Posted by: patenttranslator | June 25, 2018

The Most Popular and the Most Hated Post on My Blog

Both the most popular and the most hated post (so far) on my silly blog are ironic pieces in which I am making fun of certain groups of people.

The most popular post so far, titled Translator’s Dementia, What It Is and How to Recognize the Signs, was viewed more than 10 thousand times during the first week when I put it on my blog, and then it was translated into several languages by translators whose native language is not English.

The group of people that I am making fun of in that ironic piece is called translators. For some reason, translators don’t mind being made fun of at all. They are more willing to laugh at themselves. In fact, they enjoy being made fun of in this manner, especially when they recognized themselves or their friends in my parody on the life of a translator.

There were many comments in the comment section, but most people were saying that they had a good laugh. There was some mild criticism in the comment section too, such as in this comment:”Thanks for describing my life. Could’ve been hilarious if it weren’t so sad.” But that is more a comment on the sad state of the status quo than anything else. During the six years since I published my post, the status quo of translators and interpreters has of course become much worse.

But it was a very different story with a post called Why Are All Language Interpreters Women, because the group of people that I was making fun of in that post is called women.

When you are a woman, you can make fun of men all you want. It is considered very, very cool and sexy when women make fun of men in our culture. But it is unspeakably despicable and in bad taste when a man is trying to make fun of women.

In all of the TV commercials featuring interactions between a man and a woman in which the actors play a husband and a wife that I was force-fed during the last forty years or so, the husband is always a somewhat stupid, or at the very least an uninformed and ignorant yahoo, who is at the end of the commercial illuminated about whatever it is that the commercial is pushing by a sharp, pretty and bright wife who is much smarter than the lemon she married. The viewer must wonder why she married such a dumb loser.

I have never seen a commercial in which the husband is a smart guy and the wife is a dumb female because obviously, there are no dumb females, only dumb males!

Have you? If so, please send me a Youtube link.

Although I was not saying anything about deaf people in my post at all since I was merely making fun of women interpreters in the most hated post that I dared to write, in the same manner that I used to make fun of all translators in my most popular post, in the comment section of my post which was clearly a parody, I was called nasty names like “an idiot” (by a man), many people told me that I was cruel to deaf people and should know better, and my friend Chris Durban told me that I should get out more and asked “what set me off to write that post”?

What “set me off” to write that parody was an article published by a researcher from the Syracuse University. I remember that the article said that something like 90% of sign language interpreters were women and that among the potential reasons why women are much more likely to choose this profession than men is greater empathy on the part of the women and the fact that women are usually more expected to help family members than men.

Unlike my silly post, the article by the Syracuse University researcher was not a parody; it was a scholarly study emphasizing positive characteristics that are commonly associated more with females than with males, such as their readiness to help people who need help.

Nevertheless, when I clicked on the link in my post to refresh my memory about the original article of the Syracuse University professor that “set me off” to write my parody, I discovered that the link now leads to the biography of a rather stern looking professor of feminist studies, introduced as a professor of gender studies, qualitative methodology, feminist studies, and social interaction”.  (You can check it out yourself by clicking on the link to my original post.

The article by the Syracuse University researcher has been disappeared as if it never existed, the way they did it with undesirable people in photos surrounding great leaders such as Joseph Stalin in the former Soviet Union.) Unfortunately, this is what modern feminism has become: it simply replaces facts that it considered inconvenient with politically correct propaganda.

Huh? I was surprised a little, but not too much. I did read George Orwell when was young and I remember what he said about rewriting of history:“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 

As a result of my parody, several of the biggest fans of my blog became my biggest enemies, spewing venom at me in comments and emails for several months, most of them female, until they finally gave up and hopefully stopped reading my posts.

I was told that what I said with tongue in cheek in the post was “sexist and degrading”, and that the article was not funny at all (although the post had 573 “Likes” on Facebook after its publication). So somebody must have liked the post.

The Facebook “Likes” are now reduced to only 26 because the original count was erased and replaced by a new, more recent count.

Every now and then, somebody discovers my most hated post on my silly blog and either likes it, or totally hates it and sends me a terribly serious comment, such as this one: “…I would appreciate you taking down that post considering there is no supporting evidence to your claim, and I do not want other interpreters to feel as offended as I was when I came across your article. You are not only insulting to Interpreters, but to women in general.

Well, I am sure that my post was insulting to some women …. but only to those who are so insecure that they can’t stand it when a man is making fun of women, since everybody knows that it’s supposed to be the other way round!

But judging from the reaction to my post, I think that some women actually had a good laugh, possibly because they recognized themselves in my parody, just like some men have a good laugh when they recognize themselves in a description of silly male behavior.

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Posted by: patenttranslator | June 18, 2018

Click Here for Translation

“Everything has already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again.”
André Gide

Last week I was checking out locations and prices of hotels in a small town in Southern Bohemia. Well, 90,000 people is a relatively small town by American standards, but a pretty big town by Southern Bohemian standards, I’d say. But then again, a small town in Bohemia is still a town, while a big town like Los Angeles is not really a town but a hundred different towns, so we are really comparing apples and oranges.

I thought that the English description of the hotel’s rooms and facilities sounded a little funny, so I started looking for the now omnipresent “Click here for translation” button to find out what was the original description in Czech like.

And there it was, in the upper right corner, exactly where I expected it to be.

But the “Click here for translation” button of this little hotel, more of what is called a pension rather than a hotel really, had more than a dozen flags to indicate the languages in which translation was available: not just in German, French, Russian, and English as one would expect, but also in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Dutch, etc.

It was not surprising to me that when I clicked on the flag in a language I know, I saw that it was a machine translation rather than a real translation because there were mistakes in it. But when I clicked on the Czech flag, I saw that it was a machine translation too, not a text written by a real person.

The algorithms for machine translation can be designed to sound almost like a real translation for languages that have a relatively simple grammatical structure, such as English, which has no cases for nouns as do Slavic languages such as Czech, Russian, or Polish, and this is one reason is why machine translations from English into a Slavic language will be instantly recognizable already by the wrong case of the noun …. among many other things as well, of course, such as the wrong gender of the noun, or the iterative mode of a verb which should have been in a non-iterative mode based on the context.

For example, the correct translation of a very simple sentence in English, such as “The price includes breakfast” would be “Cena zahrnuje snídani”, but machine translation could easily butcher the result in Czech to “Cena zahrnuje snídaně”. Because there were so many mistakes like this in the Czech text, I saw that it could not have been written by a real person, it was a machine translation too.

