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Poll: Actors wait for their “big break”; should translators expect one?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

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Apr 17, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Actors wait for their “big break”; should translators expect one?".

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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 04:30
English to Russian
+ ...
What is big break? Apr 17, 2011

Did you mean an hour of triumph or golden years of retirement?

BTW, according to wiki, Big Break was a British game show based around the game of snooker, mixed with traditional game show elements.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:30
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
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Maybe for literary translators Apr 17, 2011

I can't imagine what it would mean to get one's "big break" as a medical or legal translator.

I suppose some literary translators hope to become the next Edith Grossman or Gregory Rabassa... the sort of go-to translator who publishers seek out and critics admire, even if the general public doesn't necessarily know their name.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:30
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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I'm not sure there is an equivalent Apr 17, 2011

In my case I did have a 'big break', when I landed an in-house job which really got me off to a good start. I would probably never have made it as a professional translator otherwise.

Finding one big client or a good agency that takes you on is definitely an important step. It may come gradually, however, depending on circumstances.

I was nearly fifty years old when I started translating full time, after a long and checkered career in and out of employment. I don't recommend waiting passively for that big break, because getting depressed and doing nothing gets you nowhere. (I've been there and done that at times too!!)

Whatever you do, keep studying, and keep 'networking' and talking to people who just might need what you can offer. If the big break does not come, the long, slow build-up will get you there in the end.

And even if you do make the big break, it will not last without the good habits you acquired working up to it!



[Edited at 2011-04-17 14:10 GMT]


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E. Novesky  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:30
Spanish to English
Other: persistence and perseverence Apr 17, 2011

I would say that, while I couldn't really call it a "big break", I did certainly hit a point where my incoming jobs kind of "exploded", that is, where I had agencies and other clients seeking me out, without having to sit around every day searching for potential bid opportunities and sending endless resumes and inquiries before getting sporadic projects. It took quite some time being persistent and patient, and providing the best quality work I could every time, on time, and being pleasant and professional at all times, before I hit that point. Now I sometimes have to decline projects because I'm too busy!

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Apr 17, 2011

... that's the problem nowadays IMO. People all want to be famous for 5 minutes (see tv shows like X Factor, American Idol, etc etc...).
Setting your sights so high that your aim will be well nigh impossible to achieve seems unrealistic at best.

I'm just glad to have a "job" that I like after many years of "putting up with" working life, those not-so-halcyon days, up early for the daily grind, one eye always on the weekend when I could go out and obliterate the tedium until it was time to start again.

My advice to anyone not totally happy with translation is to seek other means of gainful employment. There are so many bodies out there that nobody is going to miss you...

[Edited at 2011-04-17 13:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-04-17 13:18 GMT]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
No "big break" Apr 17, 2011

Ours is a very obscure profession. We work virtually unknown, behind the scenes, and practically no one even realizes we are there. Thus, our chances of ever becoming famous are virtually nil. We are lucky if we are well enough regarded by our clients so that we get steady work and good recommendations.

We won't see many movies or TV programs based on the life of a translator, of that we may be certain!


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Multitran
Argentina
Local time: 22:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Fun polls Apr 17, 2011

I suggest that a new category be included: 'Fun Polls' as many of these polls seem to belong under that heading. Then, if it's a fun poll I can say that: for me, the best is yet to come...

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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 04:30
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Plumbers, nurses, or translators... Apr 17, 2011

This is our field, what we do... not a specific, fantastic talent that will sooner or later hit the stars. Well, as said, maybe if you translate books, but otherwise we are just doing a job that needs to be done. If you're good at it, word will eventually spread, and you might get more people seeking your assistance. If you're average, you will still get jobs, but maybe not so many clients coming back year after year.

I guess the "big break" is when you actually manage to be self-employed as a freelancer and have enough work to pay your bills all year round.

Dinny


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:30
English to German
+ ...
Plumbers and nurses are equal to translators? Apr 17, 2011

Dinny wrote:

Plumbers, nurses, or translators...




Wow, I guess I will change my profession or I want the years back that I (compared to plumbers and nurses) spent at the university.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:30
Member (2009)
English to German
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To a certain degree Apr 17, 2011

Nicole Schnell wrote:

Dinny wrote:

Plumbers, nurses, or translators...




Wow, I guess I will change my profession or I want the years back that I (compared to plumbers and nurses) spent at the university.



Well, if you're sick and there's no nurse.... If your commode is "going up instead of down" and there's no plumber... Each profession holds value....

However, translatorsy are a diffent kind of people. They spend years studying and just as many keeping up with new developments.

The "big break" could be understood as finding long-term clients who value the delivered work, its quality, timeliness, and - in poetry and literature - its creativity.

IMHO a "big break" is to always have work and getting paid for what it's really worth.
Unlike actors, I sure don't want to spend my entire life in front of cameras and being hunted by paparazzi. Fame is like a leaf, an unkind wind can easily blow it away.

So I guess this poll is just a matter of interpretation.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 22:30
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a freelancer is, Apr 17, 2011

that I am always waiting for a new breakthrough...

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Timo Eugster  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:30
Finnish to English
+ ...
No "big break" as such Apr 17, 2011

I wouldn't say that any of us can hope for a big break of the kind that actors get when they suddenly strike it big with a hit movie, but I certainly believe that there are points in a translation career when we feel that we're on the way up: having our raised rates gladly accepted by clients, getting a contract with a prestigious institution or even just getting that first freelance project when starting out and hearing good feedback.

However, if anyone's waiting for the Secretary General of the UN to trawl through the Proz profiles and give them a call from New York saying, "Listen, I've just realised that my translation section are all totally incompetent and you're the only person for the job!" then they can just keep on dreaming of that big break.

@ Alexander Kondorsky: Big Break was indeed a snooker-based game show on British TV. It was hosted by light entertainer who's now chiefly famous for being a racist, sexist bigot (is there any other kind?). On reflection, it was far more entertaining than any of these Superstar Idol shows we have these days, though I think there's little chance of it coming back to sweep the talent shows aside. "Say goodnight, JV!"


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:30
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The closest thing to success . . . Apr 17, 2011

. . . would be having a stable of steady clients that pay really well. IMO, it needs to be more than one client because it's just too risky and professionally limiting to only work for one. (That's not much better than a desk job!) But building such a base takes time; it can't possibly happen all at once. After more decades than I care to admit, I am finally getting to that point.

As an interesting side note, just as I was hitting my stride with one of my best clients, management implemented a new rule that set a cap on how much I am allowed to earn per year as a contractor. You never know what can come up out of left field.


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Lisa McCreadie  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:30
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I opted for yes... Apr 18, 2011

Maybe I understood the question differently. I certainly don't want fame (although fortune might be nice!). I'm just dreaming of the most exciting job I could ever hope for - like translating a musical or a classic novel - and that would be my big break in my eyes. Perhaps there isn't a translator equivalent in the sense of doing a job and being shot to fame within days but I'm rather glad about that!

@Timo and Alexander - I just had a revelation! I had totally forgotten about watching Big Break back in the day. In summary: Jim Davidson and a lot of smutty jokes about "potting the brown".


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