Posted by: patenttranslator | August 1, 2018

It Makes No Sense to March in Protest on a Cul-de-Sac

My silly post today was inspired by a comment on Facebook in which an American poster said in an international forum something like this (I could not find the comment anymore so this is just what I remember from it):

“I have been in Spain for only one week, but so many people are telling me that what we are seeing in America is the beginning of Fascism, and that people should be marching in the streets to stop it. They lived under Franco for a very long time and they know what they are talking about”.

But it’s hard to march in the streets in America.

Unlike in the old continent of Europe, in the United States, we only have actual streets where it would make sense to march in the downtowns of a few old cities like New York or San Francisco. So that’s where most marching takes place, to the extent that it does.

In old Europe people can march in protest in the streets of their pedestrian-friendly old cities to demand to get something back for having to pay high taxes (which is called “socialism” in America), or to demand democratic elections where they can actually choose from several different parties the party they think will represent them best, instead of being forced to participate in the “lesser-of-two-evils scam” that we have here.

In most of this country, we have suburbia consisting of “gated communities” guarded by armed personnel protecting the affluent ruling class, and “subdivisions” full of “quiet cul-de-sacs” for the rest of us.

The cul-de-sacs are not suitable for marching because they are closed off at one end. It does not make sense to march in a circular, dead-end street where people never go unless they happens to live there.

Suburban houses located on cul-de-sacs are particularly prized among what is left of the middle class because they are perceived as giving people “more privacy”, which means that neighbors don’t really come into contact with each other much if at all, except when they walk their dogs on the sidewalks of the subdivisions, often talking excitedly on the phone. In addition to streets with no exits, the privacy is also enhanced with big front yards and big back yards, putting even more space between neighbors who really prefer not to come into eye contact with each other.

As a young person living in Europe, I always said “hello” if I met an older person who happened to be a neighbor because my mother told me that not to do so would be impolite. Children and teenagers living in America’s subdivision pretend not to see their older neighbors. I am not sure what their mothers tell them about older people, if anything.

The front yard in particular is mostly just a major hassle for the suburbia inhabitants because there is so much grass on it and people have to water it and mow large spaces containing nothing but green or dying grass on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition to being highly environmentally unfriendly, the gasoline-powered mowers are also very noisy and smelly. But since everybody wants to have a big front yard and most people have to work long hours during the week, on top of an hour or two wasted in commute on clogged highways, the cul-de-sacs and other streets in the subdivisions are on the weekends as noisy as the traffic on highways.

For some reason, the term “cul-de-sac” has no equivalent in English and it is thus available only in French, like quite a few other words or phrases that are originally French, such as bon apétit, touché, or cherchez la femme.

My theory is that the term “cul-de-sac” was not translated into English so that people would not think too much about what the term means. The French words, whose exact meaning is probably understood by very few people, look much better printed on real estate brochures than “dead-end street”, don’t they?

The Japanese love to introduce foreign words from other languages into their beautiful, colorful and complicated language. There are many Japanese words originating in foreign languages including German, Dutch and Portuguese (for historical reasons), but especially in English. These words are in Japanese called “gairaigo”( 外来語), which literally means “words that came from outside”, usually translated as loan words).

But they went ahead and translated the term “cul-de-sac” into their own language as “fukuromichi” (袋道), or literally a “bag street”. So unlike in America, most people in Japan do understand that fukuromichi means a dead-end street and that there is no exit from such a road. When you’re stuck in a bag, you’d better get the hell out, or you’ll be stuck there for the rest of your pathetic life living in a bag that has no exit, just like there is no exit from Hotel California.

The subdivisions are connected by highways where you can’t march either because it would be both dangerous and illegal, and now people can hardly even drive there because, unlike a few years ago, they are charged new tolls based on what is called “public-private partnership projects”.

Not just the political system in which two wings of the same good old money party put on a jolly good show very roughly approximating a democratic process during elections, but even the infrastructure on the ground is thus becoming more and more suitable for a new era of fascism, more properly defined as “corporatism”, or merging of corporate and state power (which could be also described as a “public-private partnership project”).

If the moral depravity of ripping crying children who can’t even speak yet from the arms of their mothers and making five-year-old kids defend themselves in court proceedings against judges in their sixties, who are so ably and valiantly protecting the state from these kids in a court, is not barbaric fascism, then I really don’t know what fascism means.

It’s clear to me that marching in circle on our cul-de-sacs and voting for one of the two parties that are so far still allowed here, mostly because it makes almost no difference which one is nominally in power, is not going to stop fascism.

So, I would like to ask people in Spain, France, Italy, Poland and other countries in the old continent of Europe where people can still march in the now obsolete streets of their cities to demand change when they get really angry at what their governments are doing to them, what should we do here in the United States to get back to a more democratic system, which I think was the original idea behind “a more perfect union”, given that here we are stuck in a bag that is closed off on one end?

Posted by: patenttranslator | July 28, 2018

The Divine Madness of Youth

There is some evidence that Mick Jagger once uttered the following words: “I’d rather be dead than sing “Satisfaction” when I’m 45.” Opinions differ on exactly how old he was at the time; 25 is frequently cited as the correct age.

He probably meant it – we all totally mean what we say when we are 25, although not much of what we say that we will do when we are 25 usually comes to pass. I remember that I decided to learn Chinese when I was 25, but of course, I never did learn it.

There seems to be a time limit to how long rock musicians are able to write and perform good music. I think that what they need to compose good music and perform really well is divine inspiration that comes to most of us only when we are still young and the world is new and fresh. Perhaps it is a kind of inspiration that could be called the Divine Madness of Youth – hence the title of my silly post today.

I am imagining Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen riding together in the same car, driving to some place, maybe a concert, and Leonard Cohen says to Bob Dylan: “So, Bob, when did the madness finally leave you for good?” And when he receives his answer in Bob Dylan’s drawl, Leonard Cohen says: “Yeah, it was about the same for me too.”

Composers of classical music get a much better deal from the Man Upstairs, also known by the name God, when it comes to better timed distribution of divine madness. J.S. Bach, who lived from 1685 to 1750, wrote some of his best known and most loved works after he turned 40 in 1725. The beauty of divine madness seems to follow composers of classical music from a young age well into middle and old age and the same is also true about some lucky writers and painters.

I think that the beauty of divine, inspirational madness accompanies also those of us who from a young age find irresistible learning of foreign languages. In those among us who have been chosen for this particular madness, the divine disease generally starts in youth, or even in sweet childhood.

