Journalist: “What do you think of Western civilization?”
Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.”
The problem with the translating profession is that it is not really a profession, in part thanks to at least a few hundred thousand if not a few million self-deluded “linguists” on this planet who think that they are qualified to translate …. just about anything.
I receive dozens of often hilarious e-mails from these poor people who want to work for me every day. Their e-mails in fact represent the second largest source of spam for me in terms of quantity, after spam messages from Brazil. (Because I translate from French and still remember a lot of Latin, I have in fact learned a great deal of Portuguese during the last few months as I have to quickly scan the headings of the messages offering anything from educational and motivational videos to Mr. Rabbit vibrators to make sure that I don’t delete something important).
Here is another pearl from a “highly experienced translator” that I found in my mailbox today:
The inspired heading of this e-mail said:”I am Good Freelance Translator Specializing In All Types of Translation”.
“I am a highly experienced, versatile and resourceful Senior Translator with a sound scientific background. A very passionate and tenacious language professional, goal-oriented, with an unwavering positive attitude, a strong spirit of team work, and strictly respectful of dead lines.”
It’s good to be respectful of lines of dead, I’ll give him that. But then, shouldn’t he be looking for a job as an undertaker, preferably using his native language? I hear the salaries are pretty good in that line of work, especially if you are the respectful kind of person.
Translating, on the other hand, is mostly about the lines that still have some life in them.
Of course, other professions are also diluted and polluted by people deluded enough to think that they are eminently, imminently and prominently qualified to join a certain profession, usually because they have no idea what the profession is really about.
Teachers, for instance. Because so many people think that anybody can teach, many people who simply do not have this certain je ne sais quoi that all good teachers need to have often apply for and often do get a teaching job, only to cause havoc in classroom instead of educating and expanding young, inquisitive minds.
It takes a special kind of talent to be a good teacher, as well as the right kind of education, a lot of experience and a lot of dedication to the mission.
But if you want to be a teacher, at least there are certain objective criteria that can be objectively evaluated when somebody is applying for a teaching job.
The applicant would need to have a college degree in the relevant field, including courses in something that in Europe they call “pedagogy”.
No such objective criteria exist for people who say that they are “linguists” in the United States of America.
In other parts of the world, the situation is a little bit better. In most European countries and many countries in Latin America, for example, you do need to have a translation degree in the relevant language combination if you want to be officially registered as a translator. And without being registered, you may have trouble finding clients.
But North America is still the Wild West when it comes to qualifications for the translating profession.
If you say that you are a translator, you are a translator. Registration with the City Hall costs 50 dollars a year and nobody will ask for your credentials. As the City Hall has no particular category for the translating occupation, your occupation will be listed on your license, to be renewed every year, under “Special Services”.
Case in point: last month I gave a 30-minute lecture by Skype as an introduction to patent translation during a meeting of translators.
People who heard my talk (plus the other 2 speakers who participated in person) were awarded “continued education points” that count toward maintaining their status as translators who are accredited by the American Translators Association.
False modesty aside, I think that if you have managed to read at least 3 of my blog posts (from beginning to end, no cheating!), I think that you too should be accredited by the ATA.
I also think that if you managed to read at least 3 posts on this blog and on top of that you usually also click on and watch the Youtube videos, you should clearly be eligible for special continued education bonus points for accreditation from the ATA.
(Maybe somebody will tell the ATA about it?)
Such is the status of the translating profession these days, a profession that is not much respected.
The truth is, it is not really a profession, or it is a profession for the asking, if anybody can join its ranks, although it used to be a highly respected profession only a few short centuries ago when people still respected things like education, talent, and hard work.