Posted by: patenttranslator | February 13, 2014

Is Russian Really Written in the Cyrillic Script?

You can’t make stuff like this up.

Below are a few e-mails that were exchanged recently between a certain translation agency and mad patent translator.

E-mail No. 1 from Expert Translations (the name of the agency has been changed to protect poor Hayley and her translation agency).

Dear Linguist,

My company found your contact details through the ATA Database and is wanting to reach out to see if you would be interested in a potential upcoming large patent translation project from Russian to English. The documents would generally be highly technical in Cyrillic. If you are interested, can you please send me the following information:

1)  Your resume

2)  Brief summary of your experience translating Chemical Engineering type documents

3)  Your rates for translation and editing (in USD).

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Hayley, Project Coordinator

Expert Translations, Anytown, USA

My response to e-mail No. 1:

Dear Hayley:

Are you sure it’s in Cyrillic rather than in Chinese characters?

I thought that’s what they were using in Russia.

Best regards,


E-mail No. 2 from Hayley:

Hello Steve,

Thank you for your prompt response. The information that we have received has stated Cyrillic. I will double check on this for you.

Kind regards,


Project Coordinator

My response to e-mail No. 2 from Hayley:

Dear Hayley:

I was obviously making fun of your e-mail, no need to double check anything.

But I don’t think that this line of work is suitable for you (since you don’t seem to know anything about languages).

Sorry, but I would definitely not want to work for you.

Best regards,


E-mail No. 3 from Hayley:

Hello Steve,

Thank you very much for your kind response. I did realise you sarcasm [sic] and responded likewise.

Based on the rude comments and unprofessional attitude, it seems it is in the best interest of both parties not to work together. Best of luck with your future endeavors.

Kind regards,


Project Coordinator,  Expert Translations, Anytown, USA


The question is, did Hayley indeed realize that I was making fun of her and was that why she offered to double check whether Russian is written in Cyrillic or with Chinese characters? Or was she really going to double check? If she knew that Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, why would she feel the need to specify something like this as a significant fact in her initial e-mail? Wouldn’t she assume that people who translate from Russian are actually aware of this particular bit of information?

Based on my experience from dealing with translation agency coordinators over the last 27 years, I am not sure. I really can’t tell. What do you think?

I really don’t know because the ignorance of project coordinators who work for translation agencies these days is to me quite astounding. They must be hiring them really young, and not very smart. Some do seem to be quite intelligent, although not that many, but very few of them seem to know anything about languages.

For example, when I translate Japanese to English, they often ask me this:

“There is one word missing in your translation of the Japanese text after the formula on page 3.”

Without wanting to sound like Bill Clinton, I swear that the “one word missing” here is the verb “is” (“de aru” in Japanese). And since unlike in German, you can’t put the verb “is” at the end of a sentence in English, except perhaps when you are making a fine but crucial legal distinction, the word “is” is included in my translation before the formula on page 3, right after the subject.

I also had to answer many times the same question about “something missing at the end” in the case of a translation from German.

Another frequent question from translation agency project coordinators goes like this: “Why is the name of the person in the Czech divorce decree spelled “Novák” on line 3, “Novákovi” on line 5, and “Novákem” on line 17.

What is the correct spelling here?”

Well, dear project coordinator, that’s what they do in that particular language and many other languages with things called nouns and names.

How come you don’t know that, Ms. project coordinator? And since that is the case, how can you possibly coordinate anything that has anything to with foreign languages, a subject that you are so woefully ignorant about?

Personally, I think that you should be looking for a different kind job. You could make an excellent toll collector on Golden Gate Bridge, for example, if you happen to live near San Francisco. Toll collectors on Golden Gate Bridge don’t really need to know anything about foreign languages.

On second thought, there are probably a few things that a bridge toll collector needs to know to be fully qualified for the demanding job.

But if you are a project coordinator working for a translation agency, you don’t really need to know anything about anything.

If you want to make sure that a prospective translator is the real thing, all you have to do is send him a standard translation test that your agency sends to every prospective translator.

If the translation that comes back looks exactly like the translation thingie that your agency already has, it must be a good translator.

If it does not look exactly the same, it must be a bad translation and thus also a bad translator.

Which is basically all that a good translation agency coordinator needs to know.


