Posted by: patenttranslator | June 3, 2018

So Many Jobs, None of Which Produces Anything or Makes Money

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

George Orwell, 1984

A striking but rarely mentioned feature of the present economic system in Western countries is the growth of parasitic jobs that do not produce anything other than profits for the industries that produce nothing.

A typical representative of a parasitic industry is the financial industry represented best by the Wall Street, which produces nothing but has its fingers in everything as long as major profits can be derived from everything and anything by the industry.

There are also many other industries that are parasitic and add no value, such as the private health insurance industry, which is largely responsible for the fact that healthcare in the United States is many times more expensive than in any other country and thus unavailable to tens of millions of people, or the marketing industry, which is responsible for addictive and dangerous drugs being peddled in countless commercials on our teevee to fight off fictional diseases helpfully manufactured for us by Big Pharma, and a slew of many other, relatively new industries.

This reminds me in fact of what was happening not so long ago in the division of labor in the economies of communist countries before these economies collapsed under the deadwood weight of so many useless parasites.

When I was a student working in construction for a few weeks on a summer job, I heard quite a few times people working in value producing parts of the economy, such as bricklayers, say to me:  “I have to work so hard because I am feeding ten useless bureaucrats.”

The incomes of the people on top of the hierarchy of largely parasitic and useless jobs have the potential of reaching stratospheric levels, unlike the incomes of the people who must work very hard to feed the insanely complicated job structure.

The logical result is, of course, that the incomes of the people whose jobs do create real value must be pushed lower and lower to make sure that the incomes of the people in the parasitic jobs can keep going higher and higher. And the result of that is the lower and lower quality of the product created by people who are still willing and able to work as translators in the structure of the corporate “translation industry.”

A phenomenon that can be now seen also in the growth of parasitic jobs in what is called the translation industry, and one reason for why the rates being now paid for translation to translators have been reduced so much in the last decade or two, is the fact that so many new job descriptions have been added by the “translation industry” to create the bloated configuration of the division of labor in the corporate type of translation agencies.

While less than a couple of decades ago, an agency was usually run by one or two persons, usually an agency owner who often was a translator himself, or at the most just a few people taking care of the customers, translators and accounting tasks, the new “translation industry” managed to squeeze many new jobs into its magnificent and munificent structure.

I see these jobs as largely parasitic and redundant constructs for one simple reason – these jobs may be useful for some purposes, but since they are performed by monolinguals, they cannot create value because value can be generally created in the translation field only by translating, i.e. by a translator, or by editing, which is to say by a bilingual editor who is familiar with the subject matter and who can catch typos, omissions, or (God forbid!) mistakes and errors.

None of the jobs newly created for monolingual managers provides any help in this respect.

An article published a few days ago in Slator by Esther Bond, a Research Analyst who describes herself as “a localization analyst, linguist and inquisitor, a London native”, in Slator, an internet publication defined on its website  as a publication that “makes business sense of the translation and language technology markets through news and insights on demand drivers, funding, talent moves, tech and more,” has recently revealed, the multifaceted, profoundly and delicately parasitic character of the so-called translation industry in a short article about more than 600 (!!!) job titles recently created by what are now called “LSPs” (née originally as translation agencies), which are used for an incredible multitude of people who work as non-translators for the “translation industry” and live off the work of what translation agencies now like to call “linguists”, or simply “vendors,” i.e. people who are engaged in the actual value creating and money-making activities, who not so long ago used to be called simply “translators” before they become “linguists”, or just “vendors.”

Here is a sample of the amazing array of job titles listed in the Slator article, which are used by the modern version of the “translation industry” for monolingual people who could not translate anything if their life depended on it and who therefore must live off the work of  the “vendors” and “linguists:”

Program Managers, Customer Success Managers, Project Management Mangers for Technology, Large Accounts Managers, Business Development Managers, Senior Localization Strategy Consultants, Strategic Account Executives, Vice Presidents for Sales, Chief Revenue Officers, Global Procurement Directors, Supplier Relations Managers, Area Sourcing Managers, Supply Chain Managers, Talent Program Managers ….

Slator notes that some among the 600 job titles used by what is called the translation industry are difficult to understand, such as the following creative job titles that are also popular in the “translation industry:”

Junior Full Stack Software Developer, Senior UX Designer, QA Automation Engineer, Associate Customer Support Engineer, or Sound Engineer….

The word “translator”, which originally described the essential profession in the translation business, as it is in fact the only profession that is required to operate a translation business, is kind of frowned upon in the modern version of the “translation industry” and it is not found much in job titles that the industry prefers to bestow on occupations that are much more important for its proper functioning at this point.

To me it is also interesting that the industry more and more prefers to describe itself not only as the “translation industry”, but also as the “language industry”, presumably because in addition to producing translations, it also creates language.

What will be its new description after the “language industry” title is found too constricting, I wonder?

Although I can only guess at the reasons for why the word “translator” is no longer used that much to describe the occupation that I have been performing for more than 30 years, with considerable commercial success and without the aid of the “translation industry”, I think that there must be a reason for this somewhat paradoxical disappearance of the word “translator” from the parlance used by the corporate type of translation agencies.

