Posted by: patenttranslator | September 18, 2012

My Sincere Appeal To Zombie Translators – Start Finally Using Your Brain!

The new twist on the relatively recent avalanche of spam from unfortunate beings who seem to be neither dead nor fully alive, which is why I started calling them zombie translators in this post, spam that I have to keep deleting from my e-mail every few hours, is that a large percentage of them now contains in addition to same wording of the subject line “Perfect Translation Skills Available” also the following moronic sentence:

“My goal has always been to dexterously convey the message in the target language with honesty and precision while maintaining a reader-friendly style that lends itself to the topic at hand. Nothing is untranslatable. Skill-backed experience is the name of the game. Plus, a translator’s personal touch is what makes all the difference”.

Listen  up, zombie translators? Is it possible that it really never occured to you that if this sentence, which was clearly written by a commercial propaganda specialist (called marketing professional in our degraded culture) who knows nothing about translation, is used by more than one or two people, it could lose its magic power?

The only message that you are so dexterously conveying when you buy a database with a questionable list of translation agencies from some unscrupulous salesman who is selling refrigerators to Eskimos, and then send to each of them the same moronic sentence, is that you are a zombie incapable of a single independent thought.

True, if you send thousands of spam e-mails like this, and unsolicited e-mail is the definition of spam, to unverified e-mail addresses, a tiny percentage of you may in fact find a translation project that needs to be done very quickly at an extremely low rate, although you would have a much better chance that your e-mail will be in fact read if you sent information  about your services (without copying the nonsense above) only to translation agencies who encourage on their websites translators to send them their résumés.

This may be a partial solution for you in the short term. But in the long term, it is a curse when you are still locked into this kind of zombie world because you will never make enough money to be able to pay your bills if you are locked into this market segment.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs:”THINK DIFFERENT-LY!”

You have to start thinking outside of the zombie box that is full of simple, one-size-fits-all solutions to all of your problems for 50 or 100 Euros.

First of all, I don’t know how to break it to you gently, but I am convinced that most of you are not translator material at all. Hopefully you have other talents and skills, but you will never be real translators. In my book you are not even subprime translators, a category on a higher level that is distinctly different from zombies like you as I write in this post.

There are other jobs out there for people who are partially bilingual or partially multilingual, as long as they still have a pulse. Perhaps you can find a job as a “multilingual customer services representative”. It’s not such a bad job! I did it myself for the first three years after I emigrated to United States three decades ago.

There must be other jobs like that out there.

But if you are truly determined to become a translator and this zombie disease is only a passing stage of a curable disease … you have to stop thinking and acting like a zombie translator.

The name of the game is using your brain for thinking on your own, not mindlessly imitating what thousands of other zombie translators are doing.

Snap out of your zombie trance and open your eyes!

Who would be your end customers? How can you find them or how can you make sure that they will find you?

Different people will have different answers to these questions and different strategies.

Maybe you need to join a club of budding or established translators, such as your local association of translators. For example I understand that they will have sessions at the American Translators Conference this year about how to work for direct customers, and some experienced translators sell online courses on the same subject.

Maybe you yourself can put together a local group of translators.

Maybe you need to have a website or at least a blog aimed at your potential customers. It costs time and money to design and maintain a professional website, and a lot of time to write an entertaining blog, but how else are they going to find you?

Or maybe you need to start mingling with your potential customers, or even learn how to “cold-call” (although I could never bring myself to do that).

There are many things that you could be doing. What they all have in common is that they require a lot of effort and at least to some extent thinking out of the box.

If you want to stop being zombies, the first thing you have to do is to start thinking outside of the zombie box and leave the “dexterous”, “skill-based, “personal touch” to massage parlors.


  1. ‘You have to stop thinking outside of the zombie box’

    And you have to doublechek your posts before publishing them otherwise the zombies will get even more confused 😉

    I think it’s not the first time something like this happens – do you do it on purpose, to see if we’re paying attention and keep us on our toes?

    Thanks for all the great posts – and music!