We can’t help it, we are attracted to another language like a serial killer can’t help looking for another suitable victim when the Moon is full.

Fortunately for us, the madness of immersing ourselves for inexplicable reasons in a foreign language, a madness that is completely legal, can continue unabated for many decades and keep us young well into middle and old age, possibly because it is more like classical music, writing, or painting, than rock & roll.

People who care don’t about foreign languages – and they must be thinking, why the hell should we? … when we have our own, perfectly good language that works very well for us – sometime look at us with an awe that seems to be mixed with a kind of veiled scorn with which most people view autistic children, who are able to calculate complicated formulas in their head, but unable to function well in simple situations requiring social interaction.

But we know better than to worry about the strange looks that some people may be giving us, don’t we?

So we have become translators, interpreters and language teachers because we try to share our love for the intimate foreignness of a foreign language that feels so right to us with other people … because, just like real love, another kind of divine madness that hits us unexpectedly like a cannon ball when we are still very young, it is one of the best feelings in the world and one has to feel sorry for those who never experienced it.

A life lived in one language and one language only is a life that has been lived only some of the time, a part-time life at the most.

Such an incredibly boring kind of life could not really bring much satisfaction to anyone, could it? That’s why we have to keep doing what we are doing, just like Mick Jaggers has to keep jumping up and down on the stage while swinging the microphone and his hips, in pursuit of the Divine Madness of Youth for as long as possible.

Although I am not that old (sixty something is the new fifty something, right?), I remember well the pre-globalized, pre-corporate phase of the so-called translation industry in the eighties and nineties of the last century.

I think that it could be said that the last two decades of the 20th and the first years of the 21st century were a golden age for technical translators and for patent translators in particular. When I look at how much I was making month after month (thanks God!) while I was a single earner in a family of fourth, some 15, 20, or 25 years ago, which, fortunately for me, is no longer the case, I keep thinking to myself how incredibly lucky I was to have started my business before the globalized phase of the “translation industry” turned so many of us into underpaid indentured servants who have to follow the rules created by their monolingual handlers at translation agencies, nowadays called “Language Services Providers” (LSPs).

I know that the main reason why I was so busy working at pretty high rates several decades ago was that I was able to offer my translation business to direct customers, without the interference of corporate agency behemoths in the pre-corporate phase of what is now called the “translation industry”.

Prior to the corporatized phase of the “translation industry”, roughly from about the year 2000 BC until about Anno Domini 2000, most translators were thought of as people who were running their own small businesses.

If you worked mostly for translation agencies, as I did at first in the nineteen eighties and even into the nineties, there was also a major difference between how the agencies treated you then and how they treat you now. Back then, huge translation agencies with offices in a number of cities and many more virtual “back offices” created in third world countries ad hoc for various projects to be hidden from the prying eyes of clueless clients, simply did not exist yet.

While a friendly or at least very civil, mutually beneficial relationship between a translator and a translation agency was the cornerstone of what the concept of the translation business was up until about the year 2000 or 2010, in the current form of the “translation industry”, or version 2.0, the fact that human translators are vital for creating a high-quality final product called translation is seen by the captains of the “translation industry” as a bug rather than a valid feature of their quasi perfect, highly automated digital systems for delivery of translations mostly by monolingual managers.

If they have their way, one day soon they will get rid of translators altogether.

It could be said that while the old version of translation agencies was quite translator-friendly, the new environment created in this century by the “translation industry” is toxic to us, translators.

The industry is treating us as if we were servants rather than independent business owners.

Even before we accept a translation job, no matter how tiny, called nowadays an “assignment”, we are required to sign agreements in which we must promise, under the penalty of heavy fines, that we will never, ever attempt to contact an actual client who orders a translation unless we are explicitly asked to do so by the agency. And even if we are asked by the clients themselves to do the job without the intermediary of the agency, we are supposed to turn such these clients down in a clear violation of antitrust legislation, at least based on the laws here in the United States.

The reason for this is clear – the agencies know that should a direct connection be established between a translator and a direct client, the client may get rid of the translation agency next time when a translation is needed ….. unless the translation agency provides an important service, which is sometime true, but not very often.

The agencies have been demanding for a long time now – with some success, especially with less experienced translators – that translators must purchase, learn and use word count-stealing software such as Trados, so that the translators could be very significantly shortchanged and more money would be left for the middleman, in clear violation of the  rule of the New Testament stating that “the laborer is worthy of his wages”.

It is very unchristian of the agencies to insist that full and partial “matches” must be obligatorily deducted from the laborer’s wages by word count-stealing software.

Maybe they’re all run by atheists.

Increasingly, we are also being asked by translation agencies to offer our services as “post-editors” of machine translations, so that instead of charging for our work based on the number of words that we translated ourselves, we will charge a low fee based on a predetermined number of hours.

This is because we can then be forced to charge a very low hourly fee, or a ridiculously low per word rate, determined by the agency, for what is in fact a mind-numbing, full retranslation of what a series of algorithms provided for free determined to be a “translation” by the agency. Something like that usually takes more time than a translation from scratch, but the agencies simply ignore this simple fact.

To its eternal shame, the ATA (American Translators Association) has been propagandizing for many years now the notion that translators need to participate in this scam designed to eventually get rid of translators all together and turn them into “machine translation post-processors”.

I have read in many articles published during the past decades or so in the ATA Chronicle that post-processing of machine translation is “a useful skill” that all translators should acquire and gratefully offer to translation agencies.

Not a single, non-propagandistic article has been published in the ATA Chronicle that would seriously examine the issue of what machine translation really is, namely that it is only a tool that is useful for translators and non-translators alike, but not an actual translation, let alone an article explaining how harmful attempts at post-editing of the product of this tool are to an actual translation.

So, thanks God for translation blogs, Facebook groups and other social media!

It is a tragedy that we, translators, have no association of translators that would really represent our interests, instead of representing the interests of the “translation industry”.

I hope this will change one day, because nothing stays the same forever, but seeing how bad the things are at this point, it may not change within my lifetime.

In view of all the bad news for translators, and I only managed to scratch the surface in my silly post today, I have to ask myself the question in the title of my post today: Can an individual translator survive “translation industry” (2.0), and perhaps even compete with the greedy corporate industry Leviathans?

