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"Translationism"- are you a victim?
Thread poster: Audrey Pate

Audrey Pate
Italy
Local time: 23:14
Italian to English
+ ...
Aug 31, 2011

I suppose this is a strange topic for a forum subject but I am curious to know whether anyone else has been a victim of "Translationism". The other day I happened to be discussing a friend who is a translator and it was commented that she was "only a translator" and "you can't compare her with the likes of XXX who works in a bank". On further discussion I learned that according to the speaker, those of us who studied and work with languages "took the easy option" and are definitely not in the same professional class as those whose work includes "more academic subjects" (?!) such as science and maths..... I know, it's shocking that some people think that way! Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?

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Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:14
English to German
No, to the contrary Aug 31, 2011

A lot of people around me, be it closer friends, acquaintances or people I only know through other people admire translators for their good command of a foreign language. They are mostly working in other branches, like technicians or as craftsmen and most of them did even forget their school English.

People who are talking like you told us here should be ignored; in my opinion they don't know what they are talking about.

Annett


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:14
English to Dutch
+ ...
Same as Annett Aug 31, 2011

People's mouths fall open and they give me blank stares of awe when I tell them I'm a translator, with three source languages at that. And that's before they realize that a translator must know a lot of a lot of subjects...

Whoever Audrey was talking to is probably a very insecure individual with self-esteem issues


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:14
Dutch to English
+ ...
I would tell that person Aug 31, 2011

that 'easy option' is really an essential option, as there seem to be a lot of people who wouldn't have access to all kinds of things without the likes of us. What would the poor monolinguals do without a translator?

I usually don't get blank stares, because my husband speaks 10 languages and I speak 4, while learning a 5th. So it doesn't surprise people who only get to know me as 'the wife of' that I also speak several.
We also move in circles with multilingual people, although most of them would not consider translating as they learned other languages for their profession and did not take up their profession because they knew other languages .

I would just challenge the person to learn one at least, see how he does.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 23:14
German to English
+ ...
No, but Aug 31, 2011

I do recall being asked by a neighbour what I did for a living (and then explaining what a translator did) followed by teh rather surprised comment: "And you can actually live by doing that?
Otehrwise, I find non-translators appreciative of the work a translator does, particularly if I state that I am a specialised legal translator.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:14
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Translators – victims or heroes ? Aug 31, 2011

Audrey Pate wrote:
. . . a victim of "Translationism".

By chance, I have just been researching quotations by Eleanor Roosevelt, and found this:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." That is good advice for translators.

I agree with the others – most people are impressed by translators. There are exceptions – those who still believe that machine translation is here, and those who believe that translation is simply a matter of replacing a foreign word with the one and only equivalent domestic word. But a knowledge of other languages never fails to impress.

Some translators confuse our financial status with our social status. Financially most of us are not well paid because the supply of translators exceeds the demand. On ProZ alone, there are more than 37,000 Spanish to English translators. Not all of them are earning a living wage. And each year, universities are churning out yet more translators.

Socially it can very great deal. But there is one group that values translators enormously. They are authors in minority languages, where translation into other languages, particularly English, opens up quite extraordinary opportunities: an international readership, new sources of income, in some cases ( as in my combination, Swedish to English) worldwide fame. I have heard one Swedish author of crime novels describe his translators as "heroes". Quite the opposite of your experience.


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Audrey Pate
Italy
Local time: 23:14
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Peter! Aug 31, 2011

Peter Linton wrote:

I have heard one Swedish author of crime novels describe his translators as "heroes". Quite the opposite of your experience.


Heroes!!!! I love that....much much better!!!


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Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:14
Italian to English
same as Annett too Aug 31, 2011

I find that friends and people I meet on a day to day basis are impressed by the fact that I'm a translator. But I live in Italy, and I don't know if I would get the same reaction if I had stayed in the U.S.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:14
English to Croatian
+ ...
Only in case of highest necessity Aug 31, 2011

David Wright wrote:

Otehrwise, I find non-translators appreciative of the work a translator does, particularly if I state that I am a specialised legal translator.


Yes, they will most likely first try to word up a text by themselves, and when they get all tangled up in the process, they will very much appreciate my help and my getting them out of a deep pit. Until they come in that position, they won't really value our work much. Translated user guides, instructions, laws, works of literature, etc people just take it for granted, using these texts without giving a single thought to the translator.


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Maria Lila  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:14
French to Spanish
+ ...
Not victim.. Aug 31, 2011

... but at least in Southern Europe usually it's taken for granted. It's not valued ... unless they are faced to do it and see the results.

NOTE: of course not everybody in Southern Europe thinks so, but there are too many.

I agree with Lingua 5B.


However I try to do my job ignoring some comments. Just as an anecdote, some years ago a customer came to my home office and ask me why I needed so many dictionnaries if I was a translator. Gives a hint of a certain perception concerning translation...

And above all this perception of could-be-done-by-anyone-who-speaks-the-language leads to the non-distinction between pros and amateurs, pretending that both offer the same quality, because it's a matter of language!

Best, María


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:14
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
On the contrary Aug 31, 2011

When I mention that I am a translator, I notice that people value the difficulty of producing translations at a professional level.

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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this: Aug 31, 2011

"Wow! You're a translator! That's amazing! I can't even speak my own language, let alone other people's."

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Holger Laux  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:14
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
The other end of the scale Aug 31, 2011

I experienced the other end of the scale from the original poster:

I used to run a translation service for a university. Of course, they knew everything about teaching and learning languages, but nothing about the translation business.

I was under constant pressure to generate more income.

Once, I was asked whether I was able to make "250% profit like other university departments do, the Chemistry labs for instance".

On another occasion, I was instructed to double my prices (I refused, because I was at the top end of the scale already).

Ultimately, it was concluded that this was something that "could perhaps be run from a backstreet office but not in an academic environment".

And this is what I have been doing ever since.


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Glenda Janssen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:14
English to Italian
+ ...
In the United States I get admiration Aug 31, 2011

I'm with Phil. Living in the U.S., where many people only speak English (and often admit to writing and speaking their native language poorly), people usually reply with a "WOW!" They are also usually impressed to hear that English is not my native language, because I have no accent and express myself so fluently.

Ultimately, though, who cares? People that talk down to other people because of their profession are rude, and I wouldn't like to count them among my friends.

I actually find it funny that your profession is considered less important than a banker's. After all, you'd think that with this financial crisis on our hands, they'd be the least respected people on the planet. *l*


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translationism Aug 31, 2011

The biggest issue I face is that people assume that I know the meaning of every word or term and they are surprised that I have to look things up or research terminology. Often times companies will call me up and ask for the translation of a word or phrase and are surprised when sometimes I can't do that immediately over the phone.

Also, even after 18 years, family, friends and acquaintances still cannot understand why I do not translate INTO my working languages. It just does not make sense to them. Don't you know Spanish? You speak Spanish, you have a degree in Spanish, why can't you translate into Spanish?

Thirdly, a lot of people in the U.S. are so utterly amazed that you speak one foreign language, let alone two or three, that for the life of them they cannot understand why you are not working for the United Nations or an international law firm or bank.



[Edited at 2011-08-31 20:56 GMT]


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