  1. Dear Mr. Vitek,

    it is a pleasure reading your blog posts, although I don’t always agree with your point of view – there actually are good agencies providing valuable services and there are competent project managers or coordinators.

    This time however, I can only wholeheartedly agree with the point you make: too many people in the translation and localisation business are only button pushers and email forwarders.
    Unfortunately, exactly these people won’t read your blog and maybe learn a lesson or find the motivation to actually discover more about the business they are working in.

    Kind regards from Brussels,
    Raphaël Toussaint


  2. @Mulleflupp

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    Whenever the salutation in an e-mail says “Dear Linguist”, it is generally a reliable indication that it was written by a “button pusher” and e-mail
    forwarder. These people usually push all the wrong buttons.

    I generally don’t respond to e-mails unless the person who wrote it calls me by my name but in this case, I could not resist.


  3. Dear Steve:
    I’m sorry to tell you that there are no more job opportunities for failed translation project coordinators (or anyone else, for that matter) as toll takers on the Golden Gate Bridge – they shifted to all electronic tolls a while back. FastPass (the prepaid radio transponder thingie) if you have it, or they snap a photo of your license plate and send you a bill.


  4. Hi Derek:

    I did not know that. I have not crossed the that since 2001.

    What a pity.

    It seemed like such a nice, productive job, almost as satisfying as editing machine translations.

    But it’s a good thing that people who don’t know anything about anything can still get a job as project managers with translation agencies, isn’t it?

    Or is it a bad thing?


  5. Steve – I don’t disagree with your analysis one jot but I did feel that you were a bit harsh on the poor lady. Perhaps both of you were having a bad hair day or the chemistry was awry in some other manner? :). Now please don’t jump back on me too vigorously – I already had a morning from hell with the cats. :(.


  6. @Alchymie.

    Yes, I probably was a bit too harsh on the poor kid.

    But how else is she going to learn anything?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Geez, Steve- cut the PM a break! It’s a small agency and she most likely doesn’t know Russian- and is simply repeating what the client said about the job (which is often garbled). When faced with Russian, the non-Russian reader can’t even pick out cognates so they are really at the mercy of the client’s description and to be safe, just pass it along to the potential translator. On this case, it’s a potential job and all she might have is that peculiar description, and instead of promising the potential end client the moon – she’s trying to first find out if she can get enough translators and editors for the project and what costs are likely. I often get odd descriptions like this and don’t think twice about them and certainly don’t assume the PM is stupid. If I can’t take the job, I tell the PM what it’s really about and what background the translator should have. I never assume the PM can read or understand the subject matter of the source text because usually they can’t. This includes PMs I’ve known a long time and I’m quite sure they are intelligent and competent.

    Agencies often have PMs who don’t know the source language – they rely on freelance editors who do (note that this agency is looking for editors as well as translators who are knowledgable about chemical engineering, suggesting they don’t plan to just have a monolingual in-house person check it as also often happens). It isn’t ideal, but neither practice means a bad or ignorant PM or a bad agency. It depends on how good a translator/editor team they can assemble. Often they have different tiers of service and their clients knowingly pay according to how much post-translator work is done. Many end clients are just looking for the agency to find them a competent translator. And as a translator, I just want the agency to find jobs for me… (I have no patience for the care and feeding of end clients myself.) If they have someone who actually knows the source language look over my translation without breaking it, I’m extra happy. But all I really expect is that they pay me on time.


  8. Hi Cathy:

    Thank you for weighing in. Here is how I see it.

    Agencies often hire PMs who are mostly young kids who are willing to work for very little money and who don’t seem to know anything about anything.

    You don’t see it as a problem, but I do, and Raphael from Brussels, who often disagrees with me, seems to agree with me this time.

    I also seem to remember how you bristled in one comment about the salutation “Dear Linguist” that these agencies are using, instead of the name of the translator. Or was it somebody else?

    When a “Dear Linguist” message appears in my e-mail box, I normally ignore it because it is just a cattle call sent to a dozen dear linguists to find out which of these dearest linguists happens to be also the cheapest one. Hence the mass e-mail and anonymous salutation.

    Since it ain’t gonna be me in any case, I see no need to spare the poor kid’s feelings. On the contrary, if she is smart, maybe she will learn a few things if a few dear linguists point out to her that what she said was actually pretty stupid, even if she might have been quoting a client.