I obviously don’t know the answer to this question. But I hope that some of us will survive the current form of the “translation industry”, namely those of us who will not follow the propagandized and confused herd of translators, also called newbies, who accept the present conditions on the ground as immutable facts imposed upon us by a more advanced, predatory alien civilization.

After all, I’m still here, doing my thing pretty much the same way as three decades ago, aren’t I? I may not as busy right at this moment as I was ten or twenty years ago when I had to work seven days a week at very high rates (compared to rates prevalent now) to meet the demand for services that I provided then and still provide now.

But last year was one of the best years for me ever in terms of how much I made (and I never had to pay as much in taxes as I did last year).

The balance of power between translators and agencies has changed and the agencies are now much more powerful than they were a decade or two decades ago, partly thanks to our “professional associations”, most of which will take money from anyone because they don’t give a damn about translators.

But that does not mean that we are powerless. What gave me the power some three decades ago to compete with much larger translation agencies was the fact that I found a few domain names that were very suitable for the services that I was providing (although it was mainly the domain, and with a powerful domain, I was able to offer my services directly to patent law firms, without having to go through the intermediary of translation agencies as I wrote in several posts on this blog.

I am sure that this can still be done today, although it is much more difficult to find a good domain name now than thirty years ago, of course.

But there must be also other lines of attack that may have to do with things like using social media or blogs in ways that I don’t know much about, attending conferences for specialists and conferences for translators, creating specialized Youtube channels (for which you can also get paid if you have a lot of views), and other strategies that I can’t even imagine.

Somebody much younger than me will hopefully figure out again how to beat the system by using modern technology before somebody else gets the same idea, and get as lucky with a new mousetrap as I did three decades ago.

Posted by: patenttranslator | July 18, 2018

The First Time I Saw a Box of American Cereals

I still remember when I saw a box of American cereals for the first time.

It was in the spring of 1982 and I was eating my breakfast in a military dining hall in Kaiserslautern, West Germany, where I was working as a civilian employee for the US Army while waiting for over a year for an immigrant visa to move to America. My benefits included not only free healthcare and vacation, but also free meals three times a day as long as I lived close to the military base.

All of us working there were recent refugees from Central Europe, mostly Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and one lonely Hungarian, whose name was of course Attila. That was where I started learning Polish – Poles appreciate it very much when you try to talk to them in their own language, even if your Polish is pretty horrible. Every nation in fact appreciates foreigners who bother to try to learn their language.

The cereals tasted pretty awful, but only because coming from a country where cereals like this did not exist yet, I did not realize that I had to add milk. I should have bothered to read the instructions to the end.

But I ate about a half of the small box of dry cereals anyway, so big was my admiration for America, the superpower that had the courage to stand up against another big superpower that was at that time occupying my country with more than two hundred thousand soldiers and five thousand tanks, that I would not admit to myself that the stuff tasted just awful (which, without the milk, it sure did).

A Polish guy who was also working with me for US Army in Germany while waiting for immigration to Australia pointed at the back cover of the box, where all the ingredients and the country of origin were listed …. Actually, I remember now that although I met some Poles who emigrated to Perth, Australia, this one was waiting for an immigrant visa to Ontario, Canada, where he had a sponsor.

He told me that the law for all food sold in America said that all the ingredients and the country of origin had to be identified on the product. Wow, what a country, I thought to myself. That’s how democracy should be working. To my knowledge, no such law existed in communist countries, although some products were provided with some pretty descriptive information already back in 1982.

Although the Poles and Czechs who were working for the US Army in Germany were civilian employees, (basically all of us were trying to get immigrant visas to America, Canada, or Australia), we were issued US military uniforms and we wore them while working at the military bases.

Once when we were being transported in open military trucks to another town in Germany in our US uniforms without any insignia, (my official job designation was “cable splicer”), we saw a van coming from the opposite side, full of cute, young girls.

We had no idea who these girls were until they started pointing at us and talking excitedly among themselves in Polish. Some of the girls were waving at us – the US Army was very, very popular in Poland back then. I wonder whether this is still the case.

This was during the time after the Polish communist ruler general Jaruzelski had declared martial law in Poland in the December of 1981, while Soviet tanks were waiting for instructions to cross the border at the Polish border and start dispensing “fraternal aid” to their brethren in yet another country again.

Some among us started yelling in Polish at the girls that we were not going to let the Russians do in Poland what they did in other countries. The girls stopped talking. They were looking at us with big eyes, unable to speak, finding it impossible not to believe that the US Army was moving Polish-American troops to the German border to support the pro-democracy Solidarnozc movement should the Soviet Union try to quash the timid beginnings of democracy in Poland with its military might the way they suppressed similar movements in other countries.

They were probably wondering: “Is this the beginning of World War III?”

Fortunately, it wasn’t the beginning of World War III. The pro-democracy movement was quashed by Polish police and military, general Jaruzelski made sure of that. But the communist regimes were living on borrowed time. The Berlin Wall fell seven years later, the dysfunctional economic and political systems were dismantled in all of the client states of the Soviet Union and I was finally able to see my mom and my sister and brothers in Czechoslovakia again, after nine long years during which we all thought that we would probably never be able to see each other again.

Since Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia joined NATO and then European Union a few years later, I guess it could be said that those of us who were sitting in the US military truck that day, yelling at the Polish girls that we were going to stop the Soviet tanks, were just a few years ahead of our time.

I did not know it back then, of course.

Neither did I know that more than three decades later when I would be buying a box of cereals at Aldi, Inc., a German supermarket chain in Virginia, the country of origin would no longer be listed on the box as it was (because the law said so) when I opened a box of cereals for the first time in 1982, and that the place of “distribution” would be indicated instead as “distributed by Aldi, Inc., Batavia, Il., whatever that might mean.”

They don’t tell us anymore where our food comes from, only where it is “distributed from”, without saying what it might mean, most likely because if we knew the origin of the food that we eat ourselves and give to our children and grandchildren to eat, we might decide not to buy the stuff, no matter how cheap and well packaged it may be.

And if they don’t have to tell us anymore where the food comes from, I wonder whether the box really contains the ingredients that are listed on it.

Posted by: patenttranslator | July 8, 2018

Digital Nomads Are a Reflection of Our Random, Chaotic World

The world is neither cruel nor joyous. It is simply random, full of particles hurtling, chemicals mixing and reacting. There is no real order. There is no preordained cursing of the evil and protecting of the righteous.

Chaos, baby. It’s all about chaos.

Harlan Coben, The Innocent, page 36.


