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Poll: When you tell someone who's not in the business that you're a translator, how do they react?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 12:34
SITE STAFF
Nov 11, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When you tell someone who's not in the business that you're a translator, how do they react?".

This poll was originally submitted by Sara Negro. View the poll results »



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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:34
Member
German to English
+ ...
Normally they are interested ... Nov 11, 2012

... until they find out I am not actually an interpreter working in war zones or glamorous locations and that translation of written documents is actually somewhat more mundane!

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:34
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Nov 11, 2012

They think I'm an interpreter and ask me about all the international conferences I've "translated" at. I have to tell them otherwise, "I translate the written word."

They seem a little disappointed. "Oh, ..." they say and the sentence ends there. After all, translation is not as sexy as interpretation.

Those who don't give me the cold shoulder and move away will ask me which literary works I've translated. I have to tell them that I translate mainly techy stuff, manuals and stuff like that.

They seem even more disappointed.

However, I do add with enthusiasm and gusto that I have translated the Osaka City Waterworks Bureau website. "Oh, really!" they say with a strained smile. After all, waterworks are not the most fascinating and sexiest thing to translate on the planet. But, I have to look on the bright side -- the reaction could have been a lot worse if I'd told them I've translated things about rubbish disposal and sewage treatment plants.

I have learnt that telling people at parties that you're a technical translator is not sexy at all and will not get you a babe on each arm. Sigh


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Erik Matson  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 21:34
English to Norwegian
+ ...
"Not sexy" - LOL Nov 11, 2012

LOL@Julian!!

Julian Holmes wrote:

I have learnt that telling people at parties that you're a technical translator is not sexy at all and will not get you a babe on each arm. Sigh


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:34
Hebrew to English
Other Nov 11, 2012

Hollywood-based misconceptions:
Yes, telling people I'm a translator always means people will think I work with Nicole Kidman at the UN in a booth. (The Interpreter - Not a great film by the way). That look of wonder is soon wiped off their face.

However, I live in England, so the usual reaction is "Why would you want to do that? I mean, doesn't everyone speak English?".


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:34
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Blimey! Nov 11, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

Hollywood-based misconceptions:
Yes, telling people I'm a translator always means people will think I work with Nicole Kidman at the UN in a booth.


Ty, you lucky fella! You got to translate with Nicole Kidman. What was it like snuggled up together in one of those cosy little cubicles? And, more importantly, what was her English like?


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Alexandranow  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 22:34
Romanian to English
+ ...
cases Nov 11, 2012

I might say some are pleased, they seem to appreciate a translator, but sad thing, some ask about my main job...as if being interpreter-translator is not a real job, and not enough. I respect a lot translators since I work in the field, because I know that only very open minded and intelligent people can do it. One learn always a lot of things about so many fields.

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Alexandranow  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 22:34
Romanian to English
+ ...
ohhh Nov 11, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

Hollywood-based misconceptions:
Yes, telling people I'm a translator always means people will think I work with Nicole Kidman at the UN in a booth. (The Interpreter - Not a great film by the way). That look of wonder is soon wiped off their face.

However, I live in England, so the usual reaction is "Why would you want to do that? I mean, doesn't everyone speak English?".


ha ha...in my country they use to say the same thing, but just try to talk to some people, you soon see they do not understand so many words, and not able to reply!!! but they insist on saying, everybody speak English, and to scorn translators for that language.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:34
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Is "being interested" an odd reaction? Nov 11, 2012

The poll suggests that being interested in someone's job is an odd reaction; you should just keep talking. Well, some people, in some situations, do just keep talking - my job isn't so incredibly interesting that they are bound to change the topic of discussion (unlike my TV presenter friend who sometimes finds it difficult to get people to talk about anything else!). But I think being interested is a totally normal reaction.

