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Poll: In your country, is translation considered one of the most respectable fields of study?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:48
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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SITE LOCALIZER
In my country... Apr 13, 2016

... that is India, only engineer, doctor, lawyer, and these days, software engineer are considered respectable professions!

Translation would be considered as an exotic profession. People have little understanding of what it is, probably because most people here are usually bi or even trilingual, so translation comes naturally to them, and they don't consider it to be a profession as such.

Most show incredulity when I tell them that I am a translator, more so, when I te
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... that is India, only engineer, doctor, lawyer, and these days, software engineer are considered respectable professions!

Translation would be considered as an exotic profession. People have little understanding of what it is, probably because most people here are usually bi or even trilingual, so translation comes naturally to them, and they don't consider it to be a profession as such.

Most show incredulity when I tell them that I am a translator, more so, when I tell them I am a Hindi translator, for people generally think that every one, at least in India, knows Hindi, so what is the need for Hindi translation!

The attitude would be slightly more positive towards translators translating into Chinese, Japanese, German, French or other exotic languages.

[Edited at 2016-04-13 11:49 GMT]
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Erzsébet Czopyk  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 16:18
Member (2006)
Russian to Hungarian
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SITE LOCALIZER
no more than a nice piece of furniture in the dining room Apr 13, 2016

neilmac wrote:

I can't speak for my country, which is full of halfwits and run by thieving hypocrites, but only for myself. My perception is that people who know me respect and value my work, and in general appreciate the value of translation.


In Hungary if I tell people I'm a translator, they have no idea what is the difference between the translator and interpreter. And they immeadiately say... "Oh , I worked in (Germany, UK, wherever) and I can translate too! I speak very well!" (which means I can fill a form or understand a weather forecast but never an article) "...and I... just cannot translate... the nuances!"

So many people think that an English language teacher's knowledge is enough to call your self a translator and they wondering we know all the words, starting from conical ball-bearings to nuclear medicine, including being able to interpret anything straight away...

In Hungary the most respected professions are: notary, lawyer, doctor (mainly the surgeons and the gynecologists earn very well), engineer... we are just useful as a nice piece of furniture in the dining room, but actually, nothing.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:18
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Rates vs. Respect Apr 13, 2016

Julian Holmes wrote:

And, judging from the trend of ever downward spiraling rates, a resounding "No!"


Unfortunately, I agree: the rate offered to a translator speaks of the high (or low) regards for his/her profession.

P. S. Nice story, Julian. But let's not turn to drinking just because not everybody thinks translators deserve respect.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:18
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Pieces of paper seem to be respected here Apr 13, 2016

My ex-accountant would never even acknowledge me as a "proper" translator. Only "official" translators have any sort of worth, in his opinion. Not a lot, but some. So I suppose that means he respected the training. He clearly thought I was no more than a housewife earning a bit of pin money. (Reminder to self: let it go - he's an "ex" now.)

 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:18
English to Spanish
+ ...
Me too Apr 13, 2016

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

To be honest I'm surprised at all the negativity. No-one is going to respect our profession if we don't respect it ourselves. I've had nothing but positive reactions from others.


Centuries ago, being a translator was as respectable as being a privileged priest or counselor to a king. At that time, being a translator entailed knowing more than just two or three languages, but being well versed in other fields: medicine, philosophy, the arts, economics, history, etc. I perceive that a translator in the XV century knew Latin and came from a place of societal privilege. There was no such thing as democratized education back then. Naturally, knowing languages involved a great deal of investment and support that were unavailable to ordinary people.

Now, with the democratization and popularization of language learning and certain career choices (including interpreting and translation), that veil of respectability has been lifted. Most translators and interpreters contribute to this condition, so it becomes a self-inflicted wound.

The question points to a respectable field of study, so that opens up other avenues of questioning. You could study a field to work in it, like someone studies law to become a lawyer, or you could take up studies for the pleasure of it, like a person studies astronomy or math to be proficient in those sciences, but he already has a day job.

Humanity will go back to previous situations, like the pendulum swings the other way, once this democratized knowledge reaches a critical mass, since not everybody can be a lawyer, doctor, translator or accountant. The economic conditions will change and those who chose a field of study to become proficient and to work in it will again be respectable, but it will take centuries, not years. This change will require a massive and complex series of societal, economic and political alterations, and no amount of advertising, policymaking, marketing and fancy websiting can do or undo.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:18
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Denmark claims to have passed the world's first translator act in 1966 Apr 13, 2016

... but it was abolished with effect from 1 January this year. It was not possible to drum up enough respect among politicians to maintain it.

I have met people who respected the foreign-sounding protected title 'Translatør', which means you have taken a specific MA. A couple of decades ago almost any university degree was respected in some circles, but since the government has aimed to send the great majority of young people to university, some are getting disillusioned.
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... but it was abolished with effect from 1 January this year. It was not possible to drum up enough respect among politicians to maintain it.

I have met people who respected the foreign-sounding protected title 'Translatør', which means you have taken a specific MA. A couple of decades ago almost any university degree was respected in some circles, but since the government has aimed to send the great majority of young people to university, some are getting disillusioned.

