Badsplaining,the Translator’s Curse

Writer James Fell recently shared a Reddit challenge on his Facebook page to Badly Explain Your Profession. The responses are inventive and hilarious, but they made me think about how we translators explain what we do. Hang around any translation forum or group long enough, and sooner or later the conversation will turn to complaints about the misconceptions people have about our profession, like the notion that any high school kid who’s taken a year of French can be a translator.

But really, whose fault is that? Continue reading

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The Pitfalls of Language Without Cultural Context

The Dutch are a no-nonsense, straightforward people, and I always thought the language expressed this national characteristic pretty well.

Not for us those expressions of affection that roll off the tongue so easily in English. Ik hou van je is much harder to say than “I love you” for some reason, which logically speaking is bizarre of course, since the Dutch love their nearest and dearest as much as anyone else. The only reason I can think of is that effusiveness is simply not in line with the Dutch character. We are a nation of farmers and seafarers after all. Fighting sea and soil does not leave much energy for poetry. Continue reading

When Bad Translations Happen to Good People

I received an assignment from a long-standing client last week that made my Spidey-sense tingle as soon as I read the instructions. It was billed as a super easy review of a translation done in-house at a hospital which should take no more than half an hour. Uh-huh. A quick glance at the translation told me that this was going to take a lot more than thirty minutes, especially since they also wanted me to explain every change I made and check the terminology against a reference document. I explained I’d only be able to scratch the surface in that time, so the agency agreed to pay me for an hour and asked me to do what I could within that time frame.

It was a textbook case of You Get What You Pay for and Why the #&!! Did You Not Hire a Professional in the First Place. Continue reading

Rebranding the translation profession

I got a recruiting email this week from a group called “My Translation”, which bills itself as “A Revolution in Translation”. Naturally I was curious, thinking it might be a new type of collaborative platform for professionals, so I checked out their website. This is what is says on the home page:

Translators: a new way to make money from home. Take a test, get online translation projects and start earning money now.

The only people whom this might strike as a “new” and “revolutionary” approach would be non-translators. This is just as well, since they appear to be the target audience of this spiel, which presents translation like just another no-qualifications-required, work-at-home opportunity. Call this number, start earning $$$ right away!

It looks to me like some entrepreneur smelled a money-making opportunity and suckered some sincere people into signing up. I checked out some of the translator profiles and most of them registered in 2013 and have not been active since then, so they probably moved on, hopefully to bigger and better things. Continue reading