So much about the translation industry reminds me of the telemarketing industry. A big part of both these industries can be described with a four-lettered word: SCAM.
I don’t answer my phone when it rings. At least not the one that used to be my main office number – that one I cannot answer because whenever it rings, it is either some kind of outright scam, for example somebody pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service requesting urgent payment of past-due taxes, or somebody trying to sell me something I don’t want or need, which is not illegal, although it ought to be.
It was ringing many times a day when I still used to answer it, with messages from scammers and peddlers of things unwanted and unneeded. So now I have a new office number which is a closely guarded secret, as it is only communicated to existing clients on my stationery when I send them an invoice, and in emails to them. And my cell phone number is of course another closely guarded secret.
I still monitor my old number, but as I said, I only answer if the caller ID shows a legitimate number, which it almost never does.
The telemarketing industry pretty much destroyed what used to be called “the telephone”. Alexander Graham Bell must be turning in his grave. Most younger people no longer have what is still called a telephone line, and use a cell phone for everything. I think there is a law that telemarketers cannot bother people using cell phones, and so far it seems to be enforced. And most older people do what I do and only answer the phone if the caller ID shows that it is somebody they know, to avoid scammers.
Because of its incredible lack of scruples, the telemarketing industry is very quickly destroying its own business model, and despite the fact that it embraced new technology to be able to call hundreds or maybe thousands of people at a time to make up for the fact that people can’t trust their phones anymore, it is probably circling the drain at this point.
I certainly hope so, although it may just be wishful thinking on my part.
The damage inflicted by telemarketers on the technology called the telephone, which was invented in 1876 and worked pretty well for almost a century and half, is so horrendous that it is becoming increasingly impossible to get somebody on the phone if you are calling out of the blue. Even lonely senior citizens who are hungry for any kind of human contact, refuse to answer the phone or hang up quickly once they realize it is a robo-call, that is not really a call, made by the telemarketing industry as opposed to a real human.
The translation industry does not use phones much for its scams. It mostly uses emails because a telephone call is much more labor intensive than an email.
The last translation industry telephone call that I remember getting was from over a year ago by an actual person who left a message on my old number’s voice mail. I still monitor this number, usually online and just for messages, which is very easy to do on the Internet with the Ooma telephone service that I use, because it is much cheaper than traditional telephone companies.
It was a woman from a translation agency who was offering me a “copy editing job”. When I called her back out of curiosity, I discovered that what she was really offering was post-editing of machine translations for 1 cent a word.
Ha, ha, ha, so that’s what she meant by “copy editing”.
But as I said, the translation industry mostly just sends emails, because making phone calls is too much trouble for them.
I received an email just yesterday offering me a juicy job that looked just like a cheesy offer from a translation agency, but it wasn’t actually from the translation industry, it was from the film industry.
After the introduction, which contained the usual clumsy attempt to suck up to me “I know that you are (quite famously!) a patent translator, but I thought you might be interested in an offbeat project, and since you are familiar with both Czech and Japanese, your name came to mind”, the email said. “I am in need of a Czech linguist to transcribe one line spoken in Czech in a Japanese movie. […] Our actor will use your transcription & notes to speak this line in Czech in the United States dub. What we will need is a transcription in Czech of the line and advice from you on:
- Whether the Czech spoken is grammatical, and if not, what would be the grammatically correct way to say it, and
- Whether it really means exactly what it’s supposed to mean. I can offer you $20 for this work.”
So that’s what I’m worth to them, all of 20 dollars!
The email had two attachments, one called “Production Consultant Contract” and one more called “Work Assignment Sheet”. The “Production Consultant Contract” was pretty hilarious, it had the word “WHEREAS” (in capital letters) five times on the first page, although I saw only one instance of “NOW THEREFORE” on the same page, which was kind of disappointing. The total word count was 1,773 words.
So that’s why dialogues in languages other than English spoken by actors who are native English speakers in American movies are completely incomprehensible to people who actually understand those languages, I thought to myself.
It’s because the people tasked by the film producer with making the actors speak in a foreign language in American movies are monolingual, incompetent, and although they don’t have a clue how to do their job, they can get away with murder, as I wrote in this post entitled The Incredible Inauthenticity of Fake Foreign Accents in American Movies.
There is a way to do this job right. But making an actor speak even a short sentence in a foreign language with an accent that is actually understandable is a lot of work.
It is a job that cannot be done for 20 dollars.
But since the target audience for American movies is English speakers, why not spend only 20 dollars on making Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie sound like total idiots when they pretend that they are so smart that they can even speak a foreign language?
American audiences will never know the difference anyway, and who gives a damn about the rest of the world!
Sadly, there does not seem to be much difference at this point between the telemarketing industry, the translation industry, and the film industry.
They all seem to have somehow morphed into a giant monster of an industry in which lack of scruples combined with the absence of any real skills and a propensity toward dishonesty are the main prerequisites for the job.