  2. Thanks for your comment, it’s fixed now.

    No, I don’t do it on purpose – the problem is that I usually publish my posts in the morning while I am listening at the same time to a TV talk show if they have an interesting topic (C-span), and I miss typos that I then try to fix later after the post has been published.

    It’s a nasty habit and I should probably try to do something about it … like concentrate on one thing at a time.

    Thanks again for the correction!


    • I was just kidding. Besides, translation is all about multi-tasking so carry on and keep up the good work!

      We’re the ones who should thank you.


  3. […] Snap out of your zombie trance and open your eyes! Who would be your end customers? How can you find them or how can you make sure that they will find you?  […]


  4. I have been observing a statistical shift in countries/languages that these zombie translators send their unsolicited emails from or claim their skills in, respectively. Last week, I received one email per day, at least, only from China/for translating into Chinese, simplified or not. But occasionally, there also come emails which are more sophisticated. You probably also received an emai starting with: “Wait, wait please, don’t do it now: don’t press the “Delete” button – not yet. I know, you receive tons of spam and unsolicited résumés/CVs every day. But this one is different.” For the time being, it is outside of the box, but for how long?


  5. I don’t recall this particular one, although I do receive a lot of junk e-mails from zombie translators in China and other countries, including Germany.

    This new, revolutionary idea for zombie spam will probably start appearing in my e-mail pretty soon too.


  6. Don’t worry about typos; keep up your stream-of-consciousness posts, they are informative and fun.

    one of your older lady admirers who proposed marriage way back when 🙂


  7. “one of your older lady admirers who proposed marriage way back when :-)”

    That ship has sailed 28 years ago and it ain’t coming back. What a beautiful idiom. I think exists only in English because English is a language of seafarers.

    But thanks for your moral support, Elisabeth.

    My son will be bumming around Europe on a railpass in October and he and his friend will stop also in Rome. Could you perhaps steer them to inexpensive accommodations and non-touristy places of interest?

    Or maybe you know somebody who could do that? If so, could you please send me a private e-mail through my website at


  8. Convey dexterously? Delicious! I’ll have to use that in my next batch of e-mails for translation agencies. In fact, I think I will copy the entire paragraph and save myself some hassle. 🙂

    Seriously, though, I think that the problem stems mostly from the common fallacy that ours is a very accessible trade with virtually no initial investment (time or money wise) – you just need a computer, an online dictionary or some free CAT tool and you are ready to go. I work for a law firm (and meddle with fiction in the evenings), and it took me some considerable time to convince my colleagues that a translator is not just some kind of automaton that simply remembers two sets of words and then presses the buttons to convert the text from one column to the other. It was not until I started giving classes about legal, accounting, financial and other professional varieties of English that they began to pay attention. And I work for people who are intelligent and think rather carefully about their language. For the common crowd, a translator is just a clever monkey, which is why zombie translators are so confident when sending their carefully-copied unsolicited e-mails.


  9. “For the common crowd, a translator is just a clever monkey”

    True, but that’s partly because the common crowd has no idea how much some of the clever monkeys can make, without having a boss, and without having to commute 45 minutes to a job that can disappear with the next wave of downsizing.

    As the Chinese legend about the Monkey King explains, you may be much better off as a clever monkey than as a stupid human.


    • Well, yes, you are right, but that is a slightly different matter, I think.

      BTW, I used to work as a free-lance translator for 15 years. I joined a law firm on the assumption that the most interesting texts are never outsourced to outsiders for confidentiality reasons, and I am glad that I did, because I was right and it helped me professionally more than I had expected.


  10. I just steered one such zombie translator toward this article, hoping it will bring him some enlightenment. Great topic, and great article. Thanks!


  11. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Many thanks


  12. You are being pummelled with mails from fake translators. Lines like “I am honored to enlighten you with my great passion for being in your service 24 hours a day” stem from scammers in the Middle East who download cvs from real translators, modify them a little, add a different e-mail address ( and send them to agencies by the thousands.


  13. […] who cannot translate competently – I keep coming up with new names for then such as “subprime translators”, “rogue translators” and “zombie translators&#8…, because I am about as fond of them as I am of the captains of the so-called translation industry […]


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