So who wrote the original blurb on the hotel’s website if it was not the Czech owner of the small pension? I guess I will never know.

How can I find the original text if the website is in 16 languages? I guess I never will.

Most English speakers don’t realize that machine translations from and into complicated languages are much more difficult to design than machine translations from and into English.

We can see it all the time when we click on the “Click here for translation” button on Facebook for a language that we don’t know.

Even though I don’t speak Italian, I can usually figure out the meaning of the text if I click for example on Italian because I know French fairly well, and also because I have been studying Latin as a young lad for many years.

But if I click on a language that I don’t know and that is not related to another language that I know, for example on Arabic, the result is most of the time hilarious and completely incomprehensible nonsense.

We try to use technology to solve the problems of our civilization, and we think that it can be done in this way.

But maybe we are just fooling ourselves. It is also possible that the opposite is happening: instead of understanding each other better because we now have machine translation to communicate with people that we could not communicate with before since they speak a language that we don’t know, we understand less and less each other even in our own language because everything now looks more and more like a machine translation, and it’s not possible anymore to find out what the original was really about. The meaning gets lost and replaced by “alternative meanings” created by algorithms.

Few people notice, and nobody really cares.

Human translators are too expensive, so we don’t try too much to understand what things really mean. That is no longer very important.

Here is another example: this morning I gave a client an estimate for translating relatively small sections of several patents. All of the patents would translate into about seven or eight thousand words, the sections the client selected would translate into only about two thousand words.

There was no answer so far from the law firm to my modest cost estimate.

And here is what I think must have happened: the patent lawyer told the corporation that is his client in this case that there are important sections of the patent applications cited in opposition to a patent filed by the corporation, and that he just can’t figure out the meaning of these sections from free machine translation.

And because the corporation does not like to spend too much money on translations, the patent lawyer proposed an alternative: use human translation only for these vital sections to reduce the cost of human translation.

But the lawyer’s client is so used to the “Click here for translation button” that he told the lawyer that the company has no budget for human translation, even if it would be for a relatively small portion of the entire material.

Or maybe I must wait because the decision about the relatively minor expense related to human translation must be made by an important bean counter who is comfortably sitting at a higher corporate position?

As I’ve said above, because human translators are expensive, we don’t try too much to understand what things really mean. That is no longer very important.

In Algorithms We Trust.

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.

Posted by: patenttranslator | May 30, 2018

The Future Is Unknowable

The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.

Winston Churchill

I read yesterday in the New York Times that yet another taxi driver, the fifth one in as many months, committed suicide in New York City because he had a huge debt and could not find enough work as a result of ride-sharing services. His body was found floating in the East River.

The taxi driver, who I thought had a Chinese name although it turned out that he was from Burma and who went by the name Kenny, had taken out a loan seven years ago to buy a $700,000 medallion that gave him the right to operate a cab.

Let me try now to rewind the video of my own life in my head back to 1987, the year when I started my translation business in San Francisco. My own initial investment into my new business when I decided that instead of being employee, I would start my own translation business, was about $2,000, which was what I needed to buy a new computer (with two “floppy disk drives”, no hard disk yet,) and a noisy, used dot matrix printer.

I remember that after I had daringly put the computer on my credit card as I had no income to speak of yet, it took me about half a year to pay the entire sum off. I had no customers and no idea how to go about finding them, but it was in not very difficult to find work back then. I simply went to a library, copied the lists of translation agencies in the “Translation and Interpreting” section published in the Yellow Pages in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, mailed out a few dozen résumés and within a few months I was making as much as or more than I did as an employee from various translation jobs obtained from the equivalent of the gig industry three decades ago.

Good timing is everything in life, whether you want to move to a different town, start a new business or a new family, and $2,000 is much easier to pay off than $700,000.

Fortunately for me, my timing was not bad three decades ago, unlike the timing of the poor taxi driver in New York, and I did not end up jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and floating in the San Francisco Bay.

But so much has changed for worse since then for people who want to start a new translation business now. Although a very good computer with a very good, perfectly quiet printer now costs less than $500, most other things that a new translator needs have changed for worse.

For one thing, translation agencies no longer even advertise in Yellow Pages. I got a new copy of Yellow Pages yesterday, it had a much smaller footprint than what it used to be even a decade ago, and there was not even the familiar heading there for Translation-Interpreting for Virginia Beach and adjacent areas with a population of more than a million.

And most of the agencies that operate on the internet nowadays are very different from what they used to be thirty years ago. Three decades ago, most agencies were run by former translators who knew other languages and specific subjects and understood what translation is all about and. These agency owners were interested in finding the best translators available in a given field because they understand that they were be putting their own reputation on the line based on the translators who work for them.

The people who were running translation agencies specializing in patents and technical translation back then were often multilingual engineers who themselves became translators, and because they enjoyed running an enterprise more than translating, they eventually started a translation agency and usually were very good and successful at that.

These were the translation agencies that I used to work for 30 years ago.

But that is so twentieth century now. If you now run a search for a specialized translation service on the internet, you will be immediately hit by promises of “patent translation services providing excellent translation quality for 10 cents a word for translations from and into 600 languages.”

Just about everything the generic translation agencies and often even agencies that claim to specialize in patent translation promise on their website is a damn lie. First of all, patents are obviously not filed in 600 languages. This is just some patent agency’s PR person’s idea of effective commercial propaganda, namely another stupid idea of a propagandist who does not know anything about languages, and who may be seriously underestimating the intelligence of his potential customers by simply pulling the number of 600 languages out of thin air.

In other words, this particular claim is just another of many fraudulent claims so typical of the commercial propaganda encountered on the websites of modern translation agencies (or “LSPs”.)

Although depending on how one defines the term “language”, more than 6,000 languages are spoken worldwide, and 1,652 languages are spoken in India alone according to data from Census of India, out of which only around 150 are considered official languages, patent applications can be filed in India simply either in Hindi or in English. So a couple of languages is all that is needed for this purpose in the huge Indian subcontinent.

If for contrast we now take a look at the country of Iceland with a small population and a language that is spoken by only some three hundred and fifty thousand people, we will discover that although patent applications can be filed in five different languages in the country of Iceland, namely in Icelandic, English, Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian, only the claims and an abstract must be submitted in Icelandic.

And although 23 official languages (and many more dialects) are spoken in the entire continent of Europe, according to data from the European Patent Office, the original regulations of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provided originally for publication in only five languages: English, French, German, Japanese, and Russian.

Since then, PCT Rule 48.3 has been amended to include Spanish (in 1985), Chinese (in 1994), and Arabic (in 2006) as additional languages of publication.

