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What stops translators from thriving?
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Andrew Morris
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When is a cherry not a cherry Jun 2

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

I understand what you are saying, but the context of your OP and the posts so far was freelance translation, individual translators, not outsourcers (agencies). At least this was my - and from the responses I think everybody's - understanding.



Oh absolutely. I don't think, and would never assert, that you have to outsource to thrive. It's just one way of solving client problems, but it's not for everybody.

At the heart of my question, I guess, is what has intrigued me from the beginning: the question of whether the route to thriving consists of "simply" working harder and harder at your craft, or whether that is just one part of a more holistic approach to freelancing, to our clients, to ourselves – and maybe not even the most important part.

My own belief is firmly the latter, but it's always interesting to explore this from various angles and to hear people's points of view.

As for cherry-picking, well only to an extent. It doesn't mean cutting yourself off from all new challenges. But it does mean that I would turn down a 20,000 word text on tubewells, simply because the topic doesn't interest me, and life is too short. But learning a new subtitling software for an art exhibition, for example, then definitely.

It's all about what Vygotsky called our "zone of proximal development", i.e. the area just beyond (but not way beyond) our comfort zone. That's always worth exploring.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
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Problematic question Jun 2

I find the question a little problematic, as the underlying implication seems to be that translators, as a whole, do not thrive. I don't think that's the case at all.
But to answer it anyway... (just a few thoughts, in no particular order)

To have a successful translation career, both business skills and translation skills are required. Many translators come to the profession with plenty of the latter, but none of the former.
A lot of translators are undoubtedly drawn to
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I find the question a little problematic, as the underlying implication seems to be that translators, as a whole, do not thrive. I don't think that's the case at all.
But to answer it anyway... (just a few thoughts, in no particular order)

To have a successful translation career, both business skills and translation skills are required. Many translators come to the profession with plenty of the latter, but none of the former.
A lot of translators are undoubtedly drawn to the profession because they are introverts - easier to work on your own, remotely, than having to deal with pesky people all day. Unfortunately this can also mean low self-esteem, which means marketing and convincing others that you're good at what you do can be tough going.
A poor comprehension on the part of clients as to what quality translation involves, and muddying of the waters by machine translation. If machines can translate, why do I need a human?
It actually hasn't occurred to some people that translation even exists as a profession.
The fact that translation is an unregulated profession, with all the consequent ramifications.
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Andrew Morris
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Andrew Morris
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Some, not all. Jun 2

Oh I certainly didn’t mean to imply all translators.

Although in my experience of watching how translators write about their lives, there are many many people who seem to be unhappy with their lot. That may of course be because the happier ones are simply getting in with life...

Otherwise I pretty much agree with all your analysis Fiona. Especially the bit about low self-esteem, although one prominen
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Oh I certainly didn’t mean to imply all translators.

Although in my experience of watching how translators write about their lives, there are many many people who seem to be unhappy with their lot. That may of course be because the happier ones are simply getting in with life...

Otherwise I pretty much agree with all your analysis Fiona. Especially the bit about low self-esteem, although one prominent translator told me they thought that we think rather too highly of ourselves at times because we speak languages. Interesting angle. 😆
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IanDhu  Identity Verified
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The childbearing half of our race Jun 2

Dylan Jan Hartmann wrote:

Another big factor: Many try to juggle translation with raising children, which in itself is a full-time job.



Should not be penalised for performing this essential task. Many women have successfully combined a career with childraising.

Nevertheless, the assumptions and structures of society must evolve towards greater fairness, especially in the world of work and professional development.


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IanDhu  Identity Verified
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MT, for and against Jun 2

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

I think that a professional association would be the best deal for translators to deal with the aftermath when the MT bubble has burst.


A lush field for weighing the pros and cons of MT is to be found in the judgements of the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union). In the course of translating French court judgements that refer to EU case law, I have recurrently come across, say, "with a view to" to render "en vue de", for which a purposive "for" would do better in a number of instances. Sometimes, the syntax, although accurate, is a bit odd or not very readable. Naturally, the sheer volume of European case-law precludes further refinement. At times, I have even had to translate judgements "freehand", since there had previously been no call for an English translation.

Even when MT renders accurate work, readability and textual coherence are among the poor relations in this "new deal", with its fair share of fallacious promises.

Will "bursting the MT bubble" necessarily require a massive collapse, or some major disasters, before the big operators strike the right balance, with fair remuneration of skilled professionals, and humane deadlines?

Both these factors constitute the bottom line in linguists' concern over the issue.

As a foonote to translating judgements, I recommend a reasonably regular diet of Times law reports, to counter the deadening effect of MT output on the stylistic sense.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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Fairness is a long way off Jun 2

IanDhu wrote:
The childbearing half of our race should not be penalised for performing this essential task. Many women have successfully combined a career with childraising.

Nevertheless, the assumptions and structures of society must evolve towards greater fairness, especially in the world of work and professional development.

Women need to bear the children - something I really don't see anyone or anything doing better, even if it is a somewhat restricting and decidedly painful job. But fairness means accepting that men can raise children just as well as women. I remember a French woman on my 'CV in English' workshop complaining about being turned down for successive jobs simply because she had a young child, even though her husband had already stopped work to raise the kid. She was the one with a career, the family's breadwinner, but male interviewers were totally unable to overcome their prejudices.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
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I agree totally..... Jun 2

IanDhu wrote:

Dylan Jan Hartmann wrote:

Another big factor: Many try to juggle translation with raising children, which in itself is a full-time job.



Should not be penalised for performing this essential task. Many women have successfully combined a career with childraising.

Nevertheless, the assumptions and structures of society must evolve towards greater fairness, especially in the world of work and professional development.


