Every now and then somebody posts a link to an old article from my blog somewhere on a discussion forum and resurrects it for a while in this manner. I am grateful to these reposters because I obviously want people to think about the things that I am saying, crazy as they may seem sometime. The last one, linked on Proz, was my post called Are Translation Agencies Really LSPs (Language Service Providers) or LSRs (Language Services Resellers?) which was posted by Michelle Kusuda (thank you, Michelle).
|I said in that post among other things the following:“Translation agencies purchase translations from translators and then sell them to direct clients. Ergo, translation agencies are not the providers of translation services either, they are resellers of translations that were already sold once to them by the translators. Perhaps a more honest abbreviation for a translation agency would be an LSR – Language Service Reseller, and the abbreviation LSP should be reserved only for translators who actually provide the translation service, which is often, but not always, sold first to an agency, and then resold by the agency to a direct client.” Somewhat to my surprise, most commenters on this Proz forum expressed mostly negative feelings about my post, which is now more than a year old. One translator called it “boring” and added: “I fail to see anything new or exciting in this”. Another one said: “I found it boring, too. We are all different, and there will always be different ways of assessing what is interesting and what isn’t.
I read the article and yawned a lot along the way. To be frank – who really cares about the LSP designation? As you say, only very few people know what it means, and those of us who do know what it means, don’t need to have a stupid made-up abbreviation that encompasses both agencies and translators. Let the agencies have the ‘title’. I sure don’t want it. I’m a translator, for goodness sake.”
It is true that a rose by any other name would still be a rose. As Juliet says to Romeo: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. But Juliet really said it because she had a big problem with Romeo’s last name, and since that problem with a name at the end of the play caused both Juliet and Romeo to commit suicide, at the end of the play the audience finds out how important names are.
Like Shakespeare, I too think that names are important. If an agency is the real Language Service Provider (LSP), than what is the translator who actually translated the damn thing from or into another language? Since translators are never referred to as Language Service Providers (LSPs) in the translation industry jargon (which nobody outside of the industry understands), although I was told that originally both translators and translation agencies were supposed to be called LSPs, they are nobodies.
They don’t really exist. They are doomed to remain invisible, forever and ever, as befits the proverbial role of an “invisible translator”.
Or if they do exist at all, they exist merely as little, unimportant and nameless hamsters busily pushing the wheel of the Translation Industry in their little cages to higher and higher speeds in the hope that peanuts will be thrown to them after a while so that they would have the strength for some more pushing of the profit wheel when the next translation needs to be done by a nameless, tireless, invisible hamster.
But it so happens that the world is not neatly divided between invisible translators and highly visible translation agencies. Some translators, many, in fact, are also translation agencies. I am one of them, which is one reason why I prefer to stay visible.
And there also used to be and perhaps still is a business model called “translation company”, as opposed to “translation agency”. I remember that when I referred to a business entity called Polyglot as “a translation agency” during a meeting of translators in San Francisco in the nineties, the owner of the company took offense at the designation and corrected me by saying: “We are a translation company, not a translation agency”. By that he meant that he was employing people who were commuting to Polyglot offices to translate there and be paid depending on their daily output.
I wonder whether this translation business model is still surviving and what would be a fitting acronym for it. Perhaps a “TC” would suffice?
Names are important. Had Romeo’s last name been Capulet instead of Montague, Shakespeare would have had to completely rewrite his play (and he would probably like it about as much as a translator would like having to rewrite a translation).
Names are important. And so are abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. Remember how the American singer Prince in the nineties changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol (which he dubbed “love symbol”) because he was mad at what he perceived as exploitation by Sony Records, and every DJ on every radio station had to start calling him “the artist formerly known as Prince”?
You can get mad and force the whole world to start calling you by a different name, no matter how absurd your demand is. But only if you care about names, and if you know how to get mad.
To make sure that this post is not too boring, I think it’s about time I ended it somehow because long posts are always boring.
So I will end by saying that I happen to know that unlike some translators on the Proz forum, quite a few people found my old post about the strange story of the acronym LSP and my suggested acronym LSR at least somewhat interesting. As of today, it has more than 1,000 views and 25 people tweeted it, which is a fairly good average as far as my posts go, although it lags far behind some of my best posts so far, such as Translator’s Dementia which already had more than 11,000 views and over 1,700 likes on Facebook.