The PCT Assembly then also adopted with effect from January 1, 2009 an amendment to PCT Rule 48.3(a), which added two new languages of publication: Korean and Portuguese.

Incidentally, translation of claims and abstracts from a relatively small number of languages, including from English, into other languages, such as German and English, for publications of claims and abstracts according to PCT rules has been a busy field for my small and highly specialized operation: I have been doing this kind of work for several patent law firms in cooperation with excellent, experienced native patent translators for about 12 years now.

But I accept only languages that I myself can read and translate, not 600 (nonexistent) languages!

While the claim that a translation agency is translating patents from and into 600 languages is obviously a lie aimed at impressing gullible (and apparently not very smart) potential customers, the claim that this patent translation outfit is actually able to have its translations done at 10 cents a word is probably true, at least for some of the languages that an agency may be in fact able to handle at this rock bottom price.

Since the translation agencies typically keep at least a half of the 10 cents per word fee so proudly advertised, this means that the human translators who work for such translation agencies will be paid no more than about 5 cents a word, possibly less.

That the average output in terms of the number of words that a translator can translate per day is about 2,000 words. I myself can translate between 2,000 to 4,000 words. But it depends on the circumstances and I am probably faster than many patent translators because this is what I have been doing for more than 30 years. So a translator working for this agency could make about one hundred dollars per day, for quite a few hours of very intense, complicated and time-consuming work, on days when there is work.

And of course, there are likely to be days, perhaps many days, without work in the life of a freelance translator.

In other words, experienced and qualified translators would not be able to work for such translation agencies at all for economical reasons. Which is why I myself stopped translating patents for translation agencies well over a decade ago and now I translate patents only for direct clients.

So who translates the patents that experienced and qualified translators used to translate for translation agencies up until some 15 years ago? Although of course I don’t know the answer to this question, I can make an educated guess.

I think that most of these translations are in fact done by algorithms, so that the resulting detritus, (the result of the process in which a mathematical formula is used to match a text in a foreign language to a similar, but not identical text among billions of texts that have already been translated by thousands of human translators), is then looked over by somebody who would be willing to try to remove for about 1 cents per word the most glaring mistakes from the machine-translated text so that it would look like a real translation.

I happen to know that 1 cent a word is the going rate for post-processing of machine translations of patents because that was the fee offered to me by a translation agency some time ago.

If I was just about to start my professional career in technical translation right now, would I still headlesly jump into such a risky endeavor now as I did 30 years ago, or would I instead try to find a less risky and more lucrative line of work for myself?

I think I would probably still do it, but with one major caveat: from the very beginning, I would try to stay away from translation agencies. There is no point in helping them in their race to the bottom, both in terms of price and quality; in fact, if you really want to be a professional translator, helping them to do what they are doing now is tantamount to professional suicide.

I would now design my business from the start so as to be independent of the middlemen in what is now called the translation industry, by identifying, finding and working only for direct clients for my translations.

Although the future is and always has been unknowable, and even though there is so much flotsome and jetsome floating around in the immense reaches of the internet that is being sold by the “translation industry” as actual translation, or probably precisely because of that, there will always be a demand for accurate and elegant expert translations, not just in my field of patent translation, but in every field of human knowledge.

I believe that those of us who are able to specialize in one of the many demanding and exciting fields of human knowledge will still be able to make a good living, unlike the taxi driver in the article at the beginning of my post today.

But I also believe that unlike a few decades ago, we can now do so only if we avoid translation agencies and work only directly for the clients who are actually using our translations.

We translators love to constantly complain on social media about how we are treated by translation agencies, or by what is now called the “translation industry” (always in quotation marks on my silly blog, to distinguish this particular industry from translation as a profession, because these are two very different things.)

But when the shoe is on the other foot, when one translator works for another translator, who would then in this case be the equivalent of the “translation industry”, how do we treat the translators who work for us? Is there a difference between us and the industry in what we do unto others?

I think so. In most cases, I have noticed that most translators in fact do unto other translators as they would have them do unto them.

Just like some translators are not really of this world although they do live in it, there is a part of what is called the “translation industry” that is not really a part of the industry, and that part is made mostly of translators or former translators who also run what is a de facto small translation agency.

I myself have been working for other translators for many years and although that part of my life seems to be mostly in the past now, there are quite a few translators who are still working for me or for my small enterprise that is based mostly on translation of patents.

Because I mostly translate patents, the translators that I myself have been working for in the past two decades and who no longer send me work, because they are retired or no longer with us in this world, were also patent translators. In fact, they were mostly German translators, who just like me were translating German patents directly for patent law firms and occasionally needed help with translations of Japanese patents.

As I have said, they no longer send me work, probably because there is less demand for Japanese. But just last week I talked to one of them who translates German patents and who used to send me Japanese patents for translation, on and off for quite a few years. She is in her early eighties now but she still works, and there is plenty of work for her, she said, although she tries to find enough time for traveling as well.

There are generally a few important differences between how the translation agencies run their business in the toxic environment of new “translation industry” and how individual translators and some small translation agencies work with translators. Here are some of these differences:

  1. Paying Good Rates Is the Best Way to Ensure Excellent Quality of the Translation

Based on the new “translation industry” model, most translation agencies try to find the cheapest translator who should still be able to do a given job. The results are often not very good, especially since most translation agencies are unable to evaluate the quality of translations (that’s why they need to send a translation test to every new translator for their kind of evaluation that can be done by somebody who understands only one language and generally knows nothing about the subject either.)

But individual translators can tell good quality from poor quality and they are also often able to pay higher rates to other translators because they make most of their money from their own work.

I don’t pay “stellar” rates as one cheeky translator (who just like me may be a bit spoiled when it comes to rates because he mostly works for direct customers) once complained to me, but the rates that I pay are quite a bit higher than what the big players in the “translation industry” typically pay, generally twice as much as what a typical mega agency would pay.

(Please don’t send me your résumés. I need only a few people for only a few languages and there is so much fraud in the fake résumé business that I am only willing to consider translators who have been recommended by other translators that I know already.)

  1. Paying Quickly Is Almost as Good as Paying Twice

Another distinguishing features of translators and small to tiny agencies that used to and sometime still do send me patents for translation is that they pay within a few days, which is to say that they usually mail me a check as soon as they have received my translation.

This is very different from the model of the “translation industry”, which generally pays in two to three months to take advantage of a long “float time” during which the industry can let us wait for our money while we are forced to extend credit to the industry, often for a very long time. Who cares how are the translators going to be able to pay their bills before the payment finally arrives?