I have been thinking of myself as what in modern parlance is referred to as a digital nomad for at least the last 30 years. Except that unlike modern digital nomads, I don’t travel very often, I usually stay put in one place for quite a few years …. but then I have to move again.

My occupation of a freelance translator made it quite easy to live like that for a long time, although I am not sure if things can still work the same way for freelance translators in the age of “translation industry” (2.0), which to me is just one, relatively recent and quite repulsive facet of corporate fascism.

Because I tend to spend a relatively long time in one place, I don’t really live like a typical nomad who moves all the time. I settle in one place and pay the taxes there for quite a few years.

After I moved to the United States from Germany 36 years ago in 1982, I moved first from San Francisco to Tokyo in 1985, then from Tokyo back to San Francisco in 1986, and from San Francisco to Petaluma, California, in 1992.

Then there was another very short move from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, California, in 1994, and then, after a total of 19 years in California, a long, weird trip of 3,000 miles with a wife, two kids, three dogs and one snake (just kidding, it was really just a big lizard that kind of looked like a snake) from Santa Rosa, California, to Chesapeake, Virginia, in 2001, where I have been sitting on my derriere, working and paying taxes ever since then for the last 17 years.

(I am planning another move again, but that’s not the subject of this post.)

So that would be seven moves in thirty six years, which as I read somewhere is about how many times an average American moves in a lifetime – namely seven times. For the purposes of this blog I am ignoring how many times I moved when I lived in Europe. I don’t know how exactly it works in other countries, but I think that an average American moves quite a bit more often than for example an average Japanese person or an average European person, if there is such a thing.

Based on my experience, Americans will move thousands of miles for a slightly higher salary, or a slightly bigger house in an area where real estate prices are slightly lower without thinking twice about it, while people in European countries, for example, are more likely to stay where they are, or move just a short distance from the place where they grew up and where their family and friends live. One reason is of course, that most European countries are so small that you can’t really move too far unless you emigrate to another country.

Another difference between average persons and digital nomads is that while your average American or European has to first find a job before moving, or find it rather quickly after moving, digital nomads don’t need to worry about such annoying details.

Things can get complicated if a digital nomad gets married, because if you are married, you have to persuade (or cajole) your spouse to agree to your plan. This could get quite complicated and in fact, so messy that it often turns out to be impossible.

But there is a way to go about it that has been working for me very well.

You have to put the germ of the radical idea that the best thing to do now would be to move into the unsuspecting head or brain of your spouse or partner – without, of course, making her or him aware that this is what you are doing – and then you acquiesce, after a while, when they tell you that they came to the conclusion that it is time to move.

The idea of moving is even more complicated for the digital nomads among us who are married and have children. Children tend to go school and have friends, and it is clearly an awful thing that you are trying to do to them if all of a sudden you tell them that they may never see their friends again.

So basically, you can do something as drastic as that only if the children are still very small and have no say about anything, approximately before the age of ten, before they realize that they too have rights, including the right to disagree with your stupid idea and the power to make you feel so guilty about it that you will have no choice but to give up on the whole idea. But even if you go ahead with the plan while they are still quite young, keep in mind that they may blame you and possibly hate you for it once they are a little older.

So tread carefully. It gets really complicated if you want to share your nomadic life experience with your children!

There are so many disadvantages to living the nomadic lifestyle, even if you move only every few years or so, that most digital nomads should probably ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing.

Especially as we are growing older, we become attached to the creature comforts that come with living in a comfortable place that we know well and where our friends and family live too.

An equally and possibly even more important disadvantage is that creature comforts that are generally available only to people who can live in one comfy and familiar place for a long time, such as a spacious bathtub, the calming view of a pond and green trees from our window, or our favorite pillow, become much more important to us than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

Well, of course, the reasons for why we do what we do depend on the person.

My theory for why I have the need to keep moving from one place to another is that I am trying to make sense out of a random, chaotic and nonsensical world.

If you stay in one place all or most of your life, you don’t have any other place to compare it to.

If you move at least half a dozen times, preferably more than that, you have many samples to compare them to the world where you happen to be living at the moment.

And if you keep your eyes open, you may even discover that the world is not really as chaotic as it may seem at first to the casual observer who is bound to one place and one place only, and that, as Horatius put it “est modus in rebus” (there is a meaning in all things.)

And what is life about if it is not about discovering the hidden meaning in all things?

Well, then it probably is about having more money than other people when you die.

“Failure to Launch” is a really funny movie with Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker about a guy in his mid thirties who does not want to leave the house of his parents. I saw it some time ago and then all but forgot about it.

But not completely because I keep being reminded of how the central theme of that comedy is relevant to major shifts that are now seemingly inextricably woven into the modern society in ways revealing the changes that we have been going through in the last few decades.

I love my sons and I miss them something terrible now that they live thousands of miles away.

But at the same time, I am so glad that both of them left our house a decade ago at the tender age of about 18, driven by the incredible drive that pushes young almost-adults toward freedom, which to them means to be who they want to be. It felt so good to suddenly have the whole damn house to myself (upstairs) and my wife (downstairs) once they were gone.

I remember how a neighbor of mine, who at that time had two very young daughters and a slightly older son living with her and her husband, asked me with what I thought was a melancholy smile with a touch of envy when we met by chance at a supermarket, “So, how does it feel to be empty-nesters?”

It felt pretty good, I told her, with a grin on my face.

The failure to launch the career of a talented, new college graduate is now also a common result, after years and years spent studying subjects referred to somewhat disparagingly as “humanities” such as history or linguistics, for too many young people who decided to follow their passion and majored in what attracted them to their chosen profession.

But an economic system that places a high value on technical subjects and especially on mathematics because they are so useful for the casino games played on Wall Street, makes it now so difficult for these young people to find their place in life that many of them simply give up and instead move back to the their parents basement. The way this relatively recent phenomenon is put in English speaking countries, namely that the adult children live “in their parents’ basement”, while in some languages, for example in German, or Czech or Slovak, the expression for failure to launch adult children’s lives is referred as having children who are still living in the “Hotel Mama”.

In some countries, especially in Asia and South America, it is quite common for several generations to live under the same roof and share the same house. In the past, this usually meant that the parents who became grandparents wanted to live with their adult children to be close to their grandchildren and in return, their adult children were able to help them as they aged and tasks such as shopping for groceries became too difficult for them.

