Saturday, 19 February 2011

A black spot on the translation profession

Translators go to great lengths to be treated seriously as skilled, well-educated and knowledgeable professionals. Regardless whether we work for an agency or direct clients, we take a lot of care to deliver excellent translation, possibly the best one we have ever done, after all, there has to be some progress, right? Moreover, in order to contribute to the good reputation of our profession, we will do whatever is in our power to create a perfect online profile, we will interact with other translators, share experiences and tweet like crazy picking up the best links to feed other brains. We are also ready to time and time again educate those sceptical clients that we are not just transcribing one word after another but that in fact we do valuable work, pay attention to detail, we have a quality control process in place and so on.
However, it’s not all about image; in order to excel in our work, we specialise in various fields, read everything from leaflets to scholar works, do extensive research, create a collection of glossaries and learn and learn and learn. We do all these things (and many more) to be respected and valued for our hard work ... and then we hear about some people who deliver texts translated solely by Google Translate, claim that this is their work and call themselves “Translators”.
Personally, I have nothing against Google Translate, this is an excellent tool but only when used wisely, i.e. mainly for one’s own use, when looking for a way to say ‘happy birthday’ in German, for example. Automatic translation is not a substitute for a human translator and this is something that everyone in this profession is perfectly aware of. Yet, some of the so called ‘translators’ think that they can get away with providing an automatically translated text and being paid for it, even though they have been told that this is a scientific article that will be published!
Let’s be frank, this is simply cheating, and a rather nasty one as it effects not only the con artists themselves but it also hits the translation profession. An agency, having experienced the disappointment of working with a ‘Google Translator’ will be wary of taking up new translators and set out lower rates having in mind the risk factor that comes along. As for the clients, there is no need to explain how disastrous the effect of delivering an automated translation will have for translators’ reputation. Just imagine yourself being in a fancy restaurant where you are served a ready-made microwave meal apparently prepared by a ‘chef’.
I simply cannot imagine what is in the minds of those who prefer to serve a ready-made microwave translation. What do they want to achieve – a quick and painless way to generate some income? Do they expect to get away with it every time? Are they aware of the effect it has on the translation profession? If you share my concerns, feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.

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