Posted by: patenttranslator | January 6, 2012

Ten Things Mad Patent Translator Didn’t Like in 2011 and Still Doesn’t Like in 2012

1.         I don’t like it when people who don’t know me call me Steve.

I switched from T-Mobile to Verizon because customer support kept referring to me by my first name. What’s next? Are they going to start calling me “boy”?

Since there is really no difference between the services provided and rates charged by wireless carriers in US (which used to be called collusion, price fixing and monopoly, namely something that is illegal and that used to be prosecuted when corporations still had to pay attention to little details like laws and regulations in the United States), they’d better be polite to me or I will keep switching carriers as long as there are at least two of them left.

2.         I don’t like it when translation agencies call me “vendor”.

Don’t they know that I am a translator? It is one thing if a law firm’s accounting department calls me a “vendor”. Lots of businesses sell services to law firms. For instance businesses providing blood spatter pattern analysis sell their services to law firms specializing in criminal law, along with translators. I don’t mind if law firms call me  a “vendor”. But translation agencies buy only one commodity – translation, because that is what they sell, based on the revolutionary and extremely ingenious principle that when you buy translation low and sell it high, you can make mucho dinero.

If you are an agency and you want me to work for you, don’t call me Steve until we get to know each other better. And don’t call me a “vendor” either. Didn’t your mother teach you that politeness costs nothing and it can get you everything?

3.         I don’t like it when translation agencies lie to me.

They don’t realize that they can be very easily caught if they lie to translators because we have blogs and we talk to each other ……. constantly. For instance, I was working on a project at a reduced rate for a while for one agency. The guy who initially wanted me to accept an even lower rate eventually agreed to what I asked for, which was still a discount on my part, and then said “You are the only translator who can get this rate from us on this project”.

But another Japanese translator who was working on the same project told me that he was told the same thing by the same guy. So it was obviously a lie. I stopped working for this agency last year. They were just too greedy and too stupid. Don’t they know that it is not a good idea to lie unless you absolutely have to because you can get caught?

4.         I don’t like it when “translation auctions” masquerading as real jobs are sent to a bunch of translators called “team members” so that they could keep underbidding each other.

It is one thing when somebody finds my websites and sends out of the blue an inquiry to me and a number of other translators. But I refuse to participate in translation auctions of an agency that I have been working for for years. This is just a ploy designed to make me lower my rates, which is why I don’t respond to demands for price and turnaround time quotes sent en masse to all “team members”.

I am not really a team member. I work for myself. I will try to fit your job in if I have time and if you can pay my rate, but that’s about it. The last time I participated in an auction was when I bought a used Ford Taurus station wagon in Napa, California, because it looked like a really good deal. But counting the money I had to spend on repairs, it was a really bad deal.

5.         I don’t like it if I am not paid for my work within about 30 days.

Even 30 days is a long time to wait for my money. I can stretch it to about 40 days, but if you take longer than that, I will drop you like a hot potato if you are a translation agency, and I will raise my rates to you if you are a corporation.

I understand that it may be difficult to change accounting terms and conditions in a big corporation. But the big corporation (or a small law firm) must understand that they have to pay me more if they let me wait longer because time is money. It’s not personal, it’s business.

6.         I don’t like it when somebody wants me to translate something “today”.

As in “It’s only a few hundred words but we would need it this afternoon”. Sure, I could do it today if it is only a few hundred words and I am not working on a rush translation. But don’t people know that I have a life too, or am trying to have one, even though I am only a lowly translator? I’d like to finish the mystery novel I am reading first because I am pretty sure I know who the real killer is, and then I need to walk my dog for thirty minutes. Unlike your translation, she can’t wait! When you got to go, you got to go!

Unless you give me at least two days, I will charge you a really high rate because you are trying to prevent me from living a normal life that is meaningful to me and my dog.

7.         I don’t like it when one long translation is split between several translators.

I understand that this is sometime inevitable, but I try not to participates in such projects because it is usually a recipe for a disaster. It is basically impossible to make sure that the translation will make sense when you have 3 or 4 or 5 or more cooks cooking the same meal, each with different ingredients and based on different techniques.

I usually say no to such jobs. I am just trying to stay out of trouble.

8.         I don’t like long “Confidentiality Agreements” designed to turn me into a slave.

I mean the word “slave” literally. If I agree that the agency does not need to pay for my work if it deems my translation inadequate and that I am responsible for “reasonable attorney fees” should a translation agency decide in its infinite wisdom to sue me, I am not an independent contractor, I am a slave.