In some countries, even in countries such as Japan where the tradition of extended families living under the same roof in the same house has been much stronger than in many European countries, aging parents and mothers in particular are now frequently complaining on social media about their inability to get their adult children to find a well-paid job, get married and finally move out of their parents’ house.

The children sometime don’t have much of a choice: the jobs are not nearly as easy to be found as they used to be, and those that are available don’t pay enough to support a family.

So the children usually get to stay in the “Mama Hoteru” for as long as they need to (and sometime much longer), until they are ready to launch their own career. But what options do recent graduates with a degree in languages have these days to launch their careers? Not many, unless they are ready to start slaving their lives away in underpaid jobs in the “translation industry” where they can mostly work either as project managers, or as “machine translation post-processors” for the greater profit and glory of the “translation industry”.

When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, there were quite a few jobs that I could and did choose from right after graduating with a degree in Japanese and English studies. My first job was working as a translator for a major news agency, and in the second one I was working as a research assistant at the Oriental Institute in Prague.

After I decided that I needed a radical change of scenery, it took me just a few weeks to find a job as a multilingual Visitor Services Representatives at the Convention and Visitors Bureau in San Francisco, and yet another radical change of scenery resulted in a job as a translator for an import-export company in Tokyo, until I finally launched my own translation business after my return from Japan to San Francisco more than 30 years ago.

Although all of these jobs were entry-level jobs that paid a relatively low salary, the jobs were there for language majors. The money I made was enough to live on while I was still single, and in each of these jobs I kept learning more and more about what I really wanted to do with my life, until I understood that what I wanted to do was to launch my own translation business and did that more than 31 years ago.

But what about the recent graduates with degrees in languages? What choices do they have?

After several decades of internecine price wars in the “translation industry”, so destructive both to translators and the quality of translations, during which translation work was outsourced by many translation agencies to several layers of what is now called back offices located in third world countries where translators are much cheaper than in Western countries, translators from Western countries with university degrees are now too expensive for the “translation industry”, even if they just finished their studies and are willing to work for what is not very much money, as I was all those years ago.

I saw somewhere on the internet that universities that teach linguistics and languages nowadays have in the curriculum seminars on “new occupations that do not exist yet” for students majoring in languages, such as post-processing of machine translation, which is described as a “promising career” for young graduates.

Wow! What a great career for a recent graduate with a PhD in linguistics!

After about two decades of mutually destructive price wars among agencies big and small in the “translation industry”, I think that had I been born four decades later and had I launched my translation business in the year 2018 instead of the year 1980, my amazing and daring adventures in the land of translation, which took me from Europe to America, than to Japan and then back again to America, would probably never come about.

Everything would be so much harder for me that I would most likely failed to launch a successful translation business and I would then have no choice but either to become an underpaid agency slave, (a fate worse than death), or to return to “Mama Hotel” to try to figure out my next move.

Oh, and as much as it pains me to say it, I am so glad that my sons did not follow their father’s example and chose a different career that has nothing to do with translation.

Posted by: patenttranslator | June 25, 2018

The Most Popular and the Most Hated Post on My Blog

Both the most popular and the most hated post (so far) on my silly blog are ironic pieces in which I am making fun of certain groups of people.

The most popular post so far, titled Translator’s Dementia, What It Is and How to Recognize the Signs, was viewed more than 10 thousand times during the first week when I put it on my blog, and then it was translated into several languages by translators whose native language is not English.

The group of people that I am making fun of in that ironic piece is called translators. For some reason, translators don’t mind being made fun of at all. They are more willing to laugh at themselves. In fact, they enjoy being made fun of in this manner, especially when they recognized themselves or their friends in my parody on the life of a translator.

There were many comments in the comment section, but most people were saying that they had a good laugh. There was some mild criticism in the comment section too, such as in this comment:”Thanks for describing my life. Could’ve been hilarious if it weren’t so sad.” But that is more a comment on the sad state of the status quo than anything else. During the six years since I published my post, the status quo of translators and interpreters has of course become much worse.

But it was a very different story with a post called Why Are All Language Interpreters Women, because the group of people that I was making fun of in that post is called women.

When you are a woman, you can make fun of men all you want. It is considered very, very cool and sexy when women make fun of men in our culture. But it is unspeakably despicable and in bad taste when a man is trying to make fun of women.

In all of the TV commercials featuring interactions between a man and a woman in which the actors play a husband and a wife that I was force-fed during the last forty years or so, the husband is always a somewhat stupid, or at the very least an uninformed and ignorant yahoo, who is at the end of the commercial illuminated about whatever it is that the commercial is pushing by a sharp, pretty and bright wife who is much smarter than the lemon she married. The viewer must wonder why she married such a dumb loser.

I have never seen a commercial in which the husband is a smart guy and the wife is a dumb female because obviously, there are no dumb females, only dumb males!

Have you? If so, please send me a Youtube link.

Although I was not saying anything about deaf people in my post at all since I was merely making fun of women interpreters in the most hated post that I dared to write, in the same manner that I used to make fun of all translators in my most popular post, in the comment section of my post which was clearly a parody, I was called nasty names like “an idiot” (by a man), many people told me that I was cruel to deaf people and should know better, and my friend Chris Durban told me that I should get out more and asked “what set me off to write that post”?

What “set me off” to write that parody was an article published by a researcher from the Syracuse University. I remember that the article said that something like 90% of sign language interpreters were women and that among the potential reasons why women are much more likely to choose this profession than men is greater empathy on the part of the women and the fact that women are usually more expected to help family members than men.

Unlike my silly post, the article by the Syracuse University researcher was not a parody; it was a scholarly study emphasizing positive characteristics that are commonly associated more with females than with males, such as their readiness to help people who need help.

Nevertheless, when I clicked on the link in my post to refresh my memory about the original article of the Syracuse University professor that “set me off” to write my parody, I discovered that the link now leads to the biography of a rather stern looking professor of feminist studies, introduced as a professor of gender studies, qualitative methodology, feminist studies, and social interaction”.  (You can check it out yourself by clicking on the link to my original post.

The article by the Syracuse University researcher has been disappeared as if it never existed, the way they did it with undesirable people in photos surrounding great leaders such as Joseph Stalin in the former Soviet Union.) Unfortunately, this is what modern feminism has become: it simply replaces facts that it considered inconvenient with politically correct propaganda.

Huh? I was surprised a little, but not too much. I did read George Orwell when was young and I remember what he said about rewriting of history:“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 

As a result of my parody, several of the biggest fans of my blog became my biggest enemies, spewing venom at me in comments and emails for several months, most of them female, until they finally gave up and hopefully stopped reading my posts.