That’s their damn problem, right?

Well, not really, at least I don’t think so. And because the projects that I handle as an agency are not that many, they are usually relatively small and I have some money in the bank set aside specifically for this purpose, I pay translators who work for me on the first and on the fifteenth of each month, which means that nobody has to wait to get paid for more than two weeks, sometimes only a day or two.

  1. A Non-Disclosure Agreement Is Generally Only an Unenforceable Piece of Paper

Unlike the new “translation industry”, I don’t believe much in long, demeaning and sometime illegal NDAs that all translators are forced to sign in exchange for promises of future work, which often turns out to be nonexistent.

If a translation agency treats a translator in this manner, it clearly demonstrates a lack of respect for a translator, and the translator will have no respect for the translation either. Unfortunately for the clients, this means that any NDA could be violated by a translator without a second thought, especially since it is difficult or impossible to prove a violation, in particular if the translation agency is located in another country.

The best way for a translation agency to show that it respects the people who are working for it and whose work is indispensable for the agency’s profitability or survival is: 1. when it pays translators good rates, 2. when invoices are paid quickly (or at least within the promised time period), and 3. when the agency maintains basic norms of polite conduct in the communications with the translators.

I still know a few translation agencies that check all of the boxes for the simple categories mentioned above and those are the only agencies that I still work for.

And when I am the agency, I try to fit into them my little enterprise as well, which among other things means that I basically only ask translators to sign an NDA if it is required by the client. This happens once in a while, but not very often and when it does, the translators only need to sign a short statement about confidentiality.

Instead of relying on a piece of signed paper with thousands of words of tricky and scary legalese on it that for the most part has nothing to do with confidentiality of documents anyway, I try to establish a relationship of trust between myself and the translators who work for me. I believe that this is by far is the best way to ensure the confidentiality of documents.

I believe in the principles outlined in my silly post today because this is how the old “translation industry” used to work, before mammoth agencies ruined it, especially as smaller agencies started to imitate the ruthless corporate methods of their larger and particularly arrogant and greedy brethren.

I try to imitate the old translation agency model because I think that the old model is much better not only for translators, but also for their clients.

Painful experience has taught me that few things in life are as stupid as trying to find very good wine in a very cheap wine bottle. You have to pay a decent price for a decent wine. Don’t be surprised if a cheap wine turns out to be poison that will give you a major headache.

Despite the propaganda of the “translation industry” extolling the advantages of “new and innovative techniques”, referring in fact mostly to dangerous and counter-productive techniques for post-processing of the machine translation detritus, translations are in this respect no different from wine.

As I wrote in my previous post, it was about 15 years ago when I realized for the first time that major and possibly irreversible changes were taking place in the translation business environment. My solution was to stop working for what is now called the “translation industry”, and I was able to do that mostly thanks to my stubborn perseverance combined with a few lucky circumstances that I described in that post.

I believe that many translators should still be able to use the same method that I was and still am using, while others may be able to use very different methods to protect themselves and their profession from the clutches of the rapacious “translation industry”, although all of the different potential methods will be based on staying independent of the industry and being able to work mostly or only for direct clients, perhaps with a few small translation agencies included in the mix.

But since the larger question asked in the title of my silly post today has not been answered in that post, I will try to do so, from my perspective, today.

I think that the short answer is “probably not.” At least not in the short run, the damage cannot be reversed for the thousands of far-flung translators working on the translation industry’s plantation without any representation.

For one thing, we translators have nobody to speak for us, let alone work on our behalf to actively promote our interests. The government obviously does not give a damn about translators. Since unlike for example the drug industry, or the gun industry, we have no lobbyists paying millions of dollars to politicians to maintain our earnings even at a level enabling economic survival, the government becomes aware that we exist only when it comes to paying taxes, regardless of in which country we happen to live in. This is true not only about translators, but about many other professions and we should not be surprised by that.

What should be surprising, although some translators may not be realizing it, is that our so-called professional associations are actively working for the “translation industry” and thus against our interests, although nominally they are supposed to be working for us, as they are financed mostly by financial contributions from individual translators.

But the problem is, the “translators’ associations” are also funded by the “translation industry” if they and other industries, as well as the governmental organizations, are allowed to be members of the same association as translators working in the trenches of the modern translation business. And compared to the power wielded by these non-translating members who are also members of same presumably happy family, poor individual translators obviously have no power at all.

Translators have no friends, only enemies, or at best only frenemies who only pretend to be our friends.

One piece of evidence of the fact that for example the American Translators Association is working for the “translation industry” and against translators, is the current content of the ATA Chronicle, the association’s almost-monthly magazine.

Although I was able to publish two or three articles that were somewhat critical of the practices of translation agencies in the ATA Chronicle at the beginning of this century, before the term “translation industry” came into common use, times have changed since then.

I offered relatively recently several articles for publication in the “Voice of Translators and Interpreters”, partly because several readers of my blog suggested (despite my skepticism) that it was a good idea and naively thought that the ATA Chronicle would mostly likely have a positive response.

Frosty silence was the only answer. Who am I to dare to ask something like that?

The American Translators Association, and probably also other associations nominally of, for and by translators, are not interested in a dialogue between the translators and the “translation industry.” They prefer to pretend that we are all a big happy family.

Well, if it is a family, it is one in which the weaker members are abused by much more powerful members and ultimately slated for extinction.

That is not my kind of family … except perhaps as a fictional family featured in a Netflix series in which one weak member is gruesomely murdered every now and then, preferably no less than every other episode or so.

One reason why I stubbornly keep posting on my blog articles that are very critical of the propaganda and practices of the “translation industry” is that to my knowledge, the ATA Chronicle has never published anything even slightly critical of the “translation industry”, at least not in the last two decades, as it has been successfully co-opted by the industry into its machinery as simply another tool for disseminating the propaganda of an industry whose ultimate goal is basically to eliminate our profession by turning as many of us as possible into grossly underpaid, slave-like “machine translation post-processors”, a vulgar caricature of what our profession used to be and should be.

While there have been many articles in the ATA Chronicle (which calls itself “the Voice of Translators and Interpreters”) written by representatives of the industry, celebrating the advances of what is called language technology, not a single article has been published in it questioning the elephant in the room – the proposition that the present kind of mechanization and industrialization of translation is a healthy and desirable way forward for what is now called the “translation industry”.

The translation industry is blindly and furiously destroying the previous ecosystem of an ancient profession, a profession that in the case of written translation is as old as the invention of writing.