However, I would argue that a good training is an enormous help, if not absolutely necessary.

In Denmark I have to agree with Yetta - when I tell people I am a translator, but no, I am not allowed to call myself State Authorized, they think I spend my time on novels and literature, or possibly interpreting. But everyone speaks English, so it is no big deal.

'To-sproget' = bilingual is not a compliment in Danish. It has largely lost its original meaning, and was taken over as a politically correct term for children in schools and others generally whose native language was not Danish, and who therefore need special help with schoolwork and getting by in Danish.

Outside schools and educational circles, calling someone bilingual is more or less derogatory!

I am sorry to add to the negative chorus, but that is how I see things, and it doesn't seem much better in the UK.
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Aïcha Louzir
France
Arabic to French
+ ...
Yes Apr 13, 2016

I have got a feeling that the situation is pretty interesting in France. I myself prepare a PhD in Translation Studies and I have noticed that French universities are keen on organising different and frequent conferences related to translation. The French persons I know are interested in my work and often ask me questions about translation as a professional activity and the theoretical processes it entails.

 

Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:18
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
:) Apr 13, 2016

As the Internet geeks would say, I almost lol'd at the question. It's nowhere near the most respected fields where I come from, but that's fine, flying under the radar has its good sides too.

 

Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 12:18
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Really? Apr 13, 2016

I voted yes.
I don't know about "one of the most respected," but I feel my work and the profession itself are held in high regard.

EvaVer wrote:

BTW, I think that translation as a field of study is nonsense.


No wonder many translators (not me) feel like their profession doesn't receive the respect it deserves.

[Edited at 2016-04-13 16:15 GMT]


 

LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:18
Portuguese to English
+ ...
In the U.S.... Apr 13, 2016

They always think I'm an interpreter. They are either unaware of the market for written translations (other than the translation of books) or just assume that it is all done by the computer.

 

Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:18
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Is it anywhere in the world? Apr 13, 2016

One of the MOST important? You mean, put in the same level as medicine, law, physics, economy, mathematics, etc? Only to the eyes of a tanslator (if anyone votes "yes").

 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:18
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
U.S. Apr 13, 2016

I was born and bred in the U.S. A bilingual person there is regarded as a person of extraordinary ability. They are marveled at. You almost expect someone to ask, "can I touch you"?

Being from such a culture, I knew I wanted to study languages. I wanted to be able to travel and then go back to the U.S. saying, "yes, I am bilingual", to the reverence of my untraveled countrymen.

What's more, I can say that I've studied about 7 other languages. To this they get wide-eyed
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I was born and bred in the U.S. A bilingual person there is regarded as a person of extraordinary ability. They are marveled at. You almost expect someone to ask, "can I touch you"?

Being from such a culture, I knew I wanted to study languages. I wanted to be able to travel and then go back to the U.S. saying, "yes, I am bilingual", to the reverence of my untraveled countrymen.

What's more, I can say that I've studied about 7 other languages. To this they get wide-eyed, guffaw in disbelief, ask for some proof, to which I say "what's up, I'm fine" in a couple of languages.

They then get down on their knees and worship me as the god that I have always dreamed of being.
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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:18
French to English
UK and France Apr 14, 2016

Studies leading to the liberal professions are traditionally considered the most respected fields of study (medicine, law). And from what I've seen around me, that tradition is set in stone. Translation? What's that?!

 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:18
English to Arabic
+ ...
Respect Must Be Earned! Apr 14, 2016

Translation as a profession, and by extension as a field of study, can't and won't have (enough) respect until the pitchers, i.e. translators and brokers, change their passive and aggressive attitudes, respectively.

Brokers, whether agencies or individuals, are embracing a greedy, manipulative approach.

Translators, though being the actual service providers, are surrendering to such an approach.

A good start of healing for every translator is to remind ones
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Translation as a profession, and by extension as a field of study, can't and won't have (enough) respect until the pitchers, i.e. translators and brokers, change their passive and aggressive attitudes, respectively.

Brokers, whether agencies or individuals, are embracing a greedy, manipulative approach.

Translators, though being the actual service providers, are surrendering to such an approach.

A good start of healing for every translator is to remind oneself everyday that we are the ones doing the work.

If a broker is not treating you good, bid them farewell. Smash the link and find yourself direct clients. Save the clients and yourself the commission charged by the broker.

Hard? No doubt. What is not hard in life?

Did the broker take you on board easily? No application, paperwork, test(s), interview(s), etc.? Not likely.

But, how is a broker getting work in the first place?

They market their brokerage and later live off your performance. No rocket science in there!

Join other translators and start your own companies. Make the brokers disappear. Then, and only then, language professions will be esteemed.
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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:18
German to English
+ ...
what does "respectable field of study" mean? Apr 14, 2016

I had never thought of the possibility of comparing different fields of study in terms of "respectability". Translation is a needed service requiring certain skills and knowledge. That makes it respectable. A non-respectable field would be drug dealing, for example, or swindling people who can least afford to be swindled.

 
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