I was told that what I said with tongue in cheek in the post was “sexist and degrading”, and that the article was not funny at all (although the post had 573 “Likes” on Facebook after its publication). So somebody must have liked the post.

The Facebook “Likes” are now reduced to only 26 because the original count was erased and replaced by a new, more recent count.

Every now and then, somebody discovers my most hated post on my silly blog and either likes it, or totally hates it and sends me a terribly serious comment, such as this one: “…I would appreciate you taking down that post considering there is no supporting evidence to your claim, and I do not want other interpreters to feel as offended as I was when I came across your article. You are not only insulting to Interpreters, but to women in general.

Well, I am sure that my post was insulting to some women …. but only to those who are so insecure that they can’t stand it when a man is making fun of women, since everybody knows that it’s supposed to be the other way round!

But judging from the reaction to my post, I think that some women actually had a good laugh, possibly because they recognized themselves in my parody, just like some men have a good laugh when they recognize themselves in a description of silly male behavior.

Posted by: patenttranslator | June 18, 2018

Click Here for Translation

“Everything has already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again.”
André Gide

Last week I was checking out locations and prices of hotels in a small town in Southern Bohemia. Well, 90,000 people is a relatively small town by American standards, but a pretty big town by Southern Bohemian standards, I’d say. But then again, a small town in Bohemia is still a town, while a big town like Los Angeles is not really a town but a hundred different towns, so we are really comparing apples and oranges.

I thought that the English description of the hotel’s rooms and facilities sounded a little funny, so I started looking for the now omnipresent “Click here for translation” button to find out what was the original description in Czech like.

And there it was, in the upper right corner, exactly where I expected it to be.

But the “Click here for translation” button of this little hotel, more of what is called a pension rather than a hotel really, had more than a dozen flags to indicate the languages in which translation was available: not just in German, French, Russian, and English as one would expect, but also in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Dutch, etc.

It was not surprising to me that when I clicked on the flag in a language I know, I saw that it was a machine translation rather than a real translation because there were mistakes in it. But when I clicked on the Czech flag, I saw that it was a machine translation too, not a text written by a real person.

The algorithms for machine translation can be designed to sound almost like a real translation for languages that have a relatively simple grammatical structure, such as English, which has no cases for nouns as do Slavic languages such as Czech, Russian, or Polish, and this is one reason is why machine translations from English into a Slavic language will be instantly recognizable already by the wrong case of the noun …. among many other things as well, of course, such as the wrong gender of the noun, or the iterative mode of a verb which should have been in a non-iterative mode based on the context.

For example, the correct translation of a very simple sentence in English, such as “The price includes breakfast” would be “Cena zahrnuje snídani”, but machine translation could easily butcher the result in Czech to “Cena zahrnuje snídaně”. Because there were so many mistakes like this in the Czech text, I saw that it could not have been written by a real person, it was a machine translation too.

So who wrote the original blurb on the hotel’s website if it was not the Czech owner of the small pension? I guess I will never know.

How can I find the original text if the website is in 16 languages? I guess I never will.

Most English speakers don’t realize that machine translations from and into complicated languages are much more difficult to design than machine translations from and into English.

We can see it all the time when we click on the “Click here for translation” button on Facebook for a language that we don’t know.

Even though I don’t speak Italian, I can usually figure out the meaning of the text if I click for example on Italian because I know French fairly well, and also because I have been studying Latin as a young lad for many years.

But if I click on a language that I don’t know and that is not related to another language that I know, for example on Arabic, the result is most of the time hilarious and completely incomprehensible nonsense.

We try to use technology to solve the problems of our civilization, and we think that it can be done in this way.

But maybe we are just fooling ourselves. It is also possible that the opposite is happening: instead of understanding each other better because we now have machine translation to communicate with people that we could not communicate with before since they speak a language that we don’t know, we understand less and less each other even in our own language because everything now looks more and more like a machine translation, and it’s not possible anymore to find out what the original was really about. The meaning gets lost and replaced by “alternative meanings” created by algorithms.

Few people notice, and nobody really cares.

Human translators are too expensive, so we don’t try too much to understand what things really mean. That is no longer very important.

Here is another example: this morning I gave a client an estimate for translating relatively small sections of several patents. All of the patents would translate into about seven or eight thousand words, the sections the client selected would translate into only about two thousand words.

There was no answer so far from the law firm to my modest cost estimate.

And here is what I think must have happened: the patent lawyer told the corporation that is his client in this case that there are important sections of the patent applications cited in opposition to a patent filed by the corporation, and that he just can’t figure out the meaning of these sections from free machine translation.

And because the corporation does not like to spend too much money on translations, the patent lawyer proposed an alternative: use human translation only for these vital sections to reduce the cost of human translation.

But the lawyer’s client is so used to the “Click here for translation button” that he told the lawyer that the company has no budget for human translation, even if it would be for a relatively small portion of the entire material.

Or maybe I must wait because the decision about the relatively minor expense related to human translation must be made by an important bean counter who is comfortably sitting at a higher corporate position?

As I’ve said above, because human translators are expensive, we don’t try too much to understand what things really mean. That is no longer very important.

In Algorithms We Trust.

Posted by: patenttranslator | June 3, 2018

So Many Jobs, None of Which Produces Anything or Makes Money

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

George Orwell, 1984

A striking but rarely mentioned feature of the present economic system in Western countries is the growth of parasitic jobs that do not produce anything other than profits for the industries that produce nothing.

A typical representative of a parasitic industry is the financial industry represented best by the Wall Street, which produces nothing but has its fingers in everything as long as major profits can be derived from everything and anything by the industry.

There are also many other industries that are parasitic and add no value, such as the private health insurance industry, which is largely responsible for the fact that healthcare in the United States is many times more expensive than in any other country and thus unavailable to tens of millions of people, or the marketing industry, which is responsible for addictive and dangerous drugs being peddled in countless commercials on our teevee to fight off fictional diseases helpfully manufactured for us by Big Pharma, and a slew of many other, relatively new industries.

This reminds me in fact of what was happening not so long ago in the division of labor in the economies of communist countries before these economies collapsed under the deadwood weight of so many useless parasites.

When I was a student working in construction for a few weeks on a summer job, I heard quite a few times people working in value producing parts of the economy, such as bricklayers, say to me:  “I have to work so hard because I am feeding ten useless bureaucrats.”

