One ongoing topic on translator’s forums is a comparison of translation agencies and direct clients. Due to the nature of these forums, this is often conflated with the question of how to win clients – agencies, direct end-clients, both or either kind.

A recent “sales story” about one less-than-ideal way to hook a new customer stirred up a bit of discussion. Allison Wright, one of the most thoughtful critics, summarized its main ideas and expanded her initial comment into a blog post.

It is titled “Fifty ways”, but it is, basically, about three criteria that must be met when a translator decides to take on a job. In the course of the discussion, Allison nudged me gently about my look at the issue and that prompted me to write this post.

“Fifty ways” is a fitting title, because it makes sense to differentiate. When you decide about a new translation job, there is something that I feel shouldn’t be left behind. How much time/effort do you need for your first job for a new client (discounting the effort and the non-billable time to land the job)? How much time/effort do you need for a comparable job, once a future-proof, long-term working relationship has been established?

The answer is obvious: the longer you have been working for one client, in one specific domain, the less effort and time each subsequent job for that client will cost you. There is a certain coherence to your work that benefits your growth (call it capacity building, if you will) – you acquire a unique set of skills, knowledge and experience, and your resources are efficiently used. However, these precious, laboriously acquired assets tend to become rusty, if not applied frequently, and fade away. This is the case with one-off projects.

A translator becomes a specialist through working for specific clients, in specific domains. Specialization is key, but traditional specializations – like technology, finance, marketing or law – are way too general for today’s world. Companies – your clients – strive for differentiation. This also applies to communication and linguistic context. One company’s terminology may be taboo for a competitor. No universal, industry-wide vocabularies (or all-purpose guidelines) make much sense any longer, the value lies in the client-specific, customized use.

Working closely, long-term with regular corporate clients, you get to know their business inside and out. Also, you learn to look at things from the entrepreneur’s side. That translates to the quality of your work, too: you deliver a better service when you have the inside view of the purpose which your translations contribute to.

Needless to say, all this applies, almost exclusively, to direct clients.

With most agencies, the time/effort isn't worth the outcome. You will rack your brains to figure out a cryptic acronym while translating a sophisticated, jargon-filled corporate presentation – only to find out, after several emails to your agency (and a couple of days after the delivery deadline), that the acronym stands for the first and last name of one of the presenters. Had you contacted the end client directly, you would have saved yourself hours of "research" (and delivered a far better translation).

After working with various translators, I found that those who are used to working predominantly with agencies are less likely to feel responsible for their work. They regard their translation as a semi-finished, intermediate product to be checked, corrected and completed – by someone else ("and for the price they're paying me, what else they should expect?!"). This attitude doesn't resonate well with direct clients.

For a typical "agency translator", it's hard to see the wood for the trees: while direct clients expect deliverables which serve a particular purpose, they are served a more-or-less verbatim rendition of their "source text" – that comes out when you hastily translate everything the client "said", sentence-by-sentence, instead of working out what the client had "meant".

Then again, specialization… With agencies, even those that you may happen to work for on a regular basis, there is more jumping around – from one subject, one end client etc. to another. Learning curves are frequent and steep, but they take you nowhere. Typically, you gain shallow, fragmentary experience at the cost of more effort/time and less productivity, see above.

Let alone prices…

Pricing is another topic that ranks high on on translators’ forums. I believe that a close, lasting business relationship with dedicated corporate clients may change your view of pricing, because it changes your view of competition.

If your business relationship is based on a long-term contract or a general agreement, you no longer have to provide quotes for each project or bid for a certain job. Many projects and jobs would hardly find any takers anyway – without your inside knowledge, your special experience and skills, a random competitor would fail to deliver on their bid.

However, competition is still there: if you get inside the head of your client, you may start to compare the cost of your service to the cost of a potential staffer who would be needed, as an alternative, to take on your job.

At the first glance, the cost comparison doesn’t work in your favor. Your service is far more expensive. Extrapolate your hour rates to a month’s salary – and the result will appear three or four times “too high”. There is no chance you can end up with such an unrealistically high position in your client’s hierarchy, if you apply for a salaried job. But there is nothing wrong with your numbers – they reflect your cost on a per piece basis.

(On a side note, if you never heard about the 3x rule, there has been another recent blog post that is worth reading – especially if you don’t feel comfortable about your “too high” prices. Or “too low” prices – the post may make you reconsider your attitude toward agencies, too, if you think they are synonymous with “greedy exploitation”, but I sidetrack.)

In terms of unit cost, you seem to cost your client a lot of money. However, the reference number for your client – I am still referring to long-term, regular clients that ensure a steady flow of work – isn’t your unit price. Their reference number would include the hypothetical staffer’s annual salary plus social security contributions and the like plus the potential dismissal cost. With this in mind, if looking at the total cost, you as a contractor are saving your client money as compared to you as an employee.

While it is unlikely that you'll find a salaried employment commensurate with your per-job prices or your hour rates, you still can set yourself ambitious financial goals. In terms of working hours, the total amount of work done on a contractual basis for one client doesn’t relate to that of this client's FTE employee – typically, you put in a lot less work. In other words, you still have enough time/resources to put to sustainable, profitable work – and I definitely prefer a dozen of so of regular and committed clients to hundreds of random, one-off jobs.

Sometimes less is more. It is the quality ingredients that are a deal-breaker. This applies both to the quality of your service and the quality of your clients. If this two-way mix is right, you don’t have to chase new clients all the time. Given a sustainable stream of work, a dozen or so may be ideal.

If you look for new jobs, I believe you should try to choose them carefully. It is not that whatever you have around the house, it is going to make you a great meal. Accepting a new job is just much about the job as it is about the client. It makes sense to be selective about this.

To choose direct clients over agencies is only half the battle. Whether fifty or a hundred ways, I think it is essential to differentiate between two approaches – short-term and long-term. To say it's like day trading vs. investment is something of a metaphor. But perhaps that is also something freelance translators could learn from.


The images were taken in Hout Bay, South Africa.

Borges, Wikipedia and IAPTI

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986), the great Argentinian writer who made it into popular culture thanks to “The Name of the Rose” (remember the blind monk called Jorge of Burgos?), is said to have foreseen the World Wide Web: “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941) reads like a prevision of the hypertextual virtual space; “Funes, the Memorious” (from Ficciones, 1944) presages a Big Data world where everