Suggestion: years of experience guidelines
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:13
English to Polish
+ ...
Aug 11, 2013

While years of experience are still pretty subjective, they are, after all, a numerical variable that features in directory listings and recruitments (although it's not currently an available search parameter), which means it potentially factors heavily in specific choices of translators for jobs.

We need not dispute one another's definitions of years of experience or mandate a 'sole truth' as much as simply decide on a convention to level the field for translators with different views on this and make life easier for clients and outsourcers.

Case study:

Tim graduated last year with a B.A. in Translation Studies. He has practiced full-time since after studying full-time for four years.
Tom graduated two years ago with a B.A. in Translation Studies. He has practiced full-time since after studying full-time for four years.
Tim believes his foour years of full-time study count towards his years of experience in professional practice. Tom is more rigorous about this.

As a result, Tim lists five years of experience, while Tom lists two. Tim looks 2.5 times more experienced that Tom at first glance, even though the latter necessarily has more experience than the former in any sort of comparison. It would be 5 vs 6 if you included school for both, and 1 vs 2 if you included only years of actual practice for both.

A perceptive client may notice that some years prior to graduation have apparently been included in the count. However, the client has no way of knowing facts like did the translator practice as a student or even before enrolling in formal study.

The problem is not whose definition is better, the problem is that following a more restrictive private definition puts one at a disadvantage in comparison. The disadvantage is particularly high for recent grads, in which case the one with a more restrictive private definition of years of experience may appear to have e.g. 3 times less experience than another guy who graduated from the same class 1-2 years ago.

Solution: Define what sort of experience is asked about. Particularly make it clear how study years should be handled.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:13
English to Spanish
+ ...
What good? Aug 11, 2013

Anyone can interpret years of experience however they wish, and they can even lie outright. The fact is, many can (and do) lie on their profiles. So what good are guidelines? Only for those who are honest.

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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Is there a point to any of this? Aug 11, 2013

Looks like nit-picking. People post whatever they like on their profile pages. There are no guidelines to any of it and people are free to provide and/or withhold any information they want to with virtually no one checking accuracy. It's up to the individual to state/hide/exaggerate the truth. Proof is in the pudding in the translation world in any case.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What?! Aug 11, 2013

Never crossed my mind that anyone would consider including time spent learning as professional experience!!!

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:13
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Seconded, what?? Aug 11, 2013

Teresa Borges wrote:

Never crossed my mind that anyone would consider including time spent learning as professional experience!!!


Never crossed my mind too, I am really surprised.


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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:13
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Different question Aug 11, 2013

Angie Garbarino wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

Never crossed my mind that anyone would consider including time spent learning as professional experience!!!


Never crossed my mind too, I am really surprised.



+1

Different question though.

Tim got his first professional assignment around the 1st of Oct. 2010 and never stopped translating since then. By the 2nd of January 2014 (we all hope Tim's not enough desperate for a job/workaholic to work on the 1st of Jan., possibly at $0,02/word) should he list 5 ys of experience (2010-2014), 4 years of exp (2010-2013, as 2014 can not really be considered) or 3 ys of experience (Oct. 2010 -> Oct. 2013)?


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Purpose of guidelines Aug 11, 2013

writeaway wrote:

Looks like nit-picking. People post whatever they like on their profile pages. There are no guidelines to any of it and people are free to provide and/or withhold any information they want to with virtually no one checking accuracy. It's up to the individual to state/hide/exaggerate the truth. Proof is in the pudding in the translation world in any case.


Individuals can legitimately hold different opinions on certain subjects. That's why we need conventions. In this particular matter the differences can be much larger than nitpicking when no common convention exists.

Domenico Trimboli wrote:

Tim got his first professional assignment around the 1st of Oct. 2010 and never stopped translating since then. By the 2nd of January 2014 (we all hope Tim's not enough desperate for a job/workaholic to work on the 1st of Jan., possibly at $0,02/word) should he list 5 ys of experience (2010-2014), 4 years of exp (2010-2013, as 2014 can not really be considered) or 3 ys of experience (Oct. 2010 -> Oct. 2013)?


Three years, just like 'trading years' or 'balance sheet years' in companies. The time-span is three years with small change (3 months), it doesn't matter so much that four calendar year transitions have managed to fit in it.

Likewise, there's no justification for claiming 5 years on the basis that the translator has translated in 5 different calendar years so far. Several days in January 2014 can't be upgraded to a full year, nor can even the three months in November 2010, but especially two years shouldn't be made out of the small fringes.

But it's up to the translator, come April 2014, whether he wants to round it up to 4, which is closer to a real value > 3.5), or continue with 3, which totally avoids claiming what he doesn't have.

Teresa Borges wrote:

Never crossed my mind that anyone would consider including time spent learning as professional experience!!!


It happens a lot. In some cases, it's probably justified, like a year of heavy duty translating under constant supervision and evaluation by a competent professor may be worth as much as or more than a year of typical freelance experience. On the other hand, a year of just learning the language and listening to lectures about the history of the area, demographics of its population, phonetics, translation theory and whatnot is hardly a year of professional experience.

[Edited at 2013-08-11 18:41 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Not in my neck of the woods... Aug 11, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

It happens a lot. In some cases, it's probably justified, like a year of heavy duty translating under constant supervision and evaluation by a competent professor may be worth as much as or more than a year of typical freelance experience. On the other hand, a year of just learning the language and listening to lectures about the history of the area, demographics of its population, phonetics, translation theory and whatnot is hardly a year of professional experience.