    Clients are not expected to know anything about languages, that’s why they need us.

    But it might not be such a bad idea if people who work for the “translation industry” actually did know something about languages.


    • Can’t remember if I publicly bristled, but I do cringe at being called a linguist. I’m a scientist who translates for a living. (Please don’t hate me!)

      But I do respond to sensible “Dear Linguist” letters where obviously (as in this case) somebody is trying to set up a team for a potential or actual job, not just fishing for random database entries or looking for USD .02/word translators. I check out the agency on payment lists first. (I got one of the letters also, no prior contact but listed on ProZ as 1-3 people in the company and good reviews on the Blueboard.) This PM obviously picked out people from the ATA database whose experience matched the job, if both of us were asked, and she also wanted more info specifically about relevant background. Those are signs of serious agencies. And typically I get a real individual response (as I did in this case, just a few minutes ago) and even sometimes (gasp!) eventually a real job.

      I wasn’t bothered by the quirky use of Cyrillic, but if I had been bothered- i just would have explained that Cyrillic is the name of the type of alphabet and Russian is a language that uses one version of it (just as French, German, and English use slightly modified versions of the Roman alphabet). There are other languages that use slightly different Cyrillic alphabets such as Ukrainian. So a potential translator just needs to know the source language is Russian. I’m practically certain that it was the end client who used Cyrillic in this odd way, however, and you were shooting the messenger. Many intelligent people know nothing or hardly anything about other alphabets. One agency PM sent me two very short sentences in “Russian” to decipher, and I had to tell him that it was all Greek to me. Yes, it really was Greek! I could puzzle out some cognates based entirely on my extensive training in mathematics… And of course every now and then a “Russian” article turns out to be some other Slavic language that I can’t translate. If it gets mislabeled anywhere along the way, the translator is typically the first one to notice.

      Just try to be as nice to someone in e-mail as you would be if face to face over cups of coffee and remember that sarcasm in computer communications with strangers is practically guaranteed to cause confusion and unwarranted pain. No body language or voice cues to soften it, and no way for you to instantly change your tone when you see you’ve launched the proverbial lead balloon.


  9. I can’t remember where I read this – somewhere on the internet, but I saw some advice being given to young people wanting to become freelance translators. The advice went something like: ‘approach agencies and apply to be a PM, this is an ideal position from which to learn all the ins and outs of what being a translator entails.’ So that would certainly explain why so many PMs don’t seem to know much about much.

    Saying that, I did kind of feel for Hayley! Ouch!


  10. @TwithChemistry

    I wish agencies were heeding this advice, and I would encourage beginning translators to start their career in this manner if that is something they are interested in, because translators would then be dealing with project managers who do know something about foreign languages.

    But I think that what is often happening instead is that many agencies intentionally hire monolingual people, especially young kids, because there is less of a danger that people like that will run away with their clients and start their own agency.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That makes me look like a ChemistryTwit ! 😀

    And, yes, I am always quite aware now that the person I am negotiating with in is probably about 20 years younger that I am!

    Do you really think they are that cynical as to deliberately hire monolinguals – for a translation agency? What do you do? I work for a translation agency. Oh, what other languages do you speak? None, just English. You’re hired!



    • I don’t know how many are absolutely monolingual, but many are simply managing projects in many different languages. For instance, they may be able to read French (and may proofread FR-EN translations) but can’t read Russian or Arabic. Editors or proofreaders for languages not known by in-house staff are hired as freelancers at the same time the translator is hired for each job. Some small agencies that start out managing only languages they know may branch out to other languages simply because their current clients need that service.


  12. By the way, you can call me Jane. 🙂


  13. Uninformed, incompetent and immature people holding your purse and legal strings by virtue of being luckier than you is nothing new to me.

    You just learn to laugh under your breath and play their game. Flatter them and make sure you don’t insult their intelligence ( or the obvious lack thereof).

    I also feel like lashing out at them with biting, caustic sarcasm, but I end up making enemies and with no order if I follow my desire to put the d—–s in his/her place.

    Years of working with Arabs, Russians and SE Asians have taught me a few things.


  14. @Jane

    It has been my experience that many project managers blow the joint at some point and get hired at a higher salary by a competitor or start their own thing.

    Anyway, the smarter ones often do that.

    The first one I can think of worked for Berlitz … it would be around 1987 or 1988.