....but ask a normal word price. My experience is that there are a lot of highly educated mothers out there sitting home with the baby (voluntarily or not), and want to participate in society. Why not translating, while husband dear has a good job and brings in the money? Prices of € 0.03/0.04 p/w are not unheard of. Pocket money?

[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:00 GMT]


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
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To thrive or not to thrive.... Jun 2

What stops translators from thriving? Lack of clients who are paying normal rates. Without them, you are nowhere (or maybe translating from a beach on Bali or in Goa, and hoping you will stay there for the rest of your life). I don't think it is in our hands anymore (if it ever was).

Just for the fun of it I contacted some old 'regular' clients who made up about half of my income back in 2006 - 2007, and told them I was willing to work for them for the same prices I asked then. To m
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What stops translators from thriving? Lack of clients who are paying normal rates. Without them, you are nowhere (or maybe translating from a beach on Bali or in Goa, and hoping you will stay there for the rest of your life). I don't think it is in our hands anymore (if it ever was).

Just for the fun of it I contacted some old 'regular' clients who made up about half of my income back in 2006 - 2007, and told them I was willing to work for them for the same prices I asked then. To my surprise jobs came in, but with the request if I could lower my prices, so it would fit their budget.

I think the competition amongst agencies is killing. One Dutch agency I used to work for is now asking the same prices as I do as freelancer! Or what about job offers for the grand total of € 0.45! Do I have to say more!

The rest of my opinion is already covered in this forum.



[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:28 GMT]
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Robert Forstag
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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
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Put On a Happy Face Jun 2

Robert Reitvelt wrote:

I think the competition amongst agencies is killing. One Dutch agency I used to work for is now asking the same prices as I do as freelancer! Or what about job offers for the grand total of € 0.45! Do I have to say more!


In a word, no.

There are too many translators, and too many agencies. The agencies are all fighting ferociously over the clients and lowering their prices to secure contracts. And then they offer the lowest possible rates to the freelancers they contract.

This is how we end up with the situation that Robert Reitvelt has described. I am sure that he is not the only freelancer who is being offered rates that are considerably lower than those he considered acceptable 10-12 years ago.

Ah, but none of this really matters. This is just so much whining and complaining by people who lack the flexibility, entrepreneurship, and social skills to see the opportunities that are there for the taking. No need to be so gloomy. It is our mood, after all, that makes the weather....


[Edited at 2019-06-02 22:54 GMT]


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
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@ Robert Forstag - Small correction Jun 2

Robert Forstag wrote:

Robert Reitvelt wrote:

I think the competition amongst agencies is killing. One Dutch agency I used to work for is now asking the same prices as I do as freelancer! Or what about job offers for the grand total of € 0.45! Do I have to say more!


This is how we end up with the situation that Robert Reitvelt has described. I am sure that he is not the only one freelancer who is working for rates that are considerably lower than those he considered acceptable 10-12 years ago.



I am working for my acceptable rates now in 2019, and I didn't accept the jobs from my old regular clients, that was just a test (sorry for being unclear).


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
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Please clarify Jun 2

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Robert Forstag wrote:

Robert Reitvelt wrote:

I think the competition amongst agencies is killing. One Dutch agency I used to work for is now asking the same prices as I do as freelancer! Or what about job offers for the grand total of € 0.45! Do I have to say more!


This is how we end up with the situation that Robert Reitvelt has described. I am sure that he is not the only one freelancer who is working for rates that are considerably lower than those he considered acceptable 10-12 years ago.



I am working for my acceptable rates now in 2019, and I didn't accept the jobs from my old regular clients, that was just a test (sorry for being unclear).


No problem, Robert.
So, to be clear: You are now generally working for higher rates than you were working for back in 2006-2007?

Is that right?


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
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Yes Jun 2

Robert Forstag wrote:

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Robert Forstag wrote:

Robert Reitvelt wrote:

I think the competition amongst agencies is killing. One Dutch agency I used to work for is now asking the same prices as I do as freelancer! Or what about job offers for the grand total of € 0.45! Do I have to say more!


This is how we end up with the situation that Robert Reitvelt has described. I am sure that he is not the only one freelancer who is working for rates that are considerably lower than those he considered acceptable 10-12 years ago.



I am working for my acceptable rates now in 2019, and I didn't accept the jobs from my old regular clients, that was just a test (sorry for being unclear).


No problem, Robert.
So, to be clear: You are now generally working for higher rates than you were working for back in 2006-2007?

Is that right?


Rob


Andrew Morris
 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
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@Robert Reitvelt Jun 2

That’s great.

There are many translators who are not so fortunate.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
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@ Robert Forstag Jun 2

Robert Forstag wrote:

That’s great.

There are many translators who are not so fortunate.


Isn't that sad? Translation business is booming, at least that is what I read. My question is: 'Who picks the fruits?'


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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
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Mothers (and fathers Jun 3

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
IanDhu wrote:
Dylan Jan Hartmann wrote:
Another big factor: Many try to juggle translation with raising children, which in itself is a full-time job.

Should not be penalised for performing this essential task. Many women have successfully combined a career with childraising.

....but ask a normal word price. My experience is that there are a lot of highly educated mothers out there sitting home with the baby (voluntarily or not), and want to participate in society. Why not translating, while husband dear has a good job and brings in the money? Prices of € 0.03/0.04 p/w are not unheard of. Pocket money?

[Edited at 2019-06-02 20:00 GMT]

I was a "highly educated mother", also sole wage earner due to circumstance - scratch that, a trained translator. It was not "pocket money", I charged about what I do now barring inflation over a few decades (presently $0.18/word), and it was not in order to "participate in society". There are also couples families where the husband stays at home, or even is the sole wage earner and caregiver.

Anybody who does professional work should do it up to professional standards, and be paid commensurately.


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