Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bugged by misconceptions about translation?

Translation institutions such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, ITI, have done a great deal to raise the profile of our profession. Which small steps can we as individuals take to educate the public about what translators do and what translation is actually about? And how can we protect ourselves from wrong assumptions and avoid getting worked up about them? Translators want to be taken seriously, and we need a shift of perception and attitude among members of the public. A few points to consider:

- When you go out to business events, dress appropriately. You're a translator and you're earning, so there is no reason not to afford good-quality business clothing. Translators may not be too keen on drawing attention to themselves, and we don’t need to dress up for work, but looking the part at business events is actually very important. (Oh, and do schedule in visits to such events!)

- Don’t say you charge by the word, even if it’s what you often do. Let’s be honest about it: it reflects badly on the actual activity of translation. Say instead that you charge per 1,000 words, as it reflects much better that as translators we’re used to constantly translating thousands and thousands of words. Or say you charge by the hour, which we often do anyway and which is the way other professionals charge for their services too.

Educating the public about what translators do

- If you’re freelance (and most of us are) and you’re asked what you do for a living, it’s better to say “I run a translation business” rather than “I’m a translator”. It gives a different impression, and it implies you’re the boss. After all, you decide which type of work you accept, when and where you work, and (best of all!) how much money you charge. Remember, in our industry no one dictates what rates you should work for.

- If you’re short of ideas for birthday or Christmas presents, then you could give away books on what translation is really about. “Found in Translation” by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche seems a perfect candidate. I’ve only just bought it, but it’s been on my to-read list ever since I read Judy Jenner’s excellent review of it in the ITI Bulletin.

- Go out and meet other translators. Or link up with them on Twitter or internet fora. It will do you good to talk about any common misconceptions about translation, get them off your chest and have a good laugh about them with others. It certainly always does me good. We’re all in the same boat as members of a widely misunderstood profession!

- Blog your experience. There can never be enough blog posts regarding misconceptions about translation, and they make for good reading. Blogs are great for this, because they are accessible to anyone – outside the seclusion of Yahoo fora. It would be fantastic to read about your experience too. Don’t forget to let us know about them on social media.
- And finally: ignore any teasing or ignorant remarks that may come your way. Don’t be fussed by what others may think about translation. Remember, they may simply be baffled that you're so successful as a translator and that you actually find your job worthwhile and intriguing.