  15. @NeoRenaissance

    “I also feel like lashing out at them with biting, caustic sarcasm, but I end up making enemies and with no order if I follow my desire to put the d—–s in his/her place.”

    I am not going to work for them, and they are probably not reading my silly blog anyway, so why should I care?

    In any case, I am careful never to mention information that would make it possible to identify them.

    Plus I believe that it is important to discuss these things as I happen to believe in freedom of speech.


  16. Very annoying indeed! Recently a new PM at an agency I really enjoy working with insisted that we use the legal “section” symbol (§) in Spanish, where it isn’t used, and a Spanish acronym for USC [United States Code] without spelling it out the first time. I think he has come round since then, but it’s where I realized that many are not language professionals at all.


    • “Recently a new PM at an agency I really enjoy working with insisted that we use the legal “section” symbol (§) in Spanish, where it isn’t used”

      Same thing in German, Czech and other language, where § means “paragraph” and not “section” as it does in English.


  17. @Cathy

    You bristled publicly at this very blog, and me thinks that you are just choosing not to remember it right now.

    Oh, well.

    “But I do respond to sensible “Dear Linguist” letters where obviously (as in this case) somebody is trying to set up a team for a potential or actual job, not just fishing for random database entries or looking for USD .02/word translators.”

    I checked the agency’s website too and I’m afraid I was not overly impressed.

    It is precisely with these kinds of long jobs where ignorant PMs can do a lot of damage without even trying. For example, when they chop up a long job to send the portions of it it to several different translators, the chances are that they will divide it the wrong way because they if they can’t read anything at all in the source text.


    • One large agency (let’s call it by the fictitious name TransImperfect) routinely asked me to translate 1000 words of a patent overnight (no rush fee, of course), which I always thought was too insane even as an alternative to hiring the cats out as mousers. They were splitting a highly technical (and
      often short) patent between two or more translators, so nobody benefited from repeated concepts and everybody would certainly use different terms. Pity the poor client trying to read it.

      On the other hand, splitting a large doc can work if there is a general editor who reconciles the terminology and does the initial splitting. Also many large jobs are really separate documents, written by different people in the source, and terminology and style variations can be okay under those circumstances

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Were you too hard on Hayley, Steve? I think not. I don’t expect a PM to understand all the source languages a kitchen-sink bottom feeder might expect her to juggle, but if I meet someone and in casual conversation that person feels the need to inform me that a language I use, like German, Japanese or Sumerian, is sometimes written using other symbols than the letters we use in English, I would probably thank him for enlightening me and remember an urgent appointment suddenly. Young Hayley reminds me of the two eager beaver novice PMs who informed me that I must use Trados to translate the scanned images just sent. What is it they say? Ugly is OK. A matter of taste, and there are ways of compensating and qualities that certainly do. But stupid?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. @Kevin:

    Ron White says it best:


  20. Steve, here’s a sentence you wrote yourself in the body of the blog post above:

    “I think you should be looking for a different kind job.”

    This seems like an odd observation, since it was you who was being unkind.

    So I’m siding with Cathy Flick on this one. You can insult and snark and complain about all those hopelessly ignorant project coordinators who are so abysmally clueless about language, which after all is the product they are selling.

    But this can get you into trouble when you make basic grammatical mistakes yourself in English.

    And this happens in your blog a lot — I see two or three grammar or spelling mistakes every time I happen to come across your posts. I do understand that English is not your native language, but you do translate professionally into English for compensation, and you’ve been doing it for a very, very long time, which means that the bar on your English usage is presumably much higher.

    We are all flawed human beings, of course, and I know this is just your “silly blog” by a “mad patent translator.”

    But if you’re going to be a mean-spirited and snarky mad patent translator who says unkind things about people you have not met and know nothing about, though, perhaps it might be a good idea to tread carefully when you are slinging mud at others for their purported language failings for all sorts of glass-houses reasons.

    Just a few words of advice which you are free to ignore, of course.

    Oh, one other thought.

    This particular advice is coming from somebody who spent 18 years of his life training multilingual PMs with excellent project management talent and truly superior English writing skills that far surpass your own — you know, the professional snarky translator who has worked into English for longer than many of them have been alive and should have outgrown those kinds of basic grammar and spelling mistakes in English around the time Bill Clinton was still in the White House.


