Posted by: patenttranslator | March 3, 2014

Three More Symptoms of Translator’s Dementia (Dementia Translatoris, TD)

It has been known for several years now that bilingualism and multilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This undeniable fact has been borne out in several studies in Canada, India and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, scientists have overlooked what could be called a side effect of this positive and highly desirable development in a bilingual or multilingual brain, namely that at the same time, bilingualism and multilingualism may cause early onset of a special kind of dementia that occurs only among translators, called translator’s dementia (TD, dementia translatoris).

Some of these largely undetected symptoms are in full evidence in useless and counterproductive complaints encountered daily on social media and sometime also on blogs of translators.

Here is a taste of some of these complaints, which clearly represent additional symptoms of translator’s dementia.

1.         The Bastards Want To Pay Us Peanuts – How Dare They To Offer Us Such Low Rates?

Every day, translators are bitterly complaining on social media (especially on LinkedIn) that yet another dirty agency is looking for translators willing to accept payment in the amount of 3 cents, or 2 cents, or even 1 cent per word as remuneration for their hard work.

Really? So what else is new? By publicizing the names of these agencies in this manner on social media, translators are in fact advertising these agencies to hungry people all over the world, hungry people who think that they can translate and who will jump at the chance to make 15 Euros a day. Which is exactly the kind of free advertising that these agencies are looking for.

2.         Rates Offered on “Portals for Translators” Are Ridiculously Low – How Dare They To Offer Us Such Low Rates?

While it would be evident to any non-translator that when you have an auction site where great multitudes of people who are hungry for work are competing for a few jobs, the compensation for this work will inevitably tend to be exceedingly low, people suffering from translator’s dementia somehow never seem to arrive at this logical conclusion as TD has a strong hold on the reasoning powers of their multilingual brains.

Instead of ignoring these “portals for translators” and trying to look for direct clients who would be in fact willing and able to pay for good work several times what the going rate is on these blind auction sites, translators again spend all of their energy looking for higher rates on the same blind auction sites and then bitterly complaining about the injustice of it all when, once again, they are offered peanuts.

3.         Translators’ Associations Represent the Interests of Agencies, Not of Translators – How Dare They?

This is another relatively frequent complaint of translators. Well, there is an explanation for this. The interests of translators and translation agencies are not exactly identical. In fact, it would probably be fair to say that they are often diametrically opposed.

Translators want to be paid high rates for their work, while translation agencies obviously want to be able to pay them as little as possible to make as much profit as possible.

While translators want to be visible to direct clients, one clause that is generally always present in contracts between a translation agency and a translator is that the translator may never, ever contact the client directly, unless specifically authorized to do so by the agency, (namely, if the client has a question that the translation agency is unable to answer because it has something to do with a foreign language).

I don’t know how it works in translators’ associations in other countries, but here in US, both translators and translation agencies are members of the same organization (American Translators Association), and the agencies are basically running the association.

All you need to do is read the ATA Chronicle to see who is really in charge of the ship.

I have been a member of the ATA for 27 years, but I have never seen the complaints that are so frequently expressed by translators on social media and blogs mentioned in the ATA Chronicle, a monthly publication of the association of translation agencies, (I mean, of translators).

In all those 27 years, not once have I been contacted by a direct client based on the information listed in the ATA database of translators. Translators are so well hidden in the database by whoever designed the database that you basically have to know how it works to be able to find what you are looking for.

Not one direct client has found me through the database in 27 years. Good job, ATA!

Most of the articles in the Chronicle have a pro-agency slant, although it is sometime cleverly masked as good advice to beginning translators: (MT goooood, criticizing MT baaaaad, MT post-processing – wonderful job with a bright future, discounts for fuzzy matches, full matches and other atrocities committed by Trados and the like are necessary and good for translators, etc., and so on, and so forth).

I never see opposing opinions in the Chronicle, which is why I usually just scan it within a few minutes.

It is a well known fact that the American Medical Association admits doctors, but not greedy insurance companies, that membership in the American Bar Association is open only to lawyers, not to giant law firms, and that the Writers Guild of America allows only writers to join, not powerful Hollywood studios, etc.

That is why these associations are still able to represent the interests of individual members, which frequently clash with the interests of insurance companies, law firms, and Hollywood studios.

Sane people whose reasoning powers are undiminished by an insidious disease would see the split personality of an association of translators right away as a conflict of interest. But, sadly, translators who are affected by translator’s dementia don’t seem to be able to see simple truths that doctors, lawyers, and Hollywood script writers have discovered decades ago.

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Responses

  1. Reblogged this on One Sec Translation Service di Chiara Bartolozzi.

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  2. You wrote:
    “I don’t know how it works in translators’ associations in other countries […]”

    Here in Canada, membership in the provincial translators’ associations (responsible for administering the Certified Translator designation, a reserved title in some provinces) is open only to individuals. Agencies have their own, completely separate association.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] It has been known for several years now that bilingualism and multilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This undeniable fact has been borne out in several studies in Canada, India an…  […]

    Like

  4. @Tom

    Here in US, translators are so self-absorbed that they haven’t even noticed who is running the show.