Since translation agencies keep making these agreements longer and more demeaning, I don’t really work for agencies much anymore. Instead, I am becoming a translator/agency hybrid. I have never sent any agreement to translators who work for me, unless the client demanded that I do so, in which case I send a Confidentiality Agreement that really is only a Confidentiality Agreement.

9.         I don’t like it when somebody is interested more in my software than in my experience and qualifications.

My software is MS Word. That’s it. I don’t use Trados or any other CATs or DOGs. Hence, I don’t give discounts for fuzzy matches as I strive to achieve a perfect match each and every time. If you don’t like it, find yourself another translator. There must be a zillion translators out there who have been translating Japanese patents for 25 years, just like this mad patent translator.

Good luck to you!

10.       I don’t like it when people have absolutely no idea what I am talking about when they ask me what do I do for living and I tell them that I am a translator. Dozens of people told me over the years that I should move to New York because I could work there for United Nations as a translator.

And also that I will be out of work very soon because machine translation will soon replace human translators. I used to try to explain things to non-translators, but I pretty much gave up on them. I mostly just smile now in response to their inane comments. But I still don’t like it. And when they then ask how many languages do I speak, my standard answer now is “I can fake very convincingly seven languages”, which is in fact true.

That at least gets me a smile from them too and it usually stops any further inquiring about my profession, which, as everybody knows, will soon disappear because all translation will be done by computers running MT software within a year or two.


  1. Bravo, Mr. Vitek!


  2. Perfect!


  3. Hvala, Paula.


  4. Vielen dank, Harald.


  5. For those ignorant non-translators, the best policy is to smile and politely ask them if they have better things to do than raising stupid questions to work-loaded translators. Translator knows translator best. Good for you, Mr.Vitek!


    Simon aus Mainland China


  6. I find it only somewhat amusing that you dislike being called Steve by people who do not know you. We womenfolk have had to put up with this “practice” forever, and I have given up explaining why my dentist, for example, “gets away with” calling me Ricky even though he is at least 30 years my junior and everyone, including me, calls him Dr Miyasaki. I may at last cease doing that, wondering what a stir it will/would cause.

    Now then, be careful with “boy.” I have yet to meet a single “foreigner” (sorry), however fluent in English he or she may be, who “feels” the difference. There is not even the most remote comparison between calling you by your first name and using “boy.” To quote a drug dealer now in federal prison, “Don’ git me es-tart!”


    • “I find it only somewhat amusing that you dislike being called Steve by people who do not know you.”

      That’s because in spite of your last name you are 100% American, and I am still about 45% Czech, and probably will be for as long as I live.

      “There is not even the most remote comparison between calling you by your first name and using “boy.”

      That’s why I used it. To make a point.

      And it worked.


  7. Love it, especially the frog at the end! Přeji hodně úspěchů v roce 2012. A zase brzy něco napište, moc pěkně se to čte.


  8. Thank you and the same to you.

    I spent many evenings watching the sunset on the benches in front of Letohradek Hvezda (the theme picture of your website), who in the last moment chickened out and refused to go with me to America.

    One of the consequences of her decision is that tomorrow I will have shabu-shabu for lunch instead of vepro, knedlo, zelo, as my wife just asked me whether I want sukiyaki or shabu-shabu for lunch tomorrow.


  9. More flogging the dead horse: However 100-percent you may believe I am, I didn’t grow up in a world that used first names virtually automatically. I don’t like it either, but good luck.

    You really don’t get it about “boy,” whatever your purpose or point.


    • I am Slavic, which means that unlike most native English speakers, I know the origin of the word “Slavic”.


  10. Great post! I couldn’t agree more with point No 9…


  11. I’m one of these LSP that send out 10 page slave agreements. But believe me if I tell you that we don’t like to do it either. First, it’s a massive bureaucratic hassle, it was very expensive to have it written and really nobody likes to sign these things. But we promise confidentiality to all our clients by default and most of them make us sign their agreements anyway. We had cases where translators put up example translations and client names on their website without our permission. You can imagine how happy the client was after he found out… And no, those were not some amateur backwoods translators.

    We are not using Trados to save 5 cents on a few fuzzy matches, but to be able to translate different file formats. Lots of clients send XML, InDesign, HTML, etc. formats. And those are normally the massive projects….

    It’s difficult world 🙂


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