The industry does not realize that we translators are the creators of all of the industry’s profits and that if you eliminate us and replace us by algorithms, newbies and people who are being paid a fraction of what would be required to pay the bills and taxes in Western countries in order to maximize the profits of the industry, the best educated and the most experienced translators will be eliminated from the ranks of people who will still be able and willing to work for the industry.

It is only logical that one inevitable result of the current approach of the “translation industry” to what translation is all about is inferior quality of translations that are produced by the industry, especially when we include under the term translation also the new kind of pseudo-translations that are originally produced by algorithms and then picked over by rushed, underpaid and unqualified human “post-processors” to remove the most glaring and most obvious mistakes and make them look like real translations.

While I am pessimistic about our prospects in the short run, I don’t know what is going to happen to us and to the industry in the long run.

Nobody really knows that. But there may be a silver lining on these dark, gathering clouds.

Although it may take a very long time before some clients of the industry realize that they are paying good money for inferior translations that may turn out to be useless or even counterproductive, at some point they may realize that one solution would be to ditch ignorant and arrogant large translation agencies and try to replace them by small, highly specialized and highly knowledgeable translation agencies that actually understand what translation is, and by individual translators who, unlike those of us who feel that they have no choice but to work for the big and hungry dinosaurs, are able to proudly stand by their work.

But to be able to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in the mostly unfortunate development over the last two decades, translators would need to stop endlessly complaining about the bad, bad agencies who pay low, low rates (if they pay at all), and they would need to figure out how to identify direct clients that would be a good match for what it is that they do for a living and offer their experience and skills directly to the actual clients, instead of being dependent on the middleman.

Some will hopefully be able to do just that. But if past experience is an indicator of things to come, probably not too many.

Posted by: patenttranslator | May 4, 2018

A Cure for the Post-Translation Industry Syndrome (PTIS)

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

It was about 15 years ago when I realized for the first time that major and possibly irreversible changes were taking place in the translation business environment, demonstrated in the way translation agencies started interacting with me.

I even remember what prompted this realization:it was yet another Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) sent to me by a large translation agency that must have had already at least three previous NDAs signed by yours truly on file.

I can’t sign this disgusting and humiliating garbage, I was thinking to myself. It was not an NDA, it was so demeaning and constricting, nothing less than a declaration of my acceptance of very specific conditions of virtual slavery. I know that many translators believe that it’s OK to sign basically any agreement because most of the clauses in these things, especially the illegal ones, are unenforceable, especially if the agency is located in another country.

But for a number of reasons, I disagree. For one thing, if I sign an agreement without intending to comply with it, am I not a dishonest liar and a fraud, even if the agreement contains unenforceable and fraudulent clauses as do most NDA’s in the current form of the “translation industry?”

Prior to about the year 2000, there was no “translation industry,” judging from the fact that this term was not used. Well, the translators were there, of course, somebody has to do the work, and so were translation agencies. But the agencies did not refer to themselves as “LSPs” (Language Services Providers),” another dishonest and intentionally misleading term, because the agencies do not provide the language services, only actual translators and interpreters can do that.

So, very early into the 21st century I realized that I had basically two choices if I wanted to continue receiving work from translation agencies: either to sign anything and everything the new “translation industry” throws at me, or stop working for the “translation industry.”

Technically, there is also a third choice, since we translators can also delete the most offensive parts of the NDAs and sign them only once we’ve made our changes. But if you delete for example the part of the NDA that specifies how big a discount you agree to give for “fuzzy matches and full matches” and add a clause that stipulates that the payment will be provided in one month instead of agreeing with a fuzzy formulation of a time period that basically means three long months of waiting for your money, you are not likely to get much work from the agency that sent you the NDA anyway. So what would be the point of signing anything at all?

So instead of trying to modify these agreements and arguing with a PM (who has no power to do anything anyway) about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, I started eliminating every agency that sent me an NDA that stank to high heaven (and most them did) from my roster of agencies that I would work for every time I received a new or updated NDA that I just could not stomach.

But since up until about the year 2003, approximately 40 percent of my income came from translation agencies and about 60% of it came from direct clients, mostly patent law firms, this meant that I was suddenly facing the prospect of losing about 40% of my clients (providing that translation agencies can be put in the category of clients, which many translators would dispute.)

It was a scary realization because 40% of my income was of course a lot of money to me, especially since at that point I was the sole wage earner in a family of four.

Fortunately for my translation business, in 2001 I did something that made it possible for me to basically ignore the new predatory actors in the “translation industry” and more than replace the income from my work for agencies by income obtained for my work directly from direct customers.

Feeling inspired and pressed to do something about my dilemma, one fine day I decided to call my local Internet Service Provider, a tiny outfit in the Silicon Valley that seemingly consisted of 2 young guys who usually answered the phone whenever I called them with another stupid question. It’s not really that I did the right thing because I was smarter than other people, I mostly just got lucky because the guy I happened to call that fine, blessed day had a good answer for me. The question I had was “What kind of things can I try to do to make it possible for new customers to find my business on the internet?”

The guy who answered my phone, his name was Tracy and he sounded very young and talked like a teenager, listened patiently to my description of what it was that I was doing for a living and then told me that since I already had a descriptive website, what I needed now most of all in addition was to link the site to a good domain name.

I’m pretty sure that at that point I already knew what a domain name was, but I had absolutely no idea how to go about looking for a good domain for my services.

Up until that point, my domain name was JTRLS.com, which stood for Japanese Translation Services. In my naïveté I thought that it was a good name because it was short and it had the cool .com ending. But I realize now that it was a pretty stupid name:Sure, it was short and easy to remember …. for me! But unless a person knows already what the abbreviation stands for, who is going to remember it and find my expert patent services in this manner on the internet?

So Tracy got to work, although it was not really his job, went to a domain registrar’s website and then started throwing at me a few short and descriptive domain names that I was unable to find on my own. But once he explained it to me, I saw immediately how stupid my original domain name was, I registered several domain names that I thought might be much better, got rid of the dumb JTRLS domain and linked my website to about half a dozen newly registered domain at the cost of 35 dollars per domain per year.

Since at that point I was translating mostly Japanese patents to English, two of these new domains proved to be especially effective in motivating new clients to click on them: www.PatentTranslators.com (I got the domain both for singular and plural) and www.JapaneseTranslators.com. In retrospect, it seems obvious to me now that what Tracy suggested to me was exactly what I should have done to begin with.

But I don’t think that I would have figured it on my own had I not called him because like most people at that time, I knew very little about the internet 17 years ago, and understood even less.

So thank you so much for doing that for me, Tracy, wherever you are now!

