Posted by: patenttranslator | February 16, 2017

Influencers: Sometimes They Make Me Laugh and Sometimes They Drive Me Crazy

They only hold in those who are willing
to be held. Horses prove it all the time,
unlatching gates in their idle moments.
I once saw a cornered ewe leap a six
foot buck fence because she didn’t feel
like going where the border collie wanted
her to go. She wasn’t even afraid.

When they were young, I took the children
to the state animal farm. Every inhabitant –
begging raven, crippled otter, trained bear –
had become too used to humans. The biggest
draw was the cow moose. We gaped as she
browsed in a swale behind the tissue paper
of some hurricane fencing. The game warden
explained it wasn’t so much that they kept her
as that she didn’t mind staying.

Sonja Johanson, The Truth About Fences

Everybody and their grandmother and her dog is trying to influence us, either to believe something that isn’t really true, or to do something that we don’t really want to do.

Some of these influences are implicit – hidden and unnoticed by most people, except for a few rebels, who somehow still survive among us and who have not yet renounced the nasty and very dangerous habit of thinking about what is going on around them, instead of simply taking things for granted and accepting them as they are, as most people do.

For example, did you know why the walls at McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and similar fine fast food establishments are painted either orange or yellow? It’s because marketing specialists working in distinguished think tanks of fast food eateries determined in numerous experiments aimed at attracting more customers that yellow and orange make people hungry.

Other specialists discovered that green generally has a calming effect on people. Walls in some government buildings, both exterior and interior, are painted green. I noticed that this is not really true as much in America, possibly because at this point, most people are so mad at the government that relying on implicit conditioning with subdued color tones probably won’t work very well anymore. That must be why there are so many metal detectors at the entrances to government buildings, with armed cops helpfully hovering nearby.

But I do remember when I visited the Soviet Union (three times in the seventies), every government building that I saw there had the walls painted green, usually both inside and outside. The green overkill was pretty disgusting, I thought.

The talking heads on American teevee are trying to influence viewers 24/7 in one direction on CNN and MSNBC, and 24/7 in another direction on Fox News. People got so tired of being fed opinionated drivel instead of real news that they decided to put precisely the person in the White House who, as they were told by the 24/7 talking head claptrap producers, had no chance of becoming president.

If you are about to start hating me now, I hasten to add that I did not vote either for Trump or Hillary last year – I voted third party. I haven’t always voted this way, but I have been voting third party for quite some time now because I see voting for a Democrat or a Republican as throwing my vote away. Even if I really like and trust the person (which has not happened in a long, long time), the Supreme Court or Electoral College would make sure that my vote would not count anyway, so what would be the point?

I think the best thing is to do what I am doing, but feel free to hate me anyway if it helps to ease your pain.

Corporate blogs of translation agencies are another example of influencers, in this case influencers of the “translation industry” who want us to believe something that isn’t really true.

Two days ago I clicked on a link, probably on LinkedIn, to a corporate blog post written by an owner of a translation agency that was titled “Project Managers are the Superstars of the Translation Industry”.

Anyway, in that corporate blog post, the translation agency owner was gushing over project managers who according to her are simply geniuses because they are able to convert files from one format to another, and also handle several projects at the same time.

I don’t remember anything else really from that blog post because after the first few sentences I started to laugh uncontrollably and then just quickly scanned it to see if the author said anything about translators, who might represent starlets of a kind to the owner of a translation agency.

But as I remember, the author of the blog never said in her homily on project managers anything about how much she appreciated translators, who, unlike project managers always have to know at least two languages and a zillion other things, obviously in addition to knowing how to convert different file formats and how to juggle several projects at the same time.

Yes, sadly, we translators are not exactly superstars as far as the “translation industry” is concerned, although we are responsible for all of the money the “translation industry” takes in, to the last penny, kopeck, or rupee.

We are just boring drones to “the industry”, who must be kept behind latched gates, which is not very difficult to do because we like it there anyway.

I can’t say that I am  surprised by the contempt of  the “translation industry” for us, translators. Unlike superstar project managers who know how to convert files between different formats and lots of other cool stuff, translators who only translate are a dime a dozen. After all, project manager superstars store in specialized databases hundreds and thousands of files on translators for every possible language combination so that when a “dear linguist” is needed, a superstar just throws a few of those dear linguists against the wall to see which one of them charges the least.

From my perspective, though, I’m sorry to say that project managers working for translation agencies are not really my superstars. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, I see them mostly as rather obtuse and often unpleasant persons that unfortunately I sometimes have to deal with, but thankfully not too often because I mostly work for direct clients.

Being able to convert file formats and handle several projects at the same time certainly does require some skill, as well as a certain amount of concentration and attention to detail (although not nearly as much as texting while driving), but so does being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Now, being able to walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time, that would take a near genius. Based on my three decades’ of experience, very few translation agency project managers would be able to do that.

Such a person would definitely be a superstar in my book.


  1. The ATA (surprise) is also of no help with this issue:
    Project Managers: The Maestro of Every Translation Project

    Click to access 3904_26_rimalower.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The job of the ATA is at this point to promote the interests of the “translation industry”, not our interests.

    Otherwise, translation industry representatives, such as owners of translation agencies (who call themselves LSPs) would not be able to be members in good standing of the American TRANSLATORS Association because they are not translators.

    All you have to do to understand that the ATA is working for the industry and not for us, translators, is read the article you linked.

    Thank you for that.

    To me it is so telling that absolutely nothing is said in this article, published by the American TRANSLATORS Association, about translators.

    We’re just the little robots getting work done somewhere out of sight.


  3. […] One of the results of the influence of the internet on the “translation industry” is that translators are no longer real human beings to many people who run translation agencies, especially the bigger ones, including in many cases the project managers. […]


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