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Poll: What is the first reaction when someone finds out you are a translator?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 12:19
Mar 5, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What is the first reaction when someone finds out you are a translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Marcus Malabad

View the poll here

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mediamatrix (X)
Local time: 17:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
A typical first comment is ... Mar 5, 2006

... is that all you do? - how boring.


Fabio Scaliti  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:19
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
Are you looking for something else? Mar 5, 2006

It's very disappointing, but many people ask me what I would like to do after this job, if I am looking for something else (better?) and implicitly mean if I can make a living out of this.

I have given up trying to explain them how fulfilling this profession can be.

Of course there are also some people who show their admiration (and a shade of envy?) because I can speak more than my mother tongue!




Jo-Hanna Goettsche  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:19
English to Spanish
*blink* Mar 5, 2006

I am often greeted with a blank stare, or my favorite:

"Really? How.. nice!"


Morratrad (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
my favourite: Mar 5, 2006

A translator? teach languages, isn't it? :S


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:19
English to German
+ ...
My favorite: Mar 5, 2006

"Don't they have machines for that?"

No further comment...


Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:19
+ ...
Alternative uses for a thesaurus Mar 5, 2006

Jo-Hanna Goettsche wrote:

I am often greeted with a blank stare, or my favorite:

"Really? How.. nice!"

I get a lot of those blank stares too.

I was once working with a pile of dictionaries around me, and a friend of mine asked me what I was doing. I told him I was working, he knew I was a translator but he'd never seen me translating. He looked at the computer screen, then he looked at me and said: 'I could do that'. I wanted to hit him on the head with a thesaurus, but I realized it wasn't worth it. I didn't even try to explain to him why not, I just said 'No, you couldn't'.

[Edited at 2006-03-05 22:42]


Robin Salmon (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:19
German to English
+ ...
A blank look Mar 5, 2006

A blank look then a puzzled one which suggests they need an explanation. A few people seem to think it is a good idea but it doesn't to seem to occur to them that you might have qualifications.
Here in Australia, many people suffer the consequences of an under-funded education system.


Akram Abdulqadir
Local time: 15:19
English to Swahili
+ ...
The reactions I get most... Mar 5, 2006

Wow, how many languages do you know?
Do you get confused speaking all those languages?

There's a level of admiration which makes me feel shy & embarrased & then...
there are those that are outrightly dumb and envious who ask "how can you call that work if all you do is play with words?"


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
"Advice" Mar 5, 2006

"With your qualifications, you could get a job teaching English. Why don't you apply to XXX institute?"

Because I'd have to work harder at something I don't enjoy as much as translation in order to earn less money. But no one has been convinced by my explanation. Oh well, since I am happy translating it doesn't matter if they believe me.


sarahl (X)
Local time: 12:19
English to French
+ ...
My all-time favorite Mar 5, 2006

Oh, you lived a couple years in London?icon_lol.gif

Of course, I'm quick to answer that I never set foot in London.icon_wink.gif


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, how many... Mar 5, 2006

It's not how many, it's how well.

Inevitably they will ask the question, "how many languages do you speak?" My answer will often be "oh, about 100 or so", then I start naming various specialties such as law, various fields of engineering, forensic medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, environmental, local folklore, road building, social sciences, urban planning, journalism, communications, agriculture, automotive mechanics, etc. and then end with "but only in English and Spanish".

That usually gets the point across.


Dyran Altenburg (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
Usual responses Mar 5, 2006


In what languages?


My favorite response ever was from someone in an office (the whole conversation was in English, btw):

Clerk: So... you were born in Mexico from Spanish parents, and you speak perfect Spanish, right?.

Me: Right

Clerk: Does your husband speak Spanish?

Me: Nope

Clerk: What about your children?

Me: Nope

Clerk: Jeez! How do you communicate with them?



Local time: 15:19
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

I could do that Mar 5, 2006

Caliaa wrote:
he knew I was a translator but he'd never seen me translating. He looked at the computer screen, then he looked at me and said: 'I could do that'.

That's what my brother-in-law said, then had to qualify his statement: "if I spoke French well enough; I do speak it..." (he can order a cup of coffee in a restaurant) "...but I'd have to use Systrans - why don't you try using that disk I gave you?"
(I tried, briefly and unsuccessfully, to explain that that is not how it's doneicon_wink.gif)


[Edited at 2006-03-05 23:35]


JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 16:19
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You mean, before or after I explain that I'm not an interpreter? Mar 5, 2006

I'm glad to say that most people's reaction is, "Cool!" Then they ask what I translate.

Thanks to Nicole Kidman, a few enlightened people don't need the "difference between a translator and an interpreter" speech any more!

(If you rent the DVD of The Interpreter, be sure to watch the special feature on a day in the life of a real-life interpreter.)

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