At first I saw no change in anything for about a year or two. But from about 2003 I started receiving occasional emails from patent law firms with requests for a cost and turnaround time quote for translations of Japanese patents and a good portion of my quotes was accepted.

These translation price quotes then grew into a regular flow of new customers who kept me busy, along with existing direct customers, so that eventually the new direct customers became my old direct customers, while the percentage of work that I was still doing for translation agencies – and a few good ones are still left out there in the wasteland of the “translation industry” – over time shrank to about 10 to 15 percent.

From 2005 until the present, I have been keeping track of how many new customers found me through my website, and the results are pretty amazing, especially considering that the website is old and plain, I don’t use any search engine optimization (SEO) tricks, and I have never paid for internet advertising.

I see in my records that in 2005, there were 25 new customers who contacted me and sent me at least one job and the total of the new work represented close to 50% of my income for that year, in 2006 there 20 new customers representing about 30% of my income for that year, and so on and so forth.

The numbers were pretty constant up until 2010: Between 10 to 30 new customers who sent me at least one job a year, representing between about 20 to about 50 percent of my yearly income. After 2011, the numbers of new customers started dropping to single digits as translation agencies finally started figuring out how to compete more effectively with my tiny business, presumably by using “advanced search engine optimization (SEO) techniques”, so that by 2015, my formerly magic domain names resulted in only 4 new customers and brought in only a few thousand dollars of additional income.

So there you go, the post-translation industry syndrome (PTIS) was finally catching up with me, I was thinking to myself. Nothing can last forever, especially if it is a good thing.

What changed, I think, was that the “translation industry” perfected the so-called search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and combined them with putting a lot of money into internet advertising, while I never did anything that, as I was simply relying on the high ranking of my website in organic search results.

But it turned out that I was wrong again: although only 3 new direct clients found my antiquated website by the end of 2016, two of them then sent me so much work the next year that I had to work basically every weekend throughout 2017 to keep up with the demand and my income hit again the higher levels that I was accustomed to during the first decade of the millennium that ushered in the new form of the “translation industry,” toxic both to its customers and to translators.

My advice to my fellow translators would be: Do not despair if the post-translation industry  syndrome (PTIS) hits you like a ton of bricks, as it is likely to do so at some point.

It is understandable if the post-translation industry syndrome (PTIS) hits you and makes you so depressed that you start believing that your only choice at this point is to prostitute yourself to the “translation industry” instead of competing with it by attacking its weak points, because the industry seemingly has all of the power and you have none.

But remember, there are always other choices, because there simply must be. For me, 17 years ago, it was using the internet in combination with a good domain name to find new direct clients and thus to become independent of the miserable conditions that the “translation industry” was trying to impose on me.

For you it may be something else instead of a good domain name, especially considering that a good domain name is much harder to find now. Maybe you just need to explain to a smart guy like Tracy, who may not know anything about your business, but who knows things that you don’t know, what it is that you want to do and listen carefully to his suggestions.

Or maybe you know already what it is that you need to do. Even though you may not realize it, the knowledge may be already buried deep inside you and the advice will come to you after a good night’s sleep.

Just remember one thing: you do have power … unless you give it away by thinking that you don’t have any.

Posted by: patenttranslator | April 24, 2018

A Big and Joyous Roadkill Party in the “Translation Industry”

Revolutionary, disruptive innovation is the best kind of innovation. That is what we are told over and over again by prophets of disruptive innovation, who are usually well paid by people who already have or intend to become filthy rich from another miracle of innovative disruption.

What the prophets never mention is that just like revolutions, the disruptions that are caused by these innovations come at a great cost.

Some kinds of innovation are not only disruptive, but so destructive that they can kill not only jobs (Uber, Airbnb), but also people (Uber’s self-driving cars) and even most of the life on this planet (the ‘clean diesel’ cars of Volkswagen and other car manufacturers), or at least our way of life.

Much celebrated current examples of disruptive innovation include quasi-magically turning amateur drivers into experienced and safe taxi drivers, or turning regular people who own an apartment in a popular city or a beach town into part-time hoteliers.

Well, into a certain kind of taxi drivers, anyway. Not the kind of taxi drivers that I remember from Japan in the eighties where super-polite taxi drivers wore white gloves and the passengers rested their tired heads on headrests that were thoughtfully enveloped in a perfectly white cover adorned with lace.

I don’t like Uber for a number reasons and I would prefer if taxi drivers and people working in actual hotels could still make a good living. But seeing as I am a cheap guy, I now take Lyft from my house to the airport and vice versa. It’s hard to resist: the taxi ride to the airport in Norfolk used to cost me about 50 dollars plus a tip, the same as from my hotel in Vienna to the airport there, if I remember it correctly. The same ride with Lyft from my house to the airport costs 23 dollars plus a tip.

There is no lace cover on the headrest in Lyft cars, but I usually have a nice conversation with the driver. The last one did not even have time to shave, possibly because he got his driving gig just after he woke up. He had a tiny bit of a foreign accent and when I asked him about it, he eagerly told me his life’s story.

He was in his mid thirties, born in Colombia, and he told me that he just recently married an Asian woman from Laos who was 17 years older than him and had two teenage daughters with her previous husband. He seemed appreciative of my advice on what one can expect from Asian women and from teenage children, two subjects that I know a little bit about, although even after decades of experience, still not much more than what I know about the dark side of the moon.

We had a very nice chat. But let’s get back to the subjects of destructive innovations and roadkill.

Because many innovative innovations can be not only disruptive, but also very destructive, I see similarities between what the destruction that is caused by what machines do to nature and animals, and the kind of havoc that so-called disruptive innovation in the so-called translation industry wreaks upon our world.

Neither the car nor the algorithms are designed to kill animals or written communication, it’s just something that unavoidably happens millions of times a year everywhere where there are roads, or where machine translations are used.

Most of the time nobody profits from the mass slaughter of animals on our roads. In fact, the opposite is often true, because many people die in accidents caused by animals and the animals sometime survive.

Although from the viewpoint of the murdered animals, these accidents are clearly caused by our roads, not by the innocent animals themselves, and this may be how they are paying us back for our treachery.

But since people always try to profit from anything, including the numerous instances of roadkill, a type of cuisine has been developed by us that over time called roadkill cuisine.

According to Wikipedia, “Roadkill cuisine is preparing and eating roadkill, animals hit by vehicles and found along roads. It is a practice engaged in by a small subculture in the United States, southern Canada, the United Kingdom and other Western countries as well as in other parts of the world. It is also a subject of humor and urban legend. Large animals including deer, elk, moose, and bear are frequently struck in some parts of the United States, as well as smaller animals such as squirrels, opossum, armadillos, raccoons, skunks and birds. Fresh kill is preferred and worms are a concern, so the kill is typically well cooked.”

