They live and translate among us. We pity them, we ridicule them, we fear them. But have you ever considered that you yourself may be one of them, that you too may be slowly becoming a zombie translator? Zombieism is a disease that is taking over body and soul slowly and in stages, and the one thing that all zombies have in common is that they don’t even know that they are zombies. That is why I took upon myself the sad but necessary task of compiling 10 signs of zombieism among translators, namely to help zombie translators in early stages of zombieism to recognize that they may be already afflicted with one or more symptoms of this dreadful plague.
Sign No. 1. If you translate into a language or languages that you don’t really know that well. It is not impossible to translate into your non-native language. But it is very difficult to do it well. St. Jerome, the patron saint of human translators, realized this simple fact 800 years ago, moved to Rome as a young man to learn Latin and started translating into Latin only after a few decades. By that time, his Latin was really good, and in some respect he probably knew it better than many native speakers of that language because he knew other languages as well. So if you want to translate into French and your native language is not French, move to France for a few decades before you start translating into that language. After all, France still has some good things to offer, such as cheese, bread, and wine. And so do a few other countries (I am using France only as an example). Remember, you can probably continue translating well into your eighties as St. Jerome did, so you should have plenty of time to translate into any language you pick once you have become truly fluent in that language.
Sign No. 2. If you translate from a language or languages that you don’t really know that well. This often means a language such as Chinese or Japanese, which takes decades to learn if you are not a native speaker of this language. The best thing to do again is move to the country where the language that you are interested in is spoken and live there for a few years, or at least study the language for several years first, if possible at a university. Preferably, you should both study your foreign language at a university and then live in a country where that foreign language is spoken. But zombie translators think that if they know a few hundred characters, they can already translate Chinese or Japanese, clearly because their brain no longer works properly.
Sign No. 3. If you translate subjects that you don’t really understand at all. Zombie translators typically specialize in anything and everything, from finances and economics to medicine and biochemistry, as well as nuclear reactor safety procedures and oil rig blowout prevention manuals. Since they don’t know anything about anything, they don’t even realize that you have to know something first before you can become a translator.
Sign No. 4. If you use Trados although nobody is forcing you to do so and you actually like it. You just spent 800 dollars for that? And you will have to buy “an upgrade” next year so that translation agencies could then pay you 50% less for “fuzzy matches” and 85% less for “full matches”? Obviously, this is more than your typical case of masochism. Something terrible must have happened to you and you can no longer trust your brain. Zombieism is slowly beginning to seep into your blood and soon it will take over your body and soul.
Sign No. 5. If you translate or say that you can translate more than 10 thousand words a day because you know how to use expertly Trados or another CAT tool. A human translator can barely proofread 10 thousand words, let alone translate such a huge chunk of text in a single day. The CAT is in your brain and in your blood now and you have become a member of the zombie tribe. That is why you don’t even realize that what you call a translation is a CAT-processed detritus.
Sign No. 6. If you blithely translate everything with Google Translate, Microsoft Translator or another machine translation tool and then try to “edit it” and claim that it is a translation. Human translators use machine translations just like any other resource, such as dictionaries. Zombies think that machine translation can be actually edited so that it would look like a real translation.
Sign No. 7. If you buy lists of translation agencies from peddlers of expensive and useless lists and send your resume to hundreds or thousands of agencies who absolutely don’t want to hear from zombies like you. It is one thing to send your resume to agencies who have a link on their websites for resumes from translators. But to pay for expensive and useless lists that zombie translators buy from peddlers of expensive and useless lists, and then send your particulars to thousands of companies who detest having to delete hundreds of resumes from zombies like you from their e-mail is another telling sign that your brain has been turned to zombie mush. I understand that a new service is available now that will send zombie resumes for a fee to as many translation agencies that don’t want to receive them as possible, so that zombie translators can concentrate on doing whatever it is that zombie translators do in their spare time.
Sign No. 8. If you firmly believe that Google Translate or another machine translation tool will soon make human translators redundant. It is one thing to believe something like that if you are not a translator. Non-translators, also known as civilians, are entitled to believe anything they want. Since they don’t know anything about translation, they have every right to firmly believe that human translators will be soon rendered unnecessary, just like children have every right to believe that a magician can conjure a rabbit out of his hat because they just saw him do that with their own eyes. Adults understand how these magic tricks work, and translators understand how machine translation works. But zombie translators don’t understand much about anything as I already said.
Sign No. 9. If you your resume emphasizes that you have “high-speed Internet” as a major strength of yours. As opposed to what, “low-speed Internet”? Nobody is using dial-up anymore. Everybody and their grandmother has been using “high-speed Internet” for more than a decade, but zombie translators have not realized it yet.
Sign No. 10. If you are willing to wait 60 to 90 days or even longer to be paid for what you call translation. Zombies can survive for extended periods of time without any food at all, until they finally find some nourishment, usually in the form of dead bodies. Zombie translators can wait for as long as it takes to get paid, because unlike human translators, zombies can survive on a few dollars a day as the undead don’t seem to have bills that must be paid within a couple of weeks.
As I have been lurking on various online discussion groups of translators, I realized that there are some signs of zombieism that I did not include in my list of zombie translator signs and symptoms. I am adding one more such a sign for the moment below, and I am open to other suggestions.
Sign No. 11. If you bill the client much less than what was originally agreed upon in order to ingratiate yourself to the client, for instance by giving a huge discount for “repetitions”, although such a discount is not really warranted, you are probably a zombie translator. This is similar to what is called “Stockholm syndrome”, a psychological status occurring in hostages who eagerly identify with the interests of their captors. It is in the interest of the translator to earn a decent living, but zombie translators suffering from the translator’s version of Stockholm syndrome typically don’t understand this simple truth.