Posted by: patenttranslator | August 18, 2019

I Have No Respect for the Translation Industry Because It Has No Respect for Me

It is forbidden to kill; therefore, all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. – Voltaire

According to a story I recently saw on Youtube, which was originally broadcast on PBS (an American public television station), the average salary of a long-distance truck driver is about US$36,000 to 40,000. But if you specialize in high-end truck transport, for example in transporting expensive furniture for wealthy people, you can make as much as US$200,000, which I understand also more or less corresponds to the medium profit of an owner of a medium-size profitable translation agency. But in the modern trucking “industry” truckers are being paid less and less by the mile and their entire job is expected to disappear as a result of robotization altogether. Although being a long-distance driver used to be a career that came with a pretty solid middle-class income, times are tough for truck drivers.

The average income of a real-estate agent in United States is probably also about US$40,000. But those who specialize in selling high-end properties in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles can make many times that. Just like in any other type of business, it’s not about how much you know and how hard you work, it’s mostly about who you know and most importantly who your customers are.

Fortunately for real-estate agents, it is not as easy to computerize their work to a point where knowledgeable, professional agents could be replaced by cheap amateurs, robots and industrialized, mass production real estate sales models as some other jobs are, because among other things, the human connection that real estate agents need to establish with their customers must be grown slowly, organically and it cannot be simulated by a computer model.

The modern form of so-called translation industry is yet another example of corporate destruction of a type of a profitable small business that used to be built organically for centuries, but that has been corporatized, computerized and industrialized in the name of maximum profits to a sickening degree.

The difference between the organic production of translations by small companies that in the past used to be run mostly by translators or former translators, up until about the year 2000, and the form into which the “translation industry” developed by the second decade of the twenty-first century can be also compared for example to agricultural production of crops and meat in the past and the methods of agricultural production in our age and to many other small-scale production models that have been destroyed by corporate, pretty horrible mass-production models, whether we are talking about the use of cancer-causing pesticides or inhumane treatment of animals raised for meat on factory farms.

I do not respect the segment of the “translation industry”, an industry that in its present form is driven by ignorance, greed and ruthlessness rather than by knowledge, language and writing skills, and hard work.

I receive job offers from the “translation industry” several times a week in the form of mass emails that are sent to many translators at the same time to see who will bite first and offer to do the job fast and for a pittance. Here is one of them:

Greetings to you,

Hope you are well.

I am V., Vendor Manager at XYZ Internationals.

XYZ Internationals is a Consulting, IT and Language Services provider, based in U.S, although we have people working from all over the world. This email is regarding our Language Services Department and details are as follows:

We need your help with following:

Language Pair: Russian-English

Word count: 100

Budget: 0.03 USD per word

Deadline: ASAP

Are you interested? 

You may ignore this email if you are not interested.

Best regards,

V.

Vendor Manager

It’s nearly impossible to shake off these “Internationals”, or about as easy as to get rid of bedbugs. I have been receiving emails like this from this particular outfit for several months now. Even though I asked them not to send me their emails, they have been sending me their mass emails for many months now.

I have no respect for the “translation industry” because it has no respect for people like me. I would never work them, I despise them and their methods and I feel sorry for translators who think that they have no choice but to work for them.

Most of all, I feel sorry for their customers, who most likely have no idea that the translations that they pay for, though cheap, are most of the time pure garbage, the natural result of what the modern corporate management methods have done to translation and translators who used to represent a respected and relatively well paid profession for many centuries, until the advent of the new form of “translation industry”.

But although a certain segment of the “translation industry” is based on the philosophy of corporate mass-production of translations that are purchased at the lowest possible cost from the cheapest source, often from producers of machine translations that are “just as good as human translations”, or from other equally dubious sources, which is to say from “translators” who really have no business translating, another segment of the “translation industry” is still based on the old methods emphasizing the importance of human element in the translation business, methods that respected translators and that were prevalent in the 20th century.

The only way for translators to make a good income and stay in the middle class is to refuse cooperating with the current form of the “translation industry” and work either with translation agencies that treat them as professionals who need to be paid accordingly, or become completely independent of translation agencies and work only for direct clients.

This is of course no easy task, but the fact is that translators who specialize in an interesting and promising translation field can make many times what those of us who respond to mass emails of dubious translation agency operators make and as a result spend their lives working for peanuts.

Just like the long-distance truck driver who specializes in transporting expensive furniture for rich people, or real estate agent who sells high-end properties in New York or California, a translator who specializes in a well-chosen translation field and figures out how to connect with direct clients will be doing just fine for many years to come.

But translators who submit themselves to the demands of the most pernicious segments of the “translation industry” will be probably eventually turned by the industry into mere post-processors of machine translation detritus.


Responses

  1. I am on a Japanese to English project right now and the customer is using MT to “seed” the initial translation. I refused to do MT editing, so they are paying me for those segments. However, it is giving me a close look at the quality of the MT output. The results are usable for short, simple text segments, which you could easily cover with just a glossary anyway, but falls apart when it comes to longer, more complex sentences that diverge from previous translations (equivalent to a low match with a CAT tool). Particularly, it has no real sense of context.

    As you are well aware, it is common in Japanese to introduce a subject and subsequently refer to it in an indirect manner. In such a case, the MT just produces this vague mashup of pronouns that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I myself often have to refer back to the source document to figure out what is being referred to so that I can add it back into the English text. The problem with the way that MT is being applied is that it only produces translation on a segment by segment basis. It seems to have no real model for how the entire document works together as a cohesive whole, who wrote it, the purpose of writing it, who the target audience is, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It seems to have no real model for how the entire document works together as a cohesive whole, who wrote it, the purpose of writing it, who the target audience is, etc.”

    Because this is “a spiritual part of every translation” that cannot be programmed into software.

    I see it even in machine translations of patents all the time.

    Like

  3. “Fortunately for real-estate agents, it is not as easy to computerize their work to a point where knowledgeable, professional agents could be replaced by cheap amateurs, robots and industrialized, mass production real estate sales models as some other jobs are, because among other things, the human connection that real estate agents need to establish with their customers must be grown slowly, organically and it cannot be simulated by a computer model.”

    Ever heard of Purple Bricks?

    Like

  4. This is what I got when I entered the zip code of the place where I used to live in Virginia in the search fields on their website. So the reason why I never heard of them is that they have no agents there:

    We’re having trouble finding the price for your zip code, but don’t worry
    We want to make sure we have the most accurate information in order to get you the best price so let’s talk.
    Call us at:
    (888) 822-8008
    24 hours a day, 7 days a week

    If you’d like to try a new search, please enter a new zip code.

    Like

  5. Respect: “I respect everybody. You don’t have to earn my respect. You earn my disrespect.”
    – Charlie Murphy

    Love your videos. So speacking of respect…

    Like


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