[Edited at 2013-08-11 18:41 GMT]


... and I have been translating and outsourcing for more than 30 years! Is this becoming a new trend? Hope not!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Well... Aug 11, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
While years of experience are still pretty subjective, they are, after all, a numerical variable that features in directory listings and recruitments (although it's not currently an available search parameter), which means it potentially factors heavily in specific choices of translators for jobs.


A big problem with "site-specific definitions" is that people who visit our profile pages don't read those definitions. A visitor to my profile page will interpret what he sees there in terms of what he himself believes the information means. The label for the topic under discussion is simply "years of experience", and I think it is reasonable to assume that a visitor to my profile page would consider that number to be what my answer would have been if he had asked me in an e-mail "how many years of experience do you have?".

The case you mention has been discussed before, and as before, some readers of those threads were surprised that other translators could honestly interpret it in such or such a way.

Perhaps, as an experiment, you should tell me how many years you would consider me as having?

I studied full-time for my 3-year translation diploma in 1993, 1994 and 1995. During the entire first semester of 1995, we didn't go to class but did practical work at external organisations as temporary employees. Would you count that as part of my translation experience? Also, from roughly the first or second semester of 1995 I started promoting myself as a translator (took out paid advertisements for my translation business, stepped up the networking, called myself a translator, and basically tried actively to get clients). I did not get much work, however. Would you take into account the fact that I was being a translator in the business sense, even though I did not get much practice as a translator in the practical sense? In 1996 and 1997 I had a working holiday and did not do any translation work, but starting with 1998 I started doing part-time freelance translation work again (although my main source of income was something else). In mid-2000, I got a full-time inhouse job as a translator. At the start of 2007 I went freelance full-time. I have been a translator ever since. So... how many years of experience do I have, according to you?


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Aug 11, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

Perhaps, as an experiment, you should tell me how many years you would consider me as having?

I studied full-time for my 3-year translation diploma in 1993, 1994 and 1995. During the entire first semester of 1995, we didn't go to class but did practical work at external organisations as temporary employees. Would you count that as part of my translation experience? Also, from roughly the first or second semester of 1995 I started promoting myself as a translator (took out paid advertisements for my translation business, stepped up the networking, called myself a translator, and basically tried actively to get clients). I did not get much work, however. Would you take into account the fact that I was being a translator in the business sense, even though I did not get much practice as a translator in the practical sense? In 1996 and 1997 I had a working holiday and did not do any translation work, but starting with 1998 I started doing part-time freelance translation work again (although my main source of income was something else). In mid-2000, I got a full-time inhouse job as a translator. At the start of 2007 I went freelance full-time. I have been a translator ever since. So... how many years of experience do I have, according to you?


Well, Samuel, apart from the fact that you translated when I played Lego, which makes me feel horribly uncomfortable answering that sort of question, I'd probably count everything from the first semester of 1995 onward, minus the working holiday you mention but I'd have no problem with it if you added any semesters of 1993 and 1994 during which you actually translated in or for class in significant amounts (and not too basic stuff, either) rather than listening to translation theory or learning the language. If those were my own years of experience, I'd probably consider counting half for the part-time periods when your main source of income was something else. No matter what, I still end up with more than the 11 you claim.

Oh, and by way of disclaimer, I'm not trying to downplay the importance of theory. A good grasp of theory is often more beneficial than a significant length of practical experience. But learning theory is not practical experience, just like experience – however beneficial – doesn't count towards years of theoretical study.

[Edited at 2013-08-11 21:03 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
What I would do... Aug 11, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
I'd probably count everything from the first semester of 1995 onward, minus the working holiday you mention but I'd have no problem with it if you added any semesters of 1993 and 1994 during which you actually translated in or for class in significant amounts (and not too basic stuff, either) rather than listening to translation theory or learning the language.


Well, back in the days when I had less than 5 years of experience, I counted the efforts of 1995 and the part-time work in 1998 and 1999 as full years of experience, but at around 2005 I started counting the years 1998 and 1999 as a single year of experience, and not counting the year 1995. These days, whenever I get asked that question, I simply say "more than 10".


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Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:13
German to English
+ ...
People are dishonest about their native language(s)... Aug 12, 2013

Łukasz wrote:

years of experience are ... a numerical variable that features in directory listings and recruitments ..., which means it potentially factors heavily in specific choices of translators for jobs.



People are dishonest about their native language(s), so I doubt they're any more honest about other things, such as years of experience.

I'd say native language factors much more "heavily in specific choices of translators for jobs".

ProZ is a directory, like the Yellow Pages. You could be the lousiest plumber in the world but still be featured in the Yellow Pages as as expert. You think the YP check? It's much the same here, with the same result: lots of cowboys.

But lying about your native language is IMO as low as anyone here can stoop. What bigger lie is there?

And if native language is not in some way verified by the site, what chance do you think there is of "years of experience" being treated seriously?

We can't believe everything we read. Simple as that.
Cilian


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not the same as native language Aug 12, 2013

Cilian O'Tuama wrote:
People are dishonest about their native language(s), so I doubt they're any more honest about other things, such as years of experience.


Native language can be selected in a directory search, but years of experience can't. In fact, years of experience doesn't even show up in a directory search result, but native language does. Not declaring such and such as your native language has financial consequences (you get excluded from a list of potential candidates), but the same does not apply to years of experience.


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:13
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Date when profile was registered Aug 13, 2013

Probably not everyone registers at Proz upon a start of a career (what a pity) but at least this date is practically impossible to fake, as opposed to self declared years of experience.

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