I know what I am talking about because every day I am attacked by dozens of Zombie Translators.
So far they have not attacked me personally, otherwise I would not be here to write about it. At this point, they seem to be content with their daily, unrelenting assaults on my e-mail box. But I wonder, how long can it be before the Zombie Translators start appearing at my doorstep?
How can one tell a Zombie Translator from a real one? For one thing, their résumés clearly show that they are not really translators. They think they can translate another language into English but their “English” is clearly the language of the Undead, not the kind of language that normal living people would use. I am pretty sure that most of them probably don’t understand the languages from which they want to translate very well either.
The sudden outbreak of the Zombie Translator pandemic is relatively recent. It started about 2 or 3 months ago when all of a sudden dozens of unsolicited résumés with the heading “Perfect Translation Skills Available” or a variation thereof began appearing in my e-mail. A real translator would know that his or her skills are not perfect and that there is no such thing as a perfect translation. Michelangelo knew that his paintings were not perfect. But Zombie Translators have no problem calling themselves “perfect”. That is because, tragically, Zombie Translators live in their own Zombie world in which they are indeed “perfect” in their distorted version of reality.
A couple of years ago I wrote a post on this blog about a phenomenon that I called “Subprime Translators“. Now, Subprime Translators should not be confused with Zombie Translators. There is a big difference between these two types of would-be translators. Subprime Translators are real, living human beings such as recent college graduates who have some translation skills and who may become real translators at some point. I was a Subprime Translator once too about 30 years ago.
However, it is impossible for Zombie Translators to become real translators because, sadly, they are the Undead without realizing it.
Undead Translators only think that they can translate, just like Zombies think that they are alive, although as the (Undead) variation of their name suggests, they are not really dead either.
And just like regular Zombies, Zombie Translators are usually very hungry.
So how do Zombie Translators find nourishment and sustenance in a horrible economy so that they could continue to “live” if we want to call it that? I am just guessing here because as mentioned above, so far they have not been appearing at my doorstep (knock on wood), and I have never had a conversation with them because I am too scared of them to reply to their e-mails, but I think that there must be a translation market segment that they are servicing. It is probably the market segment that is just one step above free translation, namely machine translation.
There must be customers out there willing to pay Zombie Translators for their “translations”, because what Zombie Translators produce is probably still for the most part usually slightly better than machine translation. My guess would be that Zombie Translators are paid between 1 to 4 cents per word, some possibly even slightly more. Unlike machines producing translations, Zombie Translators still do have brains, which is why the numerous mistakes that they make are usually less serious than what comes out from the silicon “brain” of a machine.
It should not be really surprising that Zombies are still in many respects superior to machines. For example, a Zombie who is in a relatively good shape can perform even complicated operations such as driving a car, while even the most sophisticated modern robots can’t do that yet. Robotics engineers are loath to admit it, but the fact is that the zombie-car interface works is at this point much better than the machine-car interface. The zombie-car interface works about as well as the drunk man-car interface, sometime even better because most Zombies don’t drive very fast as they are aware of their limitations.
Zombie Translators probably find nourishment and sustenance on so called online translation venues where they mercilessly compete against legions of other Zombie Translators as well as against many Subprime Translators for scraps of work that pays just slightly more than machine translations, which as I said are free. Many of them probably also work for translation agencies located in third world countries who pay incredibly low rates, low even by the standards of a typical translation agency.
Since I started writing this post, 2 new resumes from Zombie Translators appeared in my mailbox. (I check my e-mail frequently because like most translators, I suffer from the compulsive e-mail checking disorder).
I do hope that this sudden epidemic of Zombies with perfect translation skills will come to an end at some point. My hope is that these poor creatures will at some point get other jobs not requiring much if any translating, because that is the only thing that I can think of that would put them out of their misery, so to speak, while still making it possible for them to earn a living and live a semblance of a real life.
But in this horrible economy, it is probably just wishful thinking.