    • I stopped feeling superior about my spelling and grammar skills when I got an iPhone with autocorrect and a teeny keyboard that is hazardous for a fast typist (we need to learn to slow down and watch the keyboard, violating decades of training otherwise). Not to mention comment areas on the net that don’t like to be edited…. I often give up and just let any mistakes stay if they don’t make the post incomprehensible. So I’ve become very tolerant of deviations in spelling and grammar and always assume they are typos! Which they most likely are. This tolerance is a liability as a translator, of course, but makes the editor/proofreader parts of the team even more important. 🙂


      • I think the standards on usage for language professionals on their own blogs should be at least an order of magnitude higher. These are not text messages randomly dashed off on a phone.

        What’s concerning to me is something else.

        He’s taking undue delight in criticizing and drawing conclusions about another person’s mastery of foreign languages — somebody, presumably younger, who he’s never met at all — while making repeated grammatical and syntactical errors (not just typos) in his own working target language.

        Normally I’m a rabid descriptivist and let the language pieces fall where they may. Many a good writer breaks all the rules much of the time.

        But in accusatory and snarky posts like these, which raise mean-spiritedness to appalling high art, he’s behaving like a schoolyard bully. He’s picking on the smaller kids in the playground and patting himself on the back for it. It’s more than a bit disturbing and, well, unseemly.

        I think it’s up to the adults to call him on this behavior.

        He should pick on somebody his own size, don’t you think?


      • Kevin- blogs are often rather informal, so I’m not really bothered by such typos. Too much tabloid reading, I guess. I would rather people dash off their interesting ideas in blogs like Steve’s than hesitate until it’s perfectly casted. It might never get written otherwise.

        But I am bothered by snark directed at an individual who really didn’t say or do anything to warrant it, so we’re in agreement there. In my freelance peace activist days, I used to help folks de-flame their e-mail correspondence, getting rid of linguistic noise that was bound to just increase hostilities (or create them) or make the other person feel hurt and defensive. People stop listening when they get into defensive mode. So if we really want to educate PMs about such things as the Cyrillic/Russian issue, we need to avoid the snark and focus on the message. Telling someone to get a different job is so linguistically noisy and hurtful (even if unintentionally) that I would have suggested tossing it completely, there is no way that it would be taken as anything but a deep insult. That doesn’t mean that the writer is mean and hurtful, it just means that he or she forgot that snarking in general is one thing while snarking at a real live breathing human being (who for all we know may have just buried a pet, a spouse or parent or child or been diagnosed with a terminal disease) in a personal message is quite another. We have to cultivate a gentler tone in such situations and leave the snark for impersonal situations.

        I would have suggested dumping a lot of the noise you directed at Steve concerning his English skills, also. Okay to point out the irony of his typos in his reply to the beleaguered PM, but I would have advised not pushing it beyond that and focusing on the other aspects of your reaction.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Dear Kevin:

    I am so sorry that you have been so deeply offended by my poor English, numerous typos, unkindness, snarky comments and a whole plethora of other unforgivable sins to the point that you felt the need to write this devastating comment.

    (Hanging my head in shame).

    But I think that I have the perfect solution for you:

    Don’t read it.

    It is pretty clear to me that you can’t understand what I am saying anyway.


    • Oh, dear. It’s St. Valentine’s Day. Can’t you two fellows kiss and make up?!?

      I should mention that in the dim and distant past, I actually worked on some projects with Kevin and he really does have the experience and skills he claims. He had a staged approach to post-translator processing, apparently including proofreading against the original by someone else before the text reached his text for final editing at supersonic speed. He is an excellent editor- I learned so much from his revisions of legalese/bureaucratese especially (I’m just a techie) that I would badger him for the edited versions if not automatically supplied. He worked closely with the client on certain projects, which was a major help for the translator trying to sort out cryptic acronyms and internal references. With handwritten material, he provided a transcription (good thing, my ability to decipher Russian handwriting is less than zero). When a large doc was split among several translators, an equally or more competent translator would pull the sections together and ensure consistency. In other words- Kevin has operated at exactly the kind of level Steve wants and appreciates in project management.

      Liked by 1 person

      • See what I mean about autocorrect? “Reached his desk”, not “reached his text”. At least it was in English. Sometimes I hit the keyboard switch by mistake, which provides a whole new and baffling level of typos.