The incomes of the people on top of the hierarchy of largely parasitic and useless jobs have the potential of reaching stratospheric levels, unlike the incomes of the people who must work very hard to feed the insanely complicated job structure.

The logical result is, of course, that the incomes of the people whose jobs do create real value must be pushed lower and lower to make sure that the incomes of the people in the parasitic jobs can keep going higher and higher. And the result of that is the lower and lower quality of the product created by people who are still willing and able to work as translators in the structure of the corporate “translation industry.”

A phenomenon that can be now seen also in the growth of parasitic jobs in what is called the translation industry, and one reason for why the rates being now paid for translation to translators have been reduced so much in the last decade or two, is the fact that so many new job descriptions have been added by the “translation industry” to create the bloated configuration of the division of labor in the corporate type of translation agencies.

While less than a couple of decades ago, an agency was usually run by one or two persons, usually an agency owner who often was a translator himself, or at the most just a few people taking care of the customers, translators and accounting tasks, the new “translation industry” managed to squeeze many new jobs into its magnificent and munificent structure.

I see these jobs as largely parasitic and redundant constructs for one simple reason – these jobs may be useful for some purposes, but since they are performed by monolinguals, they cannot create value because value can be generally created in the translation field only by translating, i.e. by a translator, or by editing, which is to say by a bilingual editor who is familiar with the subject matter and who can catch typos, omissions, or (God forbid!) mistakes and errors.

None of the jobs newly created for monolingual managers provides any help in this respect.

An article published a few days ago in Slator by Esther Bond, a Research Analyst who describes herself as “a localization analyst, linguist and inquisitor, a London native”, in Slator, an internet publication defined on its website  as a publication that “makes business sense of the translation and language technology markets through news and insights on demand drivers, funding, talent moves, tech and more,” has recently revealed, the multifaceted, profoundly and delicately parasitic character of the so-called translation industry in a short article about more than 600 (!!!) job titles recently created by what are now called “LSPs” (née originally as translation agencies), which are used for an incredible multitude of people who work as non-translators for the “translation industry” and live off the work of what translation agencies now like to call “linguists”, or simply “vendors,” i.e. people who are engaged in the actual value creating and money-making activities, who not so long ago used to be called simply “translators” before they become “linguists”, or just “vendors.”

Here is a sample of the amazing array of job titles listed in the Slator article, which are used by the modern version of the “translation industry” for monolingual people who could not translate anything if their life depended on it and who therefore must live off the work of  the “vendors” and “linguists:”

Program Managers, Customer Success Managers, Project Management Mangers for Technology, Large Accounts Managers, Business Development Managers, Senior Localization Strategy Consultants, Strategic Account Executives, Vice Presidents for Sales, Chief Revenue Officers, Global Procurement Directors, Supplier Relations Managers, Area Sourcing Managers, Supply Chain Managers, Talent Program Managers ….

Slator notes that some among the 600 job titles used by what is called the translation industry are difficult to understand, such as the following creative job titles that are also popular in the “translation industry:”

Junior Full Stack Software Developer, Senior UX Designer, QA Automation Engineer, Associate Customer Support Engineer, or Sound Engineer….

The word “translator”, which originally described the essential profession in the translation business, as it is in fact the only profession that is required to operate a translation business, is kind of frowned upon in the modern version of the “translation industry” and it is not found much in job titles that the industry prefers to bestow on occupations that are much more important for its proper functioning at this point.

To me it is also interesting that the industry more and more prefers to describe itself not only as the “translation industry”, but also as the “language industry”, presumably because in addition to producing translations, it also creates language.

What will be its new description after the “language industry” title is found too constricting, I wonder?

Although I can only guess at the reasons for why the word “translator” is no longer used that much to describe the occupation that I have been performing for more than 30 years, with considerable commercial success and without the aid of the “translation industry”, I think that there must be a reason for this somewhat paradoxical disappearance of the word “translator” from the parlance used by the corporate type of translation agencies.

I think the reason why we translators have now become “vendors” in the jargon of the “translation industry” is an effort to redefine terms, so that new terms and job titles will be used in the industry to make the customers believe that translations are in reality created by the monolingual people working in the new, plentiful jobs that have been created by the industry for highly talented and very important monolinguals who now populate the industry, and not really by mere actual translators,

Translators are thus becoming the new “deplorables”, who may be still for the time being kind of needed, but whose job title may soon disappear completely, along with the jobs and job titles of people who used to work in occupations such as blacksmiths, lamplighters, switchboard operators, rat catchers, or Volga boatman haulers, pitiful humans who used to pull boats up the Volga River and who used to be called “burlaki” in Russian, who for some reason remind me so much of “post processors” of machine translations.

Once the connection between the words “translators” and “translations” has been severed and completely erased from the minds of customers who pay for the translations as a result of 600 new job titles created by the industry for its important monolingual managers, the word “translator” can be safely retired … provided that neither the translators nor the customers will realize what is going on and try to do something about it.

Fortunately for the “translation industry”, something like that is very, very unlikely.

Posted by: patenttranslator | May 30, 2018

The Future Is Unknowable

The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.

Winston Churchill

I read yesterday in the New York Times that yet another taxi driver, the fifth one in as many months, committed suicide in New York City because he had a huge debt and could not find enough work as a result of ride-sharing services. His body was found floating in the East River.

The taxi driver, who I thought had a Chinese name although it turned out that he was from Burma and who went by the name Kenny, had taken out a loan seven years ago to buy a $700,000 medallion that gave him the right to operate a cab.

Let me try now to rewind the video of my own life in my head back to 1987, the year when I started my translation business in San Francisco. My own initial investment into my new business when I decided that instead of being employee, I would start my own translation business, was about $2,000, which was what I needed to buy a new computer (with two “floppy disk drives”, no hard disk yet,) and a noisy, used dot matrix printer.

I remember that after I had daringly put the computer on my credit card as I had no income to speak of yet, it took me about half a year to pay the entire sum off. I had no customers and no idea how to go about finding them, but it was in not very difficult to find work back then. I simply went to a library, copied the lists of translation agencies in the “Translation and Interpreting” section published in the Yellow Pages in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, mailed out a few dozen résumés and within a few months I was making as much as or more than I did as an employee from various translation jobs obtained from the equivalent of the gig industry three decades ago.

Good timing is everything in life, whether you want to move to a different town, start a new business or a new family, and $2,000 is much easier to pay off than $700,000.