And once you get rid of the worms and maggots, meat is meat and it is ready to be cooked, whether it is fresh meat from a slaughterhouse, or mystery meat from roadkill. The main difference here is that roadkill meat is much cheaper or free. Some restaurants proudly advertise the fact that they serve roadkill meat, such as this one in Seligman, Arizona (You Kill It, We Grill It,) although most probably don’t mention this particular detail.

Just like roadkill, machine translation, the latest disruptive innovation of the “translation industry,” much celebrated in dozens of industry press releases, called “post-editing of machine translations,” is also very cheap.

The industry anticipates that it will be able to generate enormous profits from the roadkill created by well trained algorithms of machine translation. Especially large translation agencies are salivating at the prospect of the additional hundreds of millions of dollars that will end up in their pockets if they are able to put cheap or free algorithms to work instead of expensive to very expensive human translators.

Are these profits going to be realized, or are they already being realized? If we are to believe press releases and propagandistic statistics that are mostly based on “expected” data, there is no question that the profits are in many cases already here and that they will grow exponentially, although only for the smartest among the captains of the “translation industry”, namely those who are clever enough to identify the “sweet spot” in pricing of the roadkill for translations created by computers and algorithms.

But I doubt very much that the roadkill of machine translations will in fact result in a big, joyous, boisterous party for the industry. I think that smaller translation agencies that put all or most of their eggs into the basket of machine translations will in due course go bust, and the big ones, those that are able to put a lot of money into advertising the roadkill of machine translation and selling it to their clients as Angus beef of prime quality, will make some money in the short term, but lose much more money in the long term when their clients realize what kind of meat they are being served.

You can tell pretty easily whether the roadkill meat is good to eat by the way it looks, smells, and whether and how many worms and maggots are in it already.

But for many reasons, which unlike an industry captain, every translator will understand both intuitively and based on experience, it is very difficult to tell where all of the worms and maggots are hidden in roadkill translations created by algorithms.

I believe that these things should not be even called translations, because they are not that. But it is probably too late to try to change the terminology of the “translation industry” at this point, although some people have tried to explain why this terminology is misleading, see for example this blog post analyzing the “evils” of what is called “post-edited machine translations”, or PEMT.

Unlike spoiled meat, the roadkill of machine translations does not have an awful smell, and no amount of post-editing is likely to identify and remove the worms and maggots hidden in it.

The only way to get rid of them is in fact to have the machine translations, or pseudo translation, completely redone by a human translator. But that would then beat the purpose because it would be more expensive as well as slower than not bothering with a machine translation in the first place.

One way for clients to avoid post-edited machine translations, which may be reasonably priced and may look like really good translation, (except that the poorly-paid post-editor  may have created the exact opposite of the meaning of the original text to save time), is to enter into a working relationship with an individual translator or a small, specialized agency.

Because we need both the animals and the roads for our survival, some people, whether they are vegetarians or carnivores, are creating underpasses for animals enabling them to safely cross major roads.

Translators must learn how to avoid the traps of translation industry, which is now salivating at the prospect of a joyous roadkill party in the industry, and create their own bridges, overpasses and underpasses to direct clients who simply can’t use the roadkill that so many translation agencies are trying to sell to their clients, out of ignorance, incompetence and greed.

Nobody will do this for us – we simply need to figure out how to do it on our own.

The other option we have is to specialize in identifying worms and maggots in the roadkill created by machine translation as quickly as possible …. and hope against hope that we will be able to earn enough money in this manner not to become roadkill ourselves.

 

Posted by: patenttranslator | April 8, 2018

SCAM LIKELY

Telephone Call Scams

“Scam likely” is a message that is often displayed on my iPhone’s screen when I am receiving a telephone call these days. I find it a little scary that even before I have a chance to check the number to make a determination on my own, the phone knows already what is going on.

At the beginning of the internet age, we  could still trust the area codes of the telephone numbers displayed on our low-tech call ID: 212 was somebody calling from Manhattan, 213 was somebody calling from downtown LA, and 312 was definitely somebody calling us from Chicago.

This is no longer true because scammers can now buy a telephone area code tailored to the type of scam they are running on the internet, whether they are calling you from the house next to yours, or from a scam operation located on the other side of the country or on a different continent.

Because most of the calls that I receive on the number of my virtual landline that has been displayed on my website for some two decades are from telephone scam boiler rooms, I only occasionally monitor on my cell phone the calls on that compromised line, just in case the caller is not a marketing operation or a scammer.

The more you answer calls like that, even just to hang up immediately, the more calls you will receive. So it’s best not to answer at all.

The telemarketing industry is probably only a few years away from killing off the use of real landlines by the people who still have them. Just like the “translation industry” is killing itself by competing solely on price while selling to its customers translations of appalling quality at lower and lower prices, the telemarketing industry is also killing itself by incessantly calling people who want to be left alone.

Neither of these two industries seems to be aware of its tenuous future. Or maybe they simply don’t care because the people running it and working for it simply don’t know how to make money in a safer and more honest manner.

It seems that the telemarketing industry still lacks access to our cell phone numbers because I don’t receive any marketing or scam calls on my cell phone, possibly because politicians need to be able to use the cell phones of potential voters to run their own scams called electoral campaigns.

So a few years ago, I solved the sad situation by creating a new virtual landline number, which I only give to actual customers. When that phone line rings, I always answer because it’s either a customer or a friend.  My new virtual landline number is now a closely guarded secret that may be disclosed only to a limited number of people.

Spammy Emails

“This message may be a scam” is what my email program sometime displays about emails when I receive new emails. Some of these emails are just lame attempts at marketing rather than outright malicious scams, but almost all of them are spam, not something that I would be even remotely interested in reading. I read somewhere that ninety five percent of emails messages are spam. The constant, never ending current of spam messages from a myriad of marketing operations into our mail boxes is also one reason why marketing of translators’ résumés to translation agencies or direct customers is extremely ineffective.

But it is not the only reason, and probably not even the most important reason.

Stolen Translators’ Résumés and Identities

I found out about this practice, which is now rampant, for the first time from an excellent presentation by Joao Roque Dias at the IAPTI Conference in Bordeaux in 2015.

The practice of stealing identities of qualified and experienced translators is very damaging to all translators because it makes it very difficult to determine whether the translator’s résumé that was just received is a genuine one, or whether it is a stolen résumé in which the contact details have been changed and which is circulated on the internet to underbid qualified translators.