As others have said though, reality can be disappointing. When people learn that I work with a computer rather than international celebrities, that's the first disappointment. But then they still conjure up an idyllic life-style for me: I live a stone's throw from some of the loveliest, all-year-round beaches in the world - so I must take my laptop down to the beach to work, mustn't I? 'Fraid not! The sand/salt mix would play havoc with the electronics and the sun's so damned bright I wouldn't be able to see a thing. Besides, the Wi-Fi connectivity is awful there!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
No odd response Nov 11, 2012

People who aren't good with languages usually seem quietly impressed. Most expats where I live tend to work in TEFL or translation anyway so it's not uncommon.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sworn??? Nov 11, 2012

In Brazil there is an ancient (1943) law that makes sworn translators the only regulated segment of our trade. So the outsider's view is that there are people who now and then "make" translations as a sidetracking activity, and the "professionals" who are those sworn translators.

Actually, among the 200 million inhabitants we have, there are only some 3,000 sworn translators nationwide, i.e. statistically a bit more than two would be expected to be found among this entire crowd:



The truth is that few of these sworn translators make a living mostly on sworn translations, as all of us do plain translations as well. Keep in mind, for instance, that a business agreement draft will always require a plain translation; it will only require a sworn translation for filing with some governmental office, if that's required.

However the idea makes me think of a conversation between dogs. A Fox Terrier sees a mongrel-looking feller, and asks, "What is your race?", to which the other one replies, "I am a Whatnotshire Silver Shepherd", which brings about the unavoidable question, "Do you have a certified pedigree?"

So the expected next question (and it seldom fails), when people ask me about it, and I tell them that I am a translator is: "Sworn?"


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:34
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Not sexy Nov 11, 2012

Julian Holmes wrote:

I have learnt that telling people at parties that you're a technical translator is not sexy at all and will not get you a babe on each arm. Sigh


Let’s unite the genders and say that the same goes for the other sex…


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:34
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In general... Nov 11, 2012

... they are interested and want to know more, but over the years I have heard my lot of misconceptions about the profession, the most common ones being the fact that a lot of people do not know the difference between a translator and an interpreter and that they think that I translate texts into languages other than my native language.

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Anne Carnot  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 21:34
Member (2009)
English to French
misunderstandings.. Nov 11, 2012

Teresa Borges wrote:

... they are interested and want to know more, but over the years I have heard my lot of misconceptions about the profession, the most common ones being the fact that a lot of people do not know the difference between a translator and an interpreter and that they think that I translate texts into languages other than my native language.


Same for me I'm afraid, people think that translating only into French is real easy, and more, since I do it from home, it's probably just some kind of hobby, not a real job :-s And since I moved to Belgium last year, most of them think I now work as an interpreter, going to the EU every other morning to attend some kind of meeting or other...
The best one I've heard so far is someone from my husband's family which I used to see fairly often, introducting me to a friend of hers like this:" This is Anne, she's some kind of artist"... the other person thought I was a painter


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Alexandranow  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 22:34
Romanian to English
+ ...
even that way Nov 11, 2012

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

In Brazil there is an ancient (1943) law that makes sworn translators the only regulated segment of our trade. So the outsider's view is that there are people who now and then "make" translations as a sidetracking activity, and the "professionals" who are those sworn translators.

Actually, among the 200 million inhabitants we have, there are only some 3,000 sworn translators nationwide, i.e. statistically a bit more than two would be expected to be found among this entire crowd:



The truth is that few of these sworn translators make a living mostly on sworn translations, as all of us do plain translations as well. Keep in mind, for instance, that a business agreement draft will always require a plain translation; it will only require a sworn translation for filing with some governmental office, if that's required.

However the idea makes me think of a conversation between dogs. A Fox Terrier sees a mongrel-looking feller, and asks, "What is your race?", to which the other one replies, "I am a Whatnotshire Silver Shepherd", which brings about the unavoidable question, "Do you have a certified pedigree?"

So the expected next question (and it seldom fails), when people ask me about it, and I tell them that I am a translator is: "Sworn?"

Ohhh...I am a sworn translator..but is not good enough because in the last few years a lot of persons who had not really good preparation or skills got the authorization as well ( I know lot of faculty mates with poor grades in English and the mother language) ...So, is not so nice.


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