I mean, if you are a lawyer, doctor or dentist, at least you have to go to school first for many years before you can start practicing your profession. That is what we translators call a “conditio sine qua non” for these professions.
But if you are a translator, you apparently don’t need to go any school. You just need to have a pulse and say that you can translate to become a patent translator as I write in this post. As far as I know, if you want to become for example a translator who is certified by the American Translators Association, all you have to do is pass a written translation test which takes about a couple of hours, and they will certify you. We don’t need no stinking badges (diplomas) for that! I was told repeatedly on this blog that even a machine translation from Portuguese to English passed this test.
So the way I see it, you could be a fake even if you have the ATA certification, or accreditation or whatever it is called these days.
In most European countries, especially in German speaking countries and other countries in what used to be called Mitteleuropa, you actually do need to have a diploma in translation if you want to practice our ancient profession, which is almost as old as the world’s oldest profession.
But here in the Wild West, you just have to pay your local City Hall a yearly fee of 50 dollars for a “miscellaneous business license”, more only if your gross income exceeds a hundred thousand dollars, and you’re in business.
So obviously, many people who call themselves translators could be potentially fakes. And some probably are. What if I am a fake too? ….. I am asking myself many a sleepless night. (Well, not really, but it is a good topic for a short blog post).
This feeling of being a potential fake is something that people in many professions are quite familiar with, especially people in creative professions such as writers or actors, often the really famous and successful ones. Success and fame is really no guarantee of genuineness, not in this world of ours, which is probably the only one there is.
And if somebody should say about you something like “this translation is no good, the translator must be incompetent”, there is really nothing that anyone can do about it.
On the other hand, the evidence that you are in fact who you say you are is not really that difficult to find. The evidence is in the envelope that somehow magically finds its way into your mailbox, usually after quite a few weeks.
If you open the envelope and it contains a check with your name on it for hundreds or thousands of dollars, the way I see it, you must be the real thing, especially considering that free machine translation is easily available already and has been for quite some time.
Although we are constantly being told by corporate propaganda that machine translation is already “almost as good” as human translation, if people pay you all this money for something that can be had for free, those people who keep sending you the checks for your translations, month after month and year after year, either must be complete lunatics, or you must be the real thing.
However, just like an actor is only as good as his last role, a writer as his last book, and a singer as his last song, a translator is only as good as his last translation.
In a way it is kind of sad that we can only determine who and what we are based on how much people are willing to pay for our work, but at least we translators do honest work, unlike people in many other professions that I can think of who are usually paid much more than translators.