I think the reason why we translators have now become “vendors” in the jargon of the “translation industry” is an effort to redefine terms, so that new terms and job titles will be used in the industry to make the customers believe that translations are in reality created by the monolingual people working in the new, plentiful jobs that have been created by the industry for highly talented and very important monolinguals who now populate the industry, and not really by mere actual translators,

Translators are thus becoming the new “deplorables”, who may be still for the time being kind of needed, but whose job title may soon disappear completely, along with the jobs and job titles of people who used to work in occupations such as blacksmiths, lamplighters, switchboard operators, rat catchers, or Volga boatman haulers, pitiful humans who used to pull boats up the Volga River and who used to be called “burlaki” in Russian, who for some reason remind me so much of “post processors” of machine translations.

Once the connection between the words “translators” and “translations” has been severed and completely erased from the minds of customers who pay for the translations as a result of 600 new job titles created by the industry for its important monolingual managers, the word “translator” can be safely retired … provided that neither the translators nor the customers will realize what is going on and try to do something about it.

Fortunately for the “translation industry”, something like that is very, very unlikely.

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Responses

  1. “Translators are thus becoming the new ‘deplorables’, who may be still for the time being kind of needed, but whose job title may soon disappear completely, along with the jobs and job titles of people who used to work in occupations such as blacksmiths….”

    Well, if you listen to people like Nataly Kelly (I don’t – I needed extra hours of sleep during her memoQ Fest 2018 keynote, though I did bring extra barf bags from the plane just in case) at the bottom of the bulk market bog, this statement has a ring of truth to it.

    Like

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kevin.

    I know who she is but just like you, I don’t waste my time listening to the prognostications of people like her …. except when I see them as suitable fodder for my posts.

    In one part of the “translation industry”, translators (“vendors”) may become almost redundant and they may soon be turned into the equivalent of Volga boatmen pushing the heavy cargo of machine translation up the river until they inevitably croak of exhaustion and hunger.

    But that is only one part of the industry, a highly visible part of an industry that is setting itself up for extinction with its race to the bottom.

    I believe that, somewhat paradoxically, but in fact quite logically, this also creates favorable conditions for translators to compete with the self-destructive part of the mighty “translation industry.”

    But that would be and probably will be a topic for another post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Steve!

    Well, the job ads I still see offering post-editing of machine translation jobs are mostly about e-commerce.

    A couple of years ago, I read an online article in which some representative of “the non-translating industry pretending to represent us” claimed that it was more profitable for an e-commerce company to have its website poorly translated into 40 languages than well translated into, say, 1 or 10 languages…

    I don’t know what serious study has ever proven that, but this is the kind of assertion that is being served to gullible end-customers…

    I usually kindly inform the misinformed or dishonest middlemen who post such job ads that offering proofreading rates for editing machine translation is unfair since it takes LONGER than translating from scratch.

    Let’s also note the misleading marketing terminology used here:

    1) machine “TRANSLATION”: a machine DOES NOT TRANSLATE; it only applies algorithms (i.e. it’s a best guess, and sometimes it works, as can only be appreciated by a qualified human being afterwards) but IT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND what it’s doing (i.e. the machine cannot judge if its output is correct or not) – whereas “TRANSLATION” is INTELLECTUAL WORK;

    so it should be re-named: “machine OUTPUT”;

    2) “POST-“editing machine translation supposes that the machine has already “translated” and that only some minor corrections might be needed…

    The expression “EDITING Machine OUTPUT” (EMO) (as it should be re-named) would let the vendors know that a lot of (expensive) work might be involved…

    And in the incompetent or dishonest minds of the people in “the translating industry”, since machines do most of the translation work, they do not need “translators” nor “linguists” any more, just “vendors”, i.e. just bilingual people…

    In a translators’ group on LinkedIn, someone once explained that it was the project managers’ computer programs that called us “vendors” and that was why those poor PMs also called us “vendors”: those clueless people don’t know any better than what their computers tell them, it seems… :-/

    * * * * *

    I can imagine those marketing meetings at SDL and other crooks of this sort:

    – “So we have a new production technique now: the ‘editing of machine output’…

    Let’s rename it ‘machine TRANSLATION’,

    the ‘POST-editing of machine TRANSLATION’!

    This way those gullible translators will believe that the job only consists in giving the final, finishing touches to almost perfect ‘translations’ – almost like revising human translation – at the PRICE of revising HUMAN translation!”

    – “Brilliant idea, those translators are so stupid anyway”

    – “Yes, and what negotiation power do they have? They are isolated, each one behind his little computer in his little home…”

    – “They are so EASY TO ABUSE! Let’s go for it!”

    – “They are not going to sue us, are they?”

    – “Not a chance, they are too poor for that – and we’ll make them even poorer!”

    (LAUGHS and APPLAUSE; sound of glasses clinking…).

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Brilliant idea, those translators are so stupid anyway”

      “Yes, and what negotiation power do they have? They are isolated, each one behind his little computer in his little home…”

      “They are so EASY TO ABUSE! Let’s go for it!”

      “They are not going to sue us, are they?”

      “Not a chance, they are too poor for that – and we’ll make them even poorer!”

      (LAUGHS and APPLAUSE; sound of glasses clinking…).

      I think that conversations like this one took place at many “LSPs” during the course of the last two decades.

      They must think that we are stupid morons, unable to see through their con.

      What I find very sad is that our so-called professional associations failed and ultimately betrayed translators, because to my knowledge, none of them identified “post-processing of machine translation” for what it is, and none of them dared to speak against it, the ATA (American Translators Association), being just one example of this betrayal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • What ?

      Like


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