What are the similarities and differences between occupation of translation and other occupations?
Thread poster: xxxMalik Beytek
xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
Oct 6, 2006

For example; what would the following titles bring to the mind of a professional translator in terms of how things are in the profession of translation:

- accounting - CPAs (Certified Public Accountants)
- journalism - ethical rules
- attorneys - bar association membership
- medical doctors - various regulation
- plumbers - apprenticeship system, plumbers' union
- excavation contractors - paid on *piece rate*?
- other titles that forumers might think of.

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Ivana UK  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:15
Member (2005)
Italian to English
Malik, Oct 7, 2006

I'm not sure I understand the question - could you clarify?

Many thanks!

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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
Which one is more of a *profession*: Plumbing or language translation? Oct 7, 2006

I can't clarify, I can, in a way, rephrase the question, e.g., as above.

Of course you need a criterion to compare the two lines of work. Let us take a definition offered for the term "profession":

"An activity that involves a responsibility to serve the public, has a complex body of knowledge, has standards for admission, and has a need for public confidence."

That's from a McGraw-Hill page about principles of auditing - URL:


On the basis of that definition, then, which one is more of a profession, judging by the state of affairs, the reality on the ground, as relevant to each line of work: Plumbing? Or, language translation?

(a) involves a responsibility to serve the public
(b)has a complex body of knowledge,
(c)has standards for admission
(d) has a need for public confidence

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:15
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
There are common factors running through a lot of professions Oct 7, 2006

We all have to do our book-keeping and hand in annual accounts to the accountant for preparation of a tax return. That is, however, common to all those who are self-employed, both in service professions and in industry.

Rules and regulations are likewise a feature of most professions, and these cover, among other things, ethical rules which ensure that business is carried out in a professional manner.

We do not have a formal apprenticeship system, but most of us at Proz assist those new to the profession in finding their feet, by answering their questions and giving them advice in the forums.

We do "piece work", i.e. one project at a time, however this, again, is a common factor running through all self-employed forms of work.

Like nurses and doctors, and night staff in hotels, we also often work through the night.

Other than these broad features in common, ours is an absolutely unique profession, and our colleagues will tell you why that is the case.


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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
Another question to elaborate: Is a translator a "knowledge worker"? Oct 7, 2006

If yes, it seems a bit odd to me that a knowledge worker would be paid on piece rate.

OK, so the *piece* here is *the word*, but even then... imagine paying, for example, a poet, on a per word basis?

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Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 06:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
All professions and occupations have common and particular requirements Oct 7, 2006

I agree with Astrid in that all professions have common characteristics.

If I'm not mistaken, you are trying to know whether plumbing and translation are professions or not. Based on the Oxford dictionary, both are professions.

• noun 1 a paid occupation, especially one involving training and a formal qualification. 2 treated as sing. or pl. a body of people engaged in a profession. 3 an open but typically false claim. 4 a declaration of belief in a religion.

• noun 1 a job or profession. 2 the action, state, or period of occupying or being occupied. 3 a way of spending time.

People involved in both works need to have a profficient knowledge of their fields; to be updated with last developments in their industry (new terminology, use of words, technical developments). Both have to behave according to a code of ethics, not because it is ruled by any specific body, but to maintain their good name and a good protfolio of top-quality clients, as well as to prevent any possible litigation for "mal praxis."

Translators and plumbers must also be reliable and discreet. We cannot make comment on what we learned from our jobs. Regarding membership, if a translator wants to become a certified (registered or official) translator, he/she must have his credentials verified by any entity in charge of doing so. In Costa Rica, for example, we have to pass two exams (oral and written) given by the Shoocl of Modern Languages of the University of Costa Rica, in the name of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship before being appointed an official translator and interpreter. Then, we have to abide by the provisions set forth in the Law for Official Translations and Interpretations and its bylaws.

