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Translators disrespected

14. November 2012

You’re sitting at home (or at work)
slaving over a translation when out of the blue you receive a
call/email/text message* (delete where appropriate) from a
colleague/friend/acquaintance* (delete where appropriate) who you have
not heard from for quite some time. The message usually begins in
similar fashion regardless of whether it is a phone call, email or text
message and whatever the nature of your relationship with the
interlocutor – a polite yet brief query as to how you have been these
past few weeks/months/years in order to momentarily detract from the
main point of the message. Your suspicions are raised immediately – this
is not the first such message you have received from ‘friends’ – yet
you remain quietly heartened by the fact that this person has decided to
contact you after such a long time.
However, you listen/read on and within
several seconds your fears are confirmed. Your mind is awash with a
range of emotions – anger, frustration and disappointment. Once again,
another of your so-called ‘friends’ has demonstrated their complete lack
of respect for your profession, not to mention an utter lack of respect
for yourself. This ‘friend’ has done the unthinkable – he has asked you
for ‘help’ in order to translate a phrase/sentence/text. The plea is
usually innocent and nine times out of ten the task is ridiculously
simple but what especially irks is the justification this person uses to
ask you in the first place. Perfunctory explanations like, “I know it
won’t take you a great deal of time…” or syrupy statements like, “For
someone like you, this should be really easy…” or to really add insult
to injury, “This should take you five minutes at most…”
Who are these people to determine the
period of time a translation task should take? And then demand that we
perform the task? What is more, the very fact that it would take, for
example, only five minutes is surely testament to the fact that
we are good at our job. Specialists, as we all know, are usually richly
rewarded for their specialist services. Why is it that people
who are not translators believe translation should be undertaken for
free? Do architects receive calls from friends to ‘do a quick sketch’ of
a proposed design of a room? Do copywriters get text messages from
colleagues to ‘come up with a short slogan’ for a product? Do
accountants receive emails from clients asking them to ‘undertake a
brief audit’ of an investment?
Translators, language specialists and
editors need to show people unfamiliar with our work that the services
we offer are akin to those services provided by other professions. Not
only do we have similar time constraints and financial requirements but
we also have the need to gain satisfaction from our work. Respect for
the work we do is key to achieving this satisfaction. In today’s
society, the one tangible way in which measure for our work can be
achieved is through remuneration. This is, after all, what we do for a
living…
Originally published on

One Comment

on Translators disrespected.
  1. -

    Thank you for sharing this article Anke. This is exactly what I needed to read today, after a friend and an acquaintance asked me how I get clients bcause they might want to try translating (they have no qualification, training or experience in translation but speak two languages…).

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