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Read or weep

By Michal Glowacki | Published  04/12/2011 | Marketing Your Language Services | Recommendation:
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Michal Glowacki
անգլերենից լեհերեն translator
Անդամ է դարձել՝ Sep 30, 2010-ին։

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I have this lingering feeling that the world of linguistic services is somewhat like Europe during the Cold War. Really, I mean – you’d have the Americans and their allies sitting on one side of the Berlin wall and thinking “What are those damned Russkies doing over there? They’re probably conceiving a vicious plan to paint us all red and eat us or whatever”. And then you’d have a fellow Russian, East German or any other sitting on their side of the wall and thinking "what will those capitalistic invaders do next to destroy the world of the working class?”. And they’d both sit and none would actually know what’s happening on the other side.

Currently I have a feeling that on one side of the wall we have our translators, interpreters and other language professionals. On the opposite side we have the PMs (or Translation Coordinators, or whoever sends you work). This thick, 10 metres tall wall is obstructing the view of each party. As this website is mainly aimed at translators, I'll be writing about things that might be more relevant to them.

But, really, what am I aiming at? At some basics skills. “What basic skills?" you might ask. Well, let's start with reading. Do YOU know how to read? I bet you'll say you can. But can you read AND understand at the same time? They say women are better at multitasking and guys struggle if they have to walk and chew gum at the same time. But let's leave that and talk about the idea of a linguist, no sex (nor gender) included.


There's this professional translator. Now, to make it easier we'll call him John. John Translator, that's his name. He's a real pro. He has a degree in engineering, an MA (with distinction!) in translation and interpreting. He's great with computers, he loves CATs (which is ironic since he’s really a dog person), and he knows his languages really well. He translates German, French and Spanish into English and he’s been doing that for 10 years now. A real specialist, he lives in France, his fields are machine engineering and automation. Besides his linguistic qualifications, he has some engineering training. He's the guy you want to meet when it comes to engineering and automation. And, the best of them all, he charges reasonable rates. Isn't that just dandy?


And we have Gladys. She’s a real pro PM. She knows her stuff, she knows her translators. And she knows how to be a real good sport when it comes to working with her favourite linguists. And they love her for that. They really do. Gladys just posted a job ad on a website. She was looking for a German > English translator, based in the UK, at least 5 years of experience. That person needs to be a specialist in automation and machine engineering. They need to use CAT tools and be experts in this field. She wrote all that in her job post. She specifically underlined "UK-based", as this was her client's requirement and not just her own fancy. Gladys has a lot of work in this field, but this is the only client that has this thing about UK-based specialists.


Now Gladys dully received Johns application. His CV was spotless and well written. His qualifications were more than enough. John was perfect. But wait. Was he really? "Oh, darn", said Gladys. “John is not UK based. He lives in France”. Did Gladys leave his CV for further reference, so he can work with her on projects for other clients? Nope. Why would she? Obviously, John has problems reading and understanding. He cannot see that Gladys has a reason to have these requirements. And he should respect that. Gladys decided that if John cannot understand a simple post or take time to carefully read a job post, how can he translate complex technical texts? She thinks he can't. And she's probably right. All that work that Gladys will have in his field for other clients will go to someone else. To someone who can read and who takes time to read. Not only job posts. Everything – briefs, POs and instructions.


I cannot think of a single thing more irritating for a PM than a translator who receives all his instructions and does not follow them. Usually, because they haven’t read them. I know, what you're going to say, "but I've worked for this client for years now! The instructions are ALWAYS the same". Well how can you tell? Have you read them ALL?

And there’s nothing more discouraging than a translator who applies for a job when they don’t meet ALL the criteria. Even the little ones. The tiniest details matter. Not only in translation. Also when recruiting. And I know, again, what you can say, “well, maybe I’ll be lucky and they’ll like me and…”. NO. It doesn’t work like that. If you can’t read, you’re not getting any work. Period. If you think otherwise, you're wrong.

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