In relation to payment, translators are free to set payment with clients, whether it is per word, character, page, hour, volume, fixed monthly rate.... In the same way, plumbers may also set their rates according to each individual work, volume, hour, day, a total for the entire work... Poets? Well, they have to set the price for their creative process.

Maybe some people do not consider translators and plumbers professionals because some do not have a university degree. But our expertise in the field makes us professionals. I'm a professional translator not only because of my diplomas in the field, but thanks to my expertise and 11 years of full time experience.

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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
In Turkey, plumbing is a much better organized profession than language translation Oct 8, 2006

Thank you, Claudia Aguero, for your accounting of occupational arrangements in Costa Rica.

In Turkey, there is a sophisticated, well established system of apprenticeship, supported both by the state and international organizations. Under that system, plumbers must go through a process of graduating through stages of apprentice - journeyman - master and obtain a Master's Certificate before they can open shop.

That means somebody's chances of *freelancing* as plumber without having gone through that process and opened shop is practically nill any where in Turkey, given that a plumber with a Master's Certificate is willing to open shop in that particular locality.

Barbers are subject to the same system too, as are many other *defined* occupations. Don't know about plumbers, but barbers are not, I think, allowed to charge below the fees as currently set by their occupational organization.

None of that applies to translators in general. Any body can open a translation office and then they can in turn hire any body as translator -- and they darn well do even for large projects where the good ole Gov'mint is the project owner. The only exceptions are those cases where a Registered Translator is required by law, and that registration is not really solid at all, not even remotely as solid as plumbers' process of graduation and registration.

And I'm afraid the situation in many other countries is not a whole lot different from that in Turkey. Is it?

[Edited at 2006-10-08 07:19]

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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:15
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Translation is between two worlds Oct 8, 2006

Dearl Malik and all,

the problem with trying to regulate (or over-regulate) the translation or interpreting profession is that it is not only based on knowledge but also on culture, which is difficult to define or to regulate by the possession of study titles or with passing state exams.
It is also an activity to which we can arrive from several different paths, unlike doctors or lawyers that invariably come from a medical or legal school.

A translator, whether he/she is dealing with a machinery manual or a novel, a piece of software or a poem, produces a written text based on his/her knowledge of two cultures, deals with terminology but has to consider sentence constructions and operate a choice of words based on his/her knowledge and language usage, has to take into account spelling and rythm, overall something not easy to regulate or frame by the "state authorities".

In short, translator/interpreter is a profession but also an art, and probably oscillates between these two definitions.


[Edited at 2006-10-08 09:34]

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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
OK, lets go to the other world - actors Oct 8, 2006

Thanks to gianfranco above, another title comes into picture - actors.

And I say this: Actors also are better organized than translators.

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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
Unique aspects of language translation Oct 8, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

"... ours is an absolutely unique profession, and our colleagues will tell you why that is the case..."


Astrid, I'd whish that you could tell us why you think so, especially if you have chosen the profession because you found it to be unique. (Me, for example; I just found myself doing translation.)

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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:15
Member (2007)
German to English
Translation and Computer Programming Oct 9, 2006

http://www.proz.com/post/395132#395132 (Pity the poor programmer) highlights some of the similarities I've noticed between translation and computer programming. The point of commonality considered there is the "threat" that machine intelligence poses for both occupations.

There are other similarities. For instance, both are rather solitary occupations involving lots of keyboard interaction. Nor are all programmers direct corporate employees; many work as freelancers or "shoppers".

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xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 15:15
Yeah, but I never heard of a *translation nerd*.... Oct 9, 2006

... come to think of it, why isn't there any *translation nerd*? Any body ever thought of that? Or is it that there are translation nerds? Does any body of any translation nerds?

Thank you for this thinking-outside-the-box post, Rich.

(And, don't worry about machine intelligence. Both translators and programmers are, at the root of it, *spec writers*. No matter how advanced machine intelligence becomes, there is always going to be a spec writing task that the human mind can handle better than machine intelligence.)

[Edited at 2006-10-09 22:01]

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