      • Cathy is being characteristically generous and thoughtful in her comments here — Steve, you might want to take notes — and is in fact an exceptionally gifted translator and writer who has done more for her colleagues through the gift of collaboration and feedback than many of the most visible people in the translation industry have ever done.

        I know more than a few French translators who have built silent shrines to her expertise and patience and skill.

        I learned a ton from her, and especially remember her walking me through terms of art in patent language as well as many a tricky technical mine-field.

        It’s when we’re actively learning from each other that this business really shines and makes all the effort especially gratifying.

        Thanks, Cathy!


  22. I understand what you are saying perfectly well.

    You are picking on somebody who has a fraction of your experience in languages, while making a few metric tons of language mistakes yourself.

    It’s dicey enough to construct a valid criticism of people or the industry without seeming unkind or mean-spirited.

    You’ve apparently decided it’s perfectly acceptable to abandon even the appearance of fair-mindedness while hoping nobody notices that you are in no position to judge language errors yourself.

    You seem to have actually embraced the very odd hybrid of being preternaturally mean and massively mistake-prone at the same time.

    It’s just my opinion, of course, but this seems like an ill-advised strategy.

    Like I said, you are free to accept or ignore this advice.

    And I’m sure your comment section exists for reasons other than to tell people who disagree with you — or are a bit troubled by the ill-informed hostility underlying your comments — that the solution is that they can just not read you.


  23. @Cathy

    “Can’t you two fellows kiss and make up?!?”


    Some people are so incredibly hostile to me and to what I am saying (usually because they envy the incredible range of my talents and the depth of my scholarship) that the best way to deal with them is to completely ignore them.

    He is the third such person on this blog in 4 years, and there will be more, I am sure.

    So I will ignore him.

    But I will let him post here, so you two can talk to each other here if you want to.


  24. @Cathy

    “Telling someone to get a different job is so linguistically noisy and hurtful (even if unintentionally) that I would have suggested tossing it completely, there is no way that it would be taken as anything but a deep insult.”

    I was a bit too harsh on the poor kid, but she deserved it, and it is not “snark” in my opinion.

    Several people in the comment section already agreed with me (Raphael, Kevin). It is a big problem how ignorant about languages so many “project managers” are these days. If you don’t even seem to know that Russian is written in a certain alphabet called Cyrillic, you are not qualified to be a project manager and the chances are that you will do a lot of damage to your projects and the translators who work for you.

    That was the main point of this blog post.

    And look at her reaction, she could have said “Ha, ha, ha, Steve, how stupid of me to mindlessly repeat clients’ words”, I would know instantly that she is probably smart enough to learn on the job what she needs to know, and we could even have become best of friends.

    That’s how smart people deal with a stupid mistake.

    I was trying to provoke a satori moment in her.

    But instead, she confirmed my initial assumption that she is unable and unwilling to learn from her mistakes. No satori moment for her from my remark.

    Incidentally, are you going to tell us whether this job was for real, or just one of those false alarms?

    Just after I fired off my “snarky” response to this Russian job, I gave a price quote for a Japanese patent with about 13,500 words.

    I hope I’ll get it. I would much rather do that patent than some unspecified technical documents in Russian handled by a clueless kid.


    • Steve, she didn’t deserve any of it. She was trying to be respectful and diplomatic in response to your puzzling reply to a simple inquiry about your interest in a potential job. If you were totally uninterested, it would have been fine to just ignore the request especially since it wasn’t addressed to you personally. But by focusing on the odd use of Cyrillic while attempting to make a joke (that obviously was not understood, often happens, no biggie) and then slamming her personally in private e-mail and even telling her she wasn’t suited for her job – you went way beyond that. That doesn’t mean you’re an awful person. We often misgauge reactions of other people that way, especially in e-mail. So we apologize for the misunderstanding (no groveling needed unless you stepped on a cat’s tail, cats appreciate groveling when wronged by accident) and move on.

      It might be easier to understand by personalizing it. What if someone said such things to someone you know and love? What a way to start a day… I know such a thing would bother me quite a bit, wondering why a stranger felt the need to hurt me like that and worrying that he might be unstable and find out where I lived (really, I’ve had to deal with hate mail and hate phone calls before on other issues, it’s scary). If I were an employee, I would wonder if this crazy man was going to rant to my boss and try to get me fired. Just because we all know you’re lovable and harmless doesn’t mean that this battered PM knows.