Fortunately for me, my timing was not bad three decades ago, unlike the timing of the poor taxi driver in New York, and I did not end up jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and floating in the San Francisco Bay.

But so much has changed for worse since then for people who want to start a new translation business now. Although a very good computer with a very good, perfectly quiet printer now costs less than $500, most other things that a new translator needs have changed for worse.

For one thing, translation agencies no longer even advertise in Yellow Pages. I got a new copy of Yellow Pages yesterday, it had a much smaller footprint than what it used to be even a decade ago, and there was not even the familiar heading there for Translation-Interpreting for Virginia Beach and adjacent areas with a population of more than a million.

And most of the agencies that operate on the internet nowadays are very different from what they used to be thirty years ago. Three decades ago, most agencies were run by former translators who knew other languages and specific subjects and understood what translation is all about and. These agency owners were interested in finding the best translators available in a given field because they understand that they were be putting their own reputation on the line based on the translators who work for them.

The people who were running translation agencies specializing in patents and technical translation back then were often multilingual engineers who themselves became translators, and because they enjoyed running an enterprise more than translating, they eventually started a translation agency and usually were very good and successful at that.

These were the translation agencies that I used to work for 30 years ago.

But that is so twentieth century now. If you now run a search for a specialized translation service on the internet, you will be immediately hit by promises of “patent translation services providing excellent translation quality for 10 cents a word for translations from and into 600 languages.”

Just about everything the generic translation agencies and often even agencies that claim to specialize in patent translation promise on their website is a damn lie. First of all, patents are obviously not filed in 600 languages. This is just some patent agency’s PR person’s idea of effective commercial propaganda, namely another stupid idea of a propagandist who does not know anything about languages, and who may be seriously underestimating the intelligence of his potential customers by simply pulling the number of 600 languages out of thin air.

In other words, this particular claim is just another of many fraudulent claims so typical of the commercial propaganda encountered on the websites of modern translation agencies (or “LSPs”.)

Although depending on how one defines the term “language”, more than 6,000 languages are spoken worldwide, and 1,652 languages are spoken in India alone according to data from Census of India, out of which only around 150 are considered official languages, patent applications can be filed in India simply either in Hindi or in English. So a couple of languages is all that is needed for this purpose in the huge Indian subcontinent.

If for contrast we now take a look at the country of Iceland with a small population and a language that is spoken by only some three hundred and fifty thousand people, we will discover that although patent applications can be filed in five different languages in the country of Iceland, namely in Icelandic, English, Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian, only the claims and an abstract must be submitted in Icelandic.

And although 23 official languages (and many more dialects) are spoken in the entire continent of Europe, according to data from the European Patent Office, the original regulations of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provided originally for publication in only five languages: English, French, German, Japanese, and Russian.

Since then, PCT Rule 48.3 has been amended to include Spanish (in 1985), Chinese (in 1994), and Arabic (in 2006) as additional languages of publication.

The PCT Assembly then also adopted with effect from January 1, 2009 an amendment to PCT Rule 48.3(a), which added two new languages of publication: Korean and Portuguese.

Incidentally, translation of claims and abstracts from a relatively small number of languages, including from English, into other languages, such as German and English, for publications of claims and abstracts according to PCT rules has been a busy field for my small and highly specialized operation: I have been doing this kind of work for several patent law firms in cooperation with excellent, experienced native patent translators for about 12 years now.

But I accept only languages that I myself can read and translate, not 600 (nonexistent) languages!

While the claim that a translation agency is translating patents from and into 600 languages is obviously a lie aimed at impressing gullible (and apparently not very smart) potential customers, the claim that this patent translation outfit is actually able to have its translations done at 10 cents a word is probably true, at least for some of the languages that an agency may be in fact able to handle at this rock bottom price.

Since the translation agencies typically keep at least a half of the 10 cents per word fee so proudly advertised, this means that the human translators who work for such translation agencies will be paid no more than about 5 cents a word, possibly less.

That the average output in terms of the number of words that a translator can translate per day is about 2,000 words. I myself can translate between 2,000 to 4,000 words. But it depends on the circumstances and I am probably faster than many patent translators because this is what I have been doing for more than 30 years. So a translator working for this agency could make about one hundred dollars per day, for quite a few hours of very intense, complicated and time-consuming work, on days when there is work.

And of course, there are likely to be days, perhaps many days, without work in the life of a freelance translator.

In other words, experienced and qualified translators would not be able to work for such translation agencies at all for economical reasons. Which is why I myself stopped translating patents for translation agencies well over a decade ago and now I translate patents only for direct clients.

So who translates the patents that experienced and qualified translators used to translate for translation agencies up until some 15 years ago? Although of course I don’t know the answer to this question, I can make an educated guess.

I think that most of these translations are in fact done by algorithms, so that the resulting detritus, (the result of the process in which a mathematical formula is used to match a text in a foreign language to a similar, but not identical text among billions of texts that have already been translated by thousands of human translators), is then looked over by somebody who would be willing to try to remove for about 1 cents per word the most glaring mistakes from the machine-translated text so that it would look like a real translation.

I happen to know that 1 cent a word is the going rate for post-processing of machine translations of patents because that was the fee offered to me by a translation agency some time ago.

If I was just about to start my professional career in technical translation right now, would I still headlesly jump into such a risky endeavor now as I did 30 years ago, or would I instead try to find a less risky and more lucrative line of work for myself?

I think I would probably still do it, but with one major caveat: from the very beginning, I would try to stay away from translation agencies. There is no point in helping them in their race to the bottom, both in terms of price and quality; in fact, if you really want to be a professional translator, helping them to do what they are doing now is tantamount to professional suicide.

I would now design my business from the start so as to be independent of the middlemen in what is now called the translation industry, by identifying, finding and working only for direct clients for my translations.

Although the future is and always has been unknowable, and even though there is so much flotsome and jetsome floating around in the immense reaches of the internet that is being sold by the “translation industry” as actual translation, or probably precisely because of that, there will always be a demand for accurate and elegant expert translations, not just in my field of patent translation, but in every field of human knowledge.

I believe that those of us who are able to specialize in one of the many demanding and exciting fields of human knowledge will still be able to make a good living, unlike the taxi driver in the article at the beginning of my post today.

But I also believe that unlike a few decades ago, we can now do so only if we avoid translation agencies and work only directly for the clients who are actually using our translations.

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