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Poll: How is the translation profession appreciated in your country?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 06:05
Jan 26, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How is the translation profession appreciated in your country?".

This poll was originally submitted by sonia_bm

View the poll here

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Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Poorly Jan 26, 2007

The vast majority of the general public think we are ripping people off by charging for producing something in a language that we speak - as if being a native speaker (of English in my case) were enough!! First time users of translations services also often share that opinion. For most, the only way to disabuse them of these ideas is for a badly translated piece of work to cause them problems, either because of inaccuracies or because it gets laughed at. Then they may begin to come round. It was rather satisfactory a few years back to have one (important) client try sending stuff elsewhere to a cheaper option, and then come back far more appreciative of my service!

Unfortunately the view is still that it's not really a profession - after all "there are computer programs that can do that perfectly well, aren't there?"....

This is provincial Spain, by the way. Explains a lot!

[Edited at 2007-01-26 14:14]


Luis Zepeda
United States
Local time: 06:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
How is the translation profession appreciated in your country? Jan 26, 2007

At least in the US, translation is not appreciated at all. Translation is most of the time considered a part of the job, and is done (until recently) as part of your job and frequently is not considered a profession, but rather, a skill.

Most individuals in the US are not aware of the many higher education degrees granted by universities and colleges in translation and interpretation studies.

Companies advertise for bilingual employees so that they can utilize their ability without paying for it. Many hospitals and attorneys utilize friends and relatives of the LES (Limited English Speaker) person.

I recently had a discussion with the Human Resources Manager of my company and I did some research to prove to them that translation is a profession which should be compensated accordingly.


Aurora Humarán (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not enough Jan 26, 2007

Although most translators have university degrees (achieved after 4-5 years of study at many of our excellent universities), society in general is not aware of this. We still have a long way ahead.

Not many people can see the difference between a professional translator and any bilingual person. (By the way, nobody can see the difference between an interpreter and a translator, either...)

In the case of Certified (Legal) Translators, there is a national law that regulates our profession; except for some lawyers, nobody knows what a CT is or that such law exists.

Excellent poll! Thank you!

Really curious to know if there is a place in the planet where we do have the place we deserve.



Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:05
English to Arabic
+ ...
What's my country? Jan 26, 2007

Here in the UK, where I live, I think the profession is kind of well appreciated and respected.

But in Egypt, where I come from - God help us. The image of a translator is usually that of a poor guy sitting at the back of a dusty photocopy shop, translating marriage and birth certificates for a ridiculous fee. Or of nerds who waste their lives translating books which nobody wants to read.


Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:05
French to Portuguese
+ ...
I chose "other"... Jan 26, 2007

... because I don't really know how the translation profession is appreciated in my country.

The only thing I experience is: when someone asks me "what does XXX mean?" and I say "I don't know", people tend to say "But you are a translator! You should know that!", to which I usually answer "Yes, I am a translator, indeed, not a walking dictionary".icon_biggrin.gif

Most people get astonished and are kind of inconsiderate when I don't know what a word means in my working languages.

Other current thing: people get to know the meaning of a word in one of my working languages and ask me: "Do you know what XXX means?" and if I say I don't they get astonished again because they do.

It happened quite recently with my husband (although it was just out of curiosity; not mean at all): "Do you know what the Spanish word "plátano" means?", to which I replied "yes, banana". "Did you really know that?" Then, he explained me that when we went to the Dominican Republic last year he used to drink "bananamama" and not "platanomama", so he thought the word was "banana". I told him that maybe people said "banana" in South American Spanish-speaking countries, but I really don't know.icon_smile.gif

One other thing that happens often in Portugal is with subtitling of films/series on TV. We get subtitles for every foreign film/series/documentary, etc.

Usually the translators do the translation and the people in charge of the agency correct it (not another translator). Then, we often see silly things translated on TV and people notice that. They tend to say "what a awful translator" but then I have to explain sometimes it is not the translator's fault. It happened to me once in a documentary I translated that the agency director completely changed my Portuguese sentence and the meaning of it was really the opposite of what it meant. But hey, he's got more experience than translators in translation and subtitling, so there's nothing we can do about it...


Aurora Humarán (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Same here! Jan 26, 2007

Ivana de Sousa Santos wrote:

Most people get astonished and are kind of inconsiderate when I don't know what a word means in my working languages.

icon_lol.gif Exactly the same here, Ivana!

-Au, how do you say 'escabel' in English?

(Au asks) -What the hell is an escabel in... Spanish?icon_lol.gif

Great poll!
(of the 'therapy group' typeicon_smile.gif )

[Editado a las 2007-01-26 15:09]


Marie-Josée Gravel (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:05
French to English
+ ...
Not Enough Jan 26, 2007

Well, I'm sorry to say, it's the same in Quebec, Canada. Many companies I've approached to offer my services have given me this answer: 'An English translator? No, it's OK, our receptionist speaks English, she does all that.' I have fun checking those companies Web sites. It's to 'cry' for.

One of my co-workers, who was hired as a translator because she 'spoke' English, told me she learned the language by watching the Soaps on TV. From then on, I understood why her work was so poor, it wasn't only due to the lack of education (she barely had her high school diploma).

I must say that many organizations have helped over the years in giving a better image to the profession, but there's still a long way to go. People still need to be educated and stop thinking that because you can speak more than one language you can translate them.


