do you mean by status? If you mean that the public appreciates the job of translator, forget it. "Oh, you are one of those who write from one language into another". If you look for a job in the corporate world, a T&I-degree is not exactly the basis for landing in a senior management position. These people reason in figures, not in words.


[Edited at 2005-04-05 19:08]


I suppose i mean status in terms of appreciation. And role in terms of what contribution to they make to society.

I am trying to get a picture of the way the translator's 'place in society' has changed over the years. Centuries ago they were on a par with authors, involved in the dissemination of knowledge and evolving the language; they played a very large part in the Renaissance and were very involved with culture. But what do they do today?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Karine Piera  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:12
English to French
+ ...
My point of view Apr 5, 2005

Hi Wendy,

I am not sure that people do recognise us as having a specific or added value straightaway. When people ask me what is my occupation and I reply that I am a translator (or at least I am trying to), they usually nod their head and smile. But as soon as I explain how much research it implies, how much time and how much passion there is in this task, they start listening more carefully, and sooner or later, they admit that 'it might not be as easy as it seems'.
From my point of view, we are are still very much involved with culture because we have to know the culture of different countries and languages in order to translate as accurately as possible and to convey not only the words but the intrinsic meaning of these words. We help crossing the borders.
Karine




[Edited at 2005-04-05 20:20]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
reactions Apr 6, 2005

that's also an interesting point you make about people's reaction when you say you are a translator. I get the same - a vacant smile, but they haven't really the faintest idea what that actually 'means'.

And when i say i'm studying translation, they look almost incredulous, as if to say 'why do you need to study it - you have a languages degree, so isn't that enough. What is there to study. How can you 'study' how to translate??


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes... and then again, what is a translator? Apr 6, 2005

And when i say i'm studying translation, they look almost incredulous, as if to say 'why do you need to study it - you have a languages degree, so isn't that enough. What is there to study. How can you 'study' how to translate??


Wendy,

I think you have made a very valid comment about the perception of "translation" but I would take it forward. I don't think this just a pereception of the society but it intrinsic to the profession of translation.

Most people would find it ridiculous to ask a doctor with good drawing skills to draft the plan of a new hospital. They would call an architect, even if the doctor is a subject matter specialist.

Again, hardly anybody would hire a doctor with good knowledge of legislation and good oratory skills to represent them before a court if they have to sue a hospital, they would hire a lawyer.

On the other hand, it is an established practice that doctors and lawyers can translate documents in their subject areas if they have good language skills. And indeed many of them produce very good translations! Many others of course, produce very poor translations...

I would think that this perception of a translator as someone who is good at languages is not just a perception, it's just a reality in the industry. With a good side and a bad side.

Daniel


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
perceptions Apr 6, 2005

dgmaga wrote:

I would think that this perception of a translator as someone who is good at languages is not just a perception, it's just a reality in the industry. With a good side and a bad side.

Daniel


Thanks Daniel for those interesting thoughts.

Could you possibly expand on that? The vague structure of my dissertation is currently going to be:
1. what are current attitudes towards translators and translation
2. why are they like this, and what problems does it cause
3. what, if anything, can be done to improve the situation.

So what do you think the good side of public misconception is? Does the invisibility/lack of knowledge about our work protect us in some way? Or does it just make our job more difficult and frustrating?

A second point i may touch on is the fact that it is illegal to practice medicine or law without the correct qualification. What makes those professions different to translation that it is not illegal to translate without a correct qualification? Arguably, a mistake in a legal/medical translation could be serious enough to make this an issue (a mistranslation of a medical text could be fatal, in extreme circumstances). So why aren't we taken more seriously?

Any comments?

Wendy

[Edited at 2005-04-06 15:05]

[Edited at 2005-04-06 15:06]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Mollanazar
Iran
Local time: 18:42
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
Translator's Visibility Apr 6, 2005

I suggest that you read Venuti's books: (1. Rethinking Translation, 2. Translator's (In)visibility and 3. Scandals of Translation) for your Review of the Related Literature. They provide you much background and historical knowledge.

Best luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxdf49f
France
Local time: 17:12
invisibility as KPI Apr 8, 2005

Translators and interpreters MUST be invisible: the better we are the most invisible we become - that's the very nature of the job! if it sounds, looks, reads, smells like a translation, then we haven't done a good enough job. Invisibility is a performance indicator IMO. The best recognition is when everyone has completely forgotten about me during the conference. Of course this also means that it isn't a job for oversized egos needing recognition!