      I understand that you think this person “deserves” it for being allegedly incompetent – but what possible good comes out of a complete stranger bashing her on the head like this? Her competence will be judged by people who actually know her and see her work, not by people like us who are just asked if we’re interested in a job. I have to explain things all the time in my work, both about language and technical matters. That’s part of my job. I don’t expect PMs to know what I know.

      If you’re in a teaching mood, I can guarantee that the words you chose were counterproductive. Just nicely explain what you want to teach, without making the other person feel like an idiot. Then whether or not the lesson is absorbed, at least you’ve done no harm. Save the venting for the blog. 🙂


  25. Well, just to be clear, the only part I am “incredibly hostile” to is your being an insufferable bully in the post under discussion who picks on younger people who can’t defend themselves and insults them by calling them “stupid” and suggesting that they would be better employed as toll collectors (apparently at venues that you were unaware no longer employ toll collectors — so much for your “depth of scholarship”).

    You’ve got to admit that it’s amusingly ironic that you are critiquing these people you call “stupid” on the basis of their limited knowledge of foreign languages when you — the professional translator — show with every post you write how you’ve failed to master the one foreign language you most often translate into.

    It’s a pity that the insight and humor you do show here and there are drowned out by these little waves of angry tyrannical bullying.

    If you actually climbed out of your house and ran a major company or taught college courses or served on advisory panels or testified to regulatory agencies or volunteered with associations or worked in any number of ways (pick any one you like) to expand your horizons and improve the industry and, you know, actually LEARN a thing or two about the struggles of all the other people who do make positive contributions to the industry, rather than instinctively and impulsively shooting at anything and everything that makes noise whether you can actually see it or not, to say nothing of actually understanding it — now there would be a way out of the woods of confusion for you.

    Being an insufferable bully to the young and vulnerable is no way to go through life, son. You really should pick on somebody your own size. It’s only fair.


  26. @Cathy

    Well, what can I say.

    Have fun working with the Hayleys of the modern translation industry who are perfectly qualified to coordinate Russian translation projects, although they have absolutely no idea what the word “azbuka” means.

    And good luck!

    Something is telling me that you’re going to need it.


  27. […] You can't make stuff like this up. Below are a few e-mails that were exchanged recently between a certain translation agency and mad patent translator. E-mail No. 1 from Expert Translations (the na…  […]


  28. “You’ve got to admit that it’s amusingly ironic that you are critiquing these people you call “stupid” on the basis of their limited knowledge of foreign languages”

    I didn’t call her stupid, but Kevin Hendzel just did by putting his word in my mouth.

    This what Kevin Hendzel does to ostensibly aid a damsel in distress.

    When a person will do anything to score a point, who is the real bully?

    Pretty sleazy in my book.


  29. […] Chinese, or even from a language that is more accessible to Westerners, such as German or French, (s)he is usually unable to understand anything in the text in the foreign language. And once a translator who is not exactly experienced in a certain type of translation says yes to […]


  30. A young 18-year-old female complained about a translation I had done
    (from Swedish and one of thousands I produced during my 29 years in that Nordic hellhole) because I had misspelt the word “prize”. In her not so humble opinion I should have written “price”. The context here was comparing a company’s team of employees to the crew of a sailing yacht in a race. Pls bear in mind that in Sweden, children start learning English in grade school at around 7 or 8. I was thus forced to explain that the single Swedish word ‘pris’ like the cognate German “Preis” covers both thse two meanings. This mistake of hers was not based on a need to know what languages are written in the Cyrillc alphabet of the Japanese SOV word order but a subject that is actually taught in Swedish schools. There is a myth that the Swedish are absolutely brilliant at English, when the truth is that even academics cannot write very well in English in many cases. There was one receipient of a schlarship whose thesis I had to proofread and he would start many of his snetneces with “Also, …” unaware of the fact that English makes use of a good many similar expressions such as In addition, Furthemore, etc. On occasions I have even had to remind a certain direct client that certain facts that he was referring to in his paper were incorrect. My Swedish parner, who profreads most of my out put in English, is really scathing about the standard of educaiton in Sweden nowdays and points out many of the basic errors of grammar and syntax that native speakers of Swedish persist in making.


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