The Backstabbing Translator

3 October 2016
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3 October 2016, Comments 0

The Backstabbing Translator

 

Dream a Little Dream of Me (as a fish)

I recently had a dream that really freaked me out.

I was a fish, swimming in a stream running through a cavern. It was dark and the water felt strange to me. I couldn’t quite place it, but I didn’t feel comfortable being there. I knew that I entered the stream to get someplace, but I remember having a feeling of being stuck in it for a long time; longer than what I had believed when I got there.

Looking around me, I saw countless other fish squirming about, their movements screaming a lack of direction and purpose, their eyes filled with confusion and hostility. I could make out some of them sharing colours and patterns in their appearance, as if within the thousands that surrounded me, there were groups that belonged to the same kind. They were certainly not together, however, as each fish snapped at whichever one got close to it.

After hours and hours of swimming in the seemingly endless, dark stream, we reached an opening where we could move more freely; and up ahead, I could see a single point of light shining through the water. I instantly knew that it was the way out, but, apparently, so did the rest of them. We all swarmed to the exit, seconds away from escaping the illusory freedom of the never-resting body of water. Just as I reached the threshold and saw a wondrous, vast ocean stretching across the opening, promising a wonderful, joyous life without worries, I felt something pushing me aside and hundreds of tiny little teeth having a go at my scaly flesh.

Instead of working together to escape the stream, the fish began attacking and pushing each other out of the way, trying to get out first. The opening was not going anywhere and we certainly could all get through, if everyone remained calm and realized that there were no enemies amongst us. We were all after the same thing, and we could all get it!

I gasped my way out of the dream, sitting up on the bed, and left with the lingering, suffocating sensation of being stuck inches from my goal and unable to comprehend the aggressive nature of my fellow swimmers.

 

 The Backstabbing Translator

Okay, you get my point with the metaphor, so I won’t bother with explaining the specifics.

In the past seven years, quite a few times, I’ve had to deal with fellow translators acting like I’m out to pillage their home, rape their wife and mangle their sweet Persian cat.

I was recently contacted by a translation agency, dealing mostly with medical/pharmaceutical translations. They agreed to a pretty good rate (upwards of 12 eurocents) and requested a couple of samples from previous translators I’d performed.

I sent them two samples; a part of a clinical trial protocol I had recently translated, and a part of a SPC I had translated (AND performed the final QC), quite some time ago. Keep in mind that the SPC has been published by the EMA and is currently running wild in the market!

I heard back from them a couple of days later, and to my surprise, the vendor manager informed me that the SPC sample had been found wanting. She sent me the evaluation copy with the proofreader’s comments (one of their long-term freelance translators in my language pair) included.

I was nine parts mad and one part amused, as I opened the file and immediately had to cover my eyes to avoid (permanent) blindness, from the sheer amount of bright pink tracked changes in the file. Apparently, the person responsible for evaluating my sample changed pretty much every single word that could be expressed in a different way. Even standard QRD terms and formatting instructions specific for that template version couldn’t escape his/her mighty, pink, digital marker.

Having the aforementioned analogy completely reversed in my head, I wished the agency good luck and didn’t break a sweat.

In the past, when a similar event occurred, I chewed down on the proofreader so hard that the vendor manager apologized to me and ensured me that they would never use their services again. I guess I’m way cooler and more mature nowadays! Okay, maybe not.

 

Plenty of Fish in the Pond

We all know that translators pop out left and right every day. Portals that welcome translator profiles are filled with thousands of linguists actively looking to obtain new clients. Certainly, the supply must have outweighed the demand in the LSP market by now, right? Not even close.

There is, and will be for the foreseeable future, enough demand to feed every single translator out there. Actually, we need an influx of new linguists if we’re to avoid all those big companies not being able to deliver their products in a worldwide fashion.

So, why all the hostility between one another? Why must we, under the pretense of being best buddies in social media networks, stab each other behind the back when it comes to sharing work? Work that’s more than enough to cover everyone’s needs!

Apart from the ridiculous notion that we need to drive prices down to receive any work at all – because, let’s face it, you know that when the supply doesn’t match the demand, the supplier can pretty much sell his services at a higher price than black market organs sell for these days – there is absolutely no reason to bother getting in the way of another translator, as long as they cannot be held professionally or ethically accountable. If they’re bad at their job, feel free to rip them apart; if they’re doing a good job, give them a pat on the back and welcome them to your team.

 

Conclusion

As with many of the problems translators face nowadays, the whole issue has its roots deep within the linguist’s psyche.

Instead of adding obstacles in every step we take, how about we have a look around and try to benefit from the given advantages of our profession?

 

img_5216 By Konstantinos Stardelis

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