On practical aspects (money, deadlines, pre-conference information and documents), it's an integral part of our professional skills to train and educate our clients and prospects - ask the right questions and keep asking until we get the right answers (which unfortunately many agencies don't do and that's how we subcontracted freelancers end up in big messes on d-day - but even ignorant and profit-focussed agencies can be educated - if not, we shouldn't work for them twice).

best regards - dominique


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxdesiderata
Status Apr 12, 2005

Whatever "status" _freelance_ translators have now, it is certain to diminish as we proceed into the future and large, need I say international, companies act to control costs by asserting more control over the entire process from the top down with the aid of new technologies. The profession is becoming grimmer from year to year.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
what "normal" people think about translation Apr 17, 2005

I have to say I totally agree with the idea that invisibility is a productivity index. I think this is simply a fact.

I think in today's Western society we are faced with the unfortunate process of what is usually called "specialisation". While being one of the driving factors of economic evolution it also means that we tend to know less about everything around us. For example, how many of us know the path certain products have travelled before we put them on our table?

The truth is, the average person knows very very little about the everyday things that take place around us. How our food is made, our water supplied, our electricity generated and so on.

It is therefore not very surprising that people who are not involved in a business related to translation know almost nothing about the work we do. As an example, I once acquired a direct client through a friend. The company he worked for was a large firm who often worked with Russian companies. As my friend told me "they regularly need Russian translations done - mostly business correspondence". So I forwarded them my CV and they replied right away saying "we will need a Russian translator on the 14th of next month to work at our premises",

-"do you mean an interpreter by any chance?"
-"No, we need a translator, to translate what people are saying, you know"
--=Lengthy explanation about the subtle differences=-
-"Oh, I see!"
-"So, is the discussion going to be technical?"
-"No, not really, it's just we're conducting an experiment at our factory on whether our new machine can produce high-density bla bla bla bla and there will be some Russian people present, so you'll just need to explain the process to them"
-"Right...very technical then. Well, I'm not a technical interpreter - I mostly work in commerce and finance, you know"
-"But I mean, your English is so good, you have no accent, surely if you know the words you can just translate..."
-=Lengthy explanation about why I can't "just translate=-

[Edited at 2005-04-17 09:34]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
its a sad state of affairs Apr 17, 2005

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

The truth is, the average person knows very very little about the everyday things that take place around us. How our food is made, our water supplied, our electricity generated and so on.

It is therefore not very surprising that people who are not involved in a business related to translation know almost nothing about the work we do.



I totally agree, but I don't think that makes it OK. A lot of professions, in particular those whose practioners are mainly freelance, also suffer from poor status and marginalisation. But two wrongs don't make a right! I think its a shame that in today's society there is such lack of appreciation for skill and learning. My study is trying to find out, in relation to the translator in particular, *what* people's attitudes are towards them, *why* this is so, and what can be done about it.

As an example, I once acquired a direct client through a friend...


I also opened up another thread discussing such 'public ignorance' or misinformation. See http://www.proz.com/topic/31048 for some truly shocking, but amusing, stories!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
social not textual invisibility Apr 17, 2005

df49f wrote:

Translators and interpreters MUST be invisible: the better we are the most invisible we become - that's the very nature of the job! if it sounds, looks, reads, smells like a translation, then we haven't done a good enough job. Invisibility is a performance indicator IMO.


In what concerns translation on a textual level, I am inclined to agree that invisibity is the key. However, I am concerned about translators on a *social* level. I see us as marginalised, and 'invisible' to the public eye. Given the role that translation plays in today's global economy, and the importance of our work, I am trying to find out just why people know so little about us.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 10:12
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Nothing to be proud of May 14, 2005

The translator's role in society? Well, this is how I look at it. Nothing to make anyone proud.

It's all based on that we are people who are trying to survive, just like other billions of people out there.

Over the course of the centuries, or millenia, land and property have systematically been concentrated in the hands of minorities (through wars, conquests, authoritarian regimes, slavery, etc.) The great number of people have been forced into the cities to live there, without recourse to independent means for their survival.

The rich and the powerful meanwhile make themselves richer by producing things and selling those things - that's the way they do it today. We on the other hand have nothing and, in a monetary economy, are utterly dependent for our survival on money and on those who have money to give us. Solution: They give us the money if we do the work they need. We survive, they get richer.

Not that society is heading anywhere good. The world today has more poverty than ever, greater ecological problems than ever, human culture and behaviour is more barabaric than ever, people live in miserable life conditions, human culture and society is based on tv and hamburgers. However, we don't really have any choice whether to put our work or not into this system, since we need to survive, get our lives together. As translators we are just like any other regular people in this regard.

We help the machine function. We help rich people produce and sell ridiculous products that no one need, or coordinate the economic and political organizations they need to keep the farce going.


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Research:The Translator's Role in Society

Advanced search







CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search