The epidemic of fake résumés that look promising, credible and authentic means for me that I no longer pay much attention to résumés that I receive. I receive a lot of them every day, even though I mostly translate myself and the agency part of my work is relatively small. But I automatically consider all unsolicited résumés that I receive to be a likely scam and don’t pay much attention to them.

A particularly active operation generating fake résumés is located in Gaza. I have been a target of this operation for quite some time and I still am receiving a lot of résumés from this operation every week.

I hate to admit it, but I actually fall for this trick at one point a few years ago when I sent a very short translation to a seemingly promising new translator in response to a newly received résumé. I always send a very short translation at first to make sure that the potential damage will not cost me too much.

The translation that I received was quite good in some respects, but it also contained incredibly stupid mistakes, probably because it was “perfected” by editing and modifying Google Translate or another machine translation program.

It took me a long time and I was cursing myself for my own stupidity, but because I knew the language and the subject of the translation, I was able to eventually fix the translation so that it would make sense, before sending it to a client.

It was only at the point when I was sending the payment to the translator by PayPal for this horrible translation, (I always pay the translator, even if the job was botched and I will never contact the translator again), that I discovered that the recipient had an Arabic name and that I fell victim to a scam that is based on stolen identities of actual translators.

But would a typical project manager who does not understand the language, let alone the specific subject, even notice that something is wrong with a translation because it contains a number of inexplicable errors?

I doubt it.

A typical project manager working in the modern version of the “translation industry”, who does not understand the languages he manages and does not know anything about the specific subjects either because he has to deal with “every language and every subject” would probably not notice anything, and continue to supply substandard translations to the agency’s client, as long as the client does not protest and pays the bill.

There are signs that we can look for in order to distinguish genuine résumés from stolen ones and to protect our identity and , some of which are listed in this blog post by Marta Stelmaszak.

But since we are surrounded by likely scams everywhere we look, including in the field of translation, I believe that at this point there is only one safe method to look for qualified translators:  using only a translator who has been recommended to me by another translator I already know.

All unsolicited résumés now go straight into the spam folder because I see them as a likely scam.

Posted by: patenttranslator | April 5, 2018

To Retire or Not to Retire – That Is Not the Question

For many people who work for a living in blue collar and white collar occupations, most of whom not so long ago had a fairly generous pension guaranteed by their employer, retiring or not retiring in their mid sixties as their parents used to is no longer an option.

As the pensions evaporated courtesy of Wall Street and corporate greed, a higher percentage of Americans than ever now neither has a defined pension plan, nor significant retirement savings. The unfortunate result is that the new retirement model for too many people is today … no retirement.

I see it around me all the time. At the grocery stores where I do my shopping, there are mostly just two types of cashiers scanning in the bar codes, taking money from customers and handing out change from the cash register, for which they are paid a minimum or sub-minimum wage – youngsters who appear to be in their teens or early twenties, or much older folks like myself who must be in their sixties or seventies.

Fortunately for us, translators, or at least those of us who have been able to find relatively well paying direct customers during our most productive years when we were in our thirties, forties and fifties, are in better position than most other workers who retire when they reach retirement age, only to then have to compete with teenagers working cash registers in supermarkets for minimum wage if their retirement income is not sufficient to pay the bills as is often the case.

We are better off because as long as our brain is still able to process information in at least two languages and we can still type with our fingers, we don’t have to retire. We can simply continue working, for our existing customers and for new customers, because generally speaking, nobody gives a damn how old we are as long as we still have a pulse.

The decision whether we want to continue working, until the moment when we keel over and our head hits the keyboard so that for the first time in our life, we miss a deadline (because we are dead!) will depend on what we want and what we still can do with the years that we have left.

There is a world of difference between having to work because we have to pay our bills, and working because we would otherwise get bored, and also because we can use the extra income.

I have known and still know several translators and owners of small translation agencies who have been working and are still working well into their sixties, seventies and even eighties; I have worked for some of them, and some of them have worked for me.

I think that most translators continue working when they are already past the age of retirement, even if they have some savings and their income would be sufficient to cover their expenses – which is true in some cases, although probably fewer and fewer cases now – because they need to do something and because they enjoy the intellectual challenge of their work.

A big financial burden falls from our shoulders as we get older when we no longer need to support our children financially. And as we no longer need the big house for the whole family with the complementary menagerie of dogs, cats, hamsters and other pets for our offsprings (in my case it was also an Australian bearded dragon lizard), we can sell our house and move to a smaller house, or a condo or an apartment.

Because we work through the internet for far-flung clients, we can move from an expensive area to a cheaper area, or even to another country with a lower cost of living. We translators are better positioned for something like that than most people because we have a keen interest in other countries and cultures, speak several languages, and we know how to learn another language faster than most people.

It is not clear how many American “expats” have chosen to live abroad, mostly in the countries of Central and Southern America, especially Mexico, Panama and Belize, although the most frequently cited number on various websites is “at least two million people.”

According to the Social Security Administration, about 400,000 of these American expats living in different countries are senior citizens, many of whom are able to live quite comfortably solely off their Social Security or pension income, not only in a number of Latin American countries, but also in other countries in Asia and even in Europe.

Of course, moving is a big hassle and most people, including seniors, will probably decide to live where they are, especially if it means living close to their family. But it’s good to know that translators generally have options when they reach retirement, options that people working in other professions may not have.

So to come back to where I started with my post today, I don’t think that “to retire or not to retire” is the right question for translators who are close to or who have already reached retirement age.

Most of us will probably continue working for quite a few years (and some of us will do that until we drop dead!) But we will be usually working less than we used to because the financial burden on us is diminished if we play our cards right, especially if have a retirement income that in some cases may be sufficient to pay all the bills.

And if the income is not sufficient, there are things freelance translators can do as small business owners to make sure that it will be sufficient, some of which I outlined in my post today.

Our ability to continue working while saying no ridiculous rates and demeaning and untenable conditions that the “translation industry” likes to offer to hard working and highly experienced people who do the actual translating work,  will of course depend mostly on what kind of customers we have been and are working for.

If we treat our small enterprise as an actual business and are very careful about the kind of customers that we will work for, we do have quite a few options when it comes to retiring, not retiring, or partially retiring once we reach retirement age.

But if we mostly work for the Leviathan called for lack of a better term the “translation industry”, we may be in the same situation as the senior citizens cheerfully working for low wages cash registers next to teenagers at supermarkets, because they have no other way to make ends meet.

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