Posted by: patenttranslator | June 19, 2017

What Is the Proper Etiquette for Using Posts of Other Bloggers?

Is there a proper etiquette for using posts of other bloggers?

And what are the rules for translating online articles and blog posts and using them as examples for university courses? It seems there are no rules for something like that.

Shouldn’t there be a proper etiquette for profiting from somebody else’s intellectual activity? Some people, university teachers, for example, don’t seem to think so.

I was originally trained as a language teacher, first for Latin, and later for English and Japanese after I defected to modern languages. I have always earned a living by translating and interpreting several languages, but have never actually had the pleasure of teaching languages, except to individual students for pocket money when I was living in Prague as a carefree lad in my twenties.

So far I have never received a penny for my hundreds of articles and posts, most of them on various issues relating to human and machine translation, compensation of translators (or the lack thereof) and related subjects that I have been writing about over the last two decades in a number of publications, both on paper (Translorial, New York Circle of Translators, ATA Chronicle), and online (Translation Journal, and finally my silly blog).

I like to spend my time in this manner because I enjoy the feeling when my creative juices are flowing, and also because I want to have some impact, even if a very limited one, on my chosen profession and on what for lack of a better term is called the translation industry.

I thought that since I was writing articles without any monetary compensation – my only compensation is when a post gets a lot of views – my articles belonged to me and nobody could appropriate them for themselves, for example for money-making purposes.

But about 10 years ago, I found out from a phone call that some of the articles I had been writing for many years and for many publications, both online and on dead tree media, were being used for teaching language students at universities.

The phone call was from a young woman who told me that one of my articles was used by somebody at the University of New York in courses taught to students. She was one of these students at NYU who had recently graduated with a degree in French language and because she lived in the same city in Virginia as I did, namely Chesapeake, she wanted to meet me.

I don’t remember what the article was about, perhaps it was about machine translation. I only remember that it was one of several articles that I wrote for Gabe Bokor’s Translation Journal over a period of several years before I started writing my own blog.

So we met at a Starbucks near my house and decided to start a translators’ group in Chesapeake, and although the young woman eventually got a job in France and moved there, the idea of a translators’ group in Eastern Virginia survived when another young woman interested in languages somehow found out about me, probably from my articles online because this was before I had my blog, and contacted me to start a local translators’ group through the Meetup app.

Incidentally, this was the same person who told me that I should start writing a blog. Without her, who knows whether you would be wasting your time reading these lines now?

That group met here regularly for several years until this person, who was from Germany and lived in the US for only a few years, moved back to Germany.

Of course it is a major ego boost for me when a pretty girl, at least three decades younger than Mad Patent Translator, calls me and wants to meet at Starbucks (because I am such an interesting person!)

The timing is a little off – it would have been a much more appreciated side benefit for me a few decades ago when I was young and single, but what can you do. There was no internet then anyway, the only thing we had back then were … blind dates.

Another ego boost for me is when my silly posts are translated by bloggers who want to post them on their own blogs in their languages.

This has also happened to me quite a few times and my posts have been translated into at least half a dozen languages, including several times into Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. I seem to remember that there were also some translations into Arabic and Chinese.

The posts that were most frequently translated were a series of posts in which I explained the difference between real translators, subprime translators, and zombie translators, and the one about a translator’s disease that I call translator’s dementia – a very popular post a few years ago.

The more I make fun of translators in a post, the more popular the post usually is. Unlike interpreters, translators seem to be a forgiving bunch in this respect. But based on my experience, it’s not a very good idea to make fun of interpreters.

Here again, although of course I like it when people want to translate what I have written into another language, I don’t understand how they can do it without getting my permission first, or at least letting me know about it, preferably in advance.

Since even these rude translators generally always identify the author and include a link to the original post, which is how it should be, I eventually find out about the translation when the link appears on my WordPress dashboard. Some people ask for permission in advance, which is always granted, and then they send me a link to their translation.

That is in my opinion the proper etiquette, and I appreciate it when people do that.

But some translators simply ignore me as if I were dead already, as one Russian translator did last week when she translated an older post of mine and put it on her blog for other translators to comment on it.

Well, I’m not dead yet and it so happens that I read Russian! I consider this kind of behavior churlish and uncivilized, and I naturally have the same opinion of the people who do that.

I think that the New York University professor who was or still is using my blog posts, or the blog posts and online articles of other translators to teach classes to budding translators, should at the very least have informed the authors of the posts and articles about his or her idea for what to include in the curriculum for translation students.

And so should translators who translate the blog posts of other translators and put them on their own blogs to get some eyeball exposure and clicks.

That’s all I’m saying, and that’s all I want.

Is that too much to ask for?




  1. Dear Steve,
    The proper etiquette for citing electronic and social media information such as tweets, electronic messages, posts, articles and personal communication is found in the dedicated sections of style manuals such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the APA (American Psychological Association) Publication Manual.
    Compensation is another important issue, usually provided with associated royalties, which are negotiated when the material is not freely available online. Many authors, though not all, and depending on existing agreements, grant free educational use of at least one chapter of their work. It is a bit more tricky with audiovisual material as you no doubt already know when you post videos or images in your own blog.
    Kind regards — Françoise Herrmann


  2. Thanks for your comments, Francoise.

    Good to hear from you.

    I was kind of hoping for a few short sentences explaining how things works because I don’t read style manuals – unless my life or livelihood are in immediate danger.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry, not many shortcuts to the many examples and cases provided in Style Manuals. However, the guidance of the Style Manuals is as you mention truly life-saving! 🙂


  4. FYI, I was a volunteer translator for a website that published English translations of newspaper and magazine opinion articles about US politics and foreign policy. Their policy was to provide credit to the author and translator and to link back to the original article. Any article originally written in a language other than English by a non-US citizen that was freely available online (not behind a paywall) could be translated for publication. There were some occasions where an author would contact the website to request an English translation. I suspect these authors were trying to get some free labor by doing this.


  5. Thank you for your comment.

    Which website was it and what is the reason for the distinction between a citizen (of what country?) and a non-citizen?

    And why do they use free labor?

    Because translators have no bills to pay?


    • Hi, in response to your questions, the website was called The reason why the authors of the translated articles couldn’t be from the US was because the purpose of the website was to provide content from outside the US to US English-monolingual readers. I am not the publisher, so I can’t say exactly why the site used volunteer, or free, labor. I would imagine it was because it was a nonprofit trying to keep costs low. The site didn’t exactly solicit professional translators. It solicited student translators and persons looking to build a portfolio to begin a freelance translation career.


      • Hi, I didn’t catch my typo in the website name. It is


  6. I see, thank you.

    I took a look at it (I had to override warning about possible problems from McAffee, which is my anti-virus software) and frankly, I was not very impressed.

    The articles are very short, it looks like summaries of articles, I could not find anything of interest for me.

    I also thought the name was a little creepy.

    It made me think of NSA, which too is watching America, although it is prohibited from doing so by the US Constitution and by its own charter.

    If any monolingual Americans are reading this, I would like to encourage them to learn a foreign language or two to find out what the world is really thinking about us!


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