    Like

  5. http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/265412-three_symptoms_of_translators_dementia.html

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  6. One of the few things the German BDÜ does really right is to exclude companies from its membership. A company principal can join of course, and many do and are welcome, but they join on the strength of their qualifications as translators or interpreters. It’s a shame that the ATA panders as shamefully as it does to corporate interests, who have made it a point to purge the bylaws of things like the ethical statement against requiring freebies which I used to quote so often.

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  7. @Kevin & The World

    OK, so in Canada and Germany, only individuals may be members, just like in other professional associations.

    What about for example in UK, Italy and France, I wonder?

    And are there other countries that pander as shamelessly to the corporate interest, as Kevin put it, as we do here?

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    • In Italy, there is one for translators and interpreters and another one for translation agencies or companies. Apart from them, there are local and regional associations now.

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  8. In Uruguay, the CTPU (Colegio de Traductores Públicos del Uruguay) groups the certified translators exclusively, and membership is only of certified professionals and students pursuing a degree as certified translators.

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  9. Thanks, Nelida.

    So far it seems that unlike in US, in Canada, Germany, and Uruguay only individuals can become members of a professional association of translators.

    The question is: why is corporate membership allowed in the ATA when this is not allowed in other countries, probably for the reason mentioned in my post?

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  10. Hi, Steve!

    All Argentine associations have different eligibility requirements (for example, to be a member of the CTPCBA –Sworn Translators’ Association of Buenos Aires– you need to have a university diploma as a Legal Translator, a four-five year degree, as the Colegio acts like a lawyers’ Bar). But all Argentine associations accept only professional interpreters and translators.

    Regarding the association I head, IAPTI (an international association) only professional translators and interpreters can join in.

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  11. Hi Au:

    Thanks for your comment.

    So far it looks like it’s ATA against the rest of the world when it comes to pandering to translation agencies at the expense of translators.

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  12. In Italy, there is one for translators and interpreters and another one for translation agencies or companies. Apart from them, there are local and regional associations now.

    Like

  13. […] Every day, translators are bitterly complaining on social media (especially on LinkedIn) that yet another dirty agency is looking for translators willing to accept payment in the amount of 3 cents, or 2 cents, or even 1 cent per …  […]

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  14. Thanks, Vincenza.

    So is there any other country on this planet where the translators’ association is more an association of agencies than of translators?

    When I think about the way it works here now, I keep seeing this image of a slave ship in ancient world, where translators are chained to the oars sticking out the side of the ship and pushing the ship forward.

    They supply the power pushing the ship forward, but they have no power when it comes to the steering of the ship.

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  15. In Chile, the Colegio de Traductores not only accepts translation-agency owners in its membership. It is run by them. So, no Steve, you are not alone.

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  16. Thanks, Chiliantranslator.

    How can you tell that your association is run by agencies rather then by translators?

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    • A colleague and former member-authority, who prefers to remain anonymous, told me. As far as I know, COTICH accepts only individuals, but a number of them run their own agencies and hire translators “for peanuts”. I understand there have been discussions within COTICH on the topic of conflicts of interests derived from that (COTICH has a Code of Ethics which is quite clear on the subject of rates), but not much has happened, at least to my knowledge.

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  17. As far as I know, members of the Société Française des Traducteurs can only be individuals, not agencies.
    Company directors can however join as individuals.
    I’ve only been a member for just over a year, so my comment might need to be confirmed by another French translator.

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  18. Thanks, Louise.

    I wonder, can company directors in France join the Société Française des Traducteurs in France even if they don’t understand a single foreign language?

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    • I don’t think so. The “company directors” I mentionned are regarding owners of sole proprietorships or LLCs (I don’t think it applies to big companies) that are translators themselves, if I am not mistaken. Sorry if I am not very clear.

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  19. @Louise

    If that is the case, then how can one call such an organization Société Française des Traducteurs if you don’t have to be a translator to be a member?

    If you want to be a member of the bar, or of a writers’ or dentists’ association, you have to be a lawyer, a writer, or a dentist.

    But if you want to be a member of an association of translators, you can be completely monolingual and thus as ignorant about foreign languages as one can possibly be?

    Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

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  20. I am sorry, as I feared my comment was not clear: the company owners accepted *are* translators themselves.
    You *must* be a professional translator to be part of the association. I hope that is more clear – I have been spending the day proofreading French documents and my English is always terrible on these days!

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  21. @Louis

    I see.

    As far as I know, all you have to be a member of the American Translators Association is to pay them the yearly membership fee, which is about 200 dollars for individuals and somewhat higher for translation agencies.

    You can be completely monolingual and yet, once you pay it, you are a member in good standing of the ATA.

    The ATA has been run by agencies for decades, and nobody is saying anything about it.

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