Denise Dewey-Muno  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:05
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
Lack of appreciation = lack of awareness Jan 26, 2007

I think people just have a different attitude to languages than they do to other fields of academia such as science and business. Firstly, there aren’t likely to be any major breakthrough that will change the lives of every Tom, Dick or Harry, so languages catch the attention of the general public far less. Secondly, (in the UK) languages are not pushed at schools very much, if at all, and the situation is likely to worsen when they become an optional subject. Those who do persevere tend to be seen as future language teachers and nothing more. Translation is a hidden profession generally involving texts getting sent off somewhere and magically coming back in an understandable form a short while later.
Few understand the processes involved in translating and people often take it for granted that a text is available in English (at least in the UK). I suspect Brits sometimes might not even realise English wasn't the original language, as even if the translation is poor, the standard of English has in my opinion gone downhill a great deal through advances in technology (darn text messaging!).
The fact that anybody can translate doesn’t really help the situation either. I agree with Aurora that there is an important difference between bilingual people and translators. It’s just very difficult to explain to a non-linguist how essential it is to look beyond a cheap price…


Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:05
English to Spanish
Not enough, bordering on poorly Jan 26, 2007

Aurora Humarán wrote:

(By the way, nobody can see the difference between an interpreter and a translator, either...)

You mean there's a difference?? ::GASP::

Ivana wrote:

The only thing I experience is: when someone asks me "what does XXX mean?" and I say "I don't know", people tend to say "But you are a translator! You should know that!", to which I usually answer "Yes, I am a translator, indeed, not a walking dictionary".

GREAT answericon_lol.gif

How sad to see that translation seems to be underappreciated in so many places. In Chile, at least, I'd say that a big chunk of translations is done by bilingual professionals (some of whom can barely write Spanish) because companies do not realize that having spent some time abroad DOES NOT equal good language skills.

A close friend of mine (a bilingual secretary) was told to translate an SOP handbook of a chemical process while working on a chemical plant... into English. She REALLY didn't want to do it, but what choice did she have?


[Edited at 2007-01-26 16:39]


Iffat Chowdhury  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:05
Member (2009)
English to Bengali
+ ...
Unnoticeable Jan 26, 2007

In my country, most people have least idea what is a translation and how come translation can be a profession. They know translation is to be done in schools to pass examination.

There are some translation shops in the city where they translate mainly marriage, birth certificates, educational certificates etc. There is another kind of translation that is called literary translation that is done by prominent scholars of the country and is appreciated and well respected by the educated society.

There is yet another kind of translation that I mainly do in the local market: development related translation: translation of training manuals, reports of international organisation. Most people do not know about it but people who employ this service appreciate a lot.

Yet in the society in general people do not understand what do I do at home and some regret that despite having a university degree I am wasting my life doing household chores! Some think I am conservative and that is why I do not work outside home and some religious minded people appreciate me not for the worthiness of my profession but for working at home as it helps me to be observe 'Hijab' (veiling system in Islam) fully.

Even many educated people do not understand it. Last week when I went to bank to withdraw money that came from China, the bank employee said it is rare that money comes to Bangladesh from China. Who lives there? I replied none. It is a bill for...The man interjected: computer related work? I said not. It is translation. Then the man seems did not understand or care. He just gave the money.




Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
UNNOTICED ... Jan 26, 2007

I realized how "translation as a profession" simply doesn't exist in the minds of many people when I first went freelance full time.

My sister and a friend, both of them schoolteachers, dropped by to see me. I excitedly outlined what I was doing, and it met with silence. Then the friend got very serious. She started lecturing me , saying that I *must* get credentialed as a substitute teacher. My sister concurred and after a while, they left, without ever having responded about my plans to be a translator!

Now, substitute teachers here get $9/hr with no benefits and no guarantee of full-time work(to say nothing of what a difficult job it must be!!). While I wish I could make more as a translator, I certainly do better than that (and I don't have to pay for gas or clothing that would be required *out there in the real world*).

To this day, I think my sister doesn't quite understand what I do or how I make a living from it...

It's frustrating, so I try gently to educate people, but sometimes, because "translation as a profession" doesn't exist in their heads, it is very difficult!


United Kingdom
Local time: 14:05
English to Dutch
+ ...
Talking about a lack of awareness... Jan 26, 2007

The other day I bumped into a friend I had not seen for a long time. He asked me if I still worked as a translator. He then told me that his boss needed something translating a couple of months back but decided have to it 'done on the internet' (machine translation) since that was a lot cheaper!

[Edited at 2007-01-26 20:04]

[Edited at 2007-01-26 20:05]


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:05
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Interpreters are more visible Jan 26, 2007

Translating is not really "on people's radar" in the United States. They're aware of interpreters, though, because they've seen them depicted on TV and in films, or they've seen diplomats listening to interpeters on headphones in news reports.

The idea that anyone might earn a living translating written documents surprises many people here.

Partly, I think, it has to do with the cultural insularity of this country. Few people know foreign languages well, and there's an idea that translation is very simple to do if you're multilingual. Also, there's an assumption that there would be very little work available, since we see and hear relatively little about other countries in our media, except in news reports about terrorism and in spy movies.

[Edited at 2007-01-26 17:41]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
In Spain... level of appreciation is demonstrated by level of rates Jan 26, 2007

In the case of Spain, we can clearly see how much customers appreciate our work, by simply looking at the rates they are willing to pay.

If they are reluctantly willing to pay 50% of what a foreign company will be happy to pay, I can safely say that Spanish customers appreciate translators 50% less than a foreign customer.

I don't know what the reason is, but I feel that if we translators work professionally even for the smallest customer, time and time again, we will slowly strengthen our reputation as a profession.

So let's keep up with it and let's show them the difference, all of us translators in Spain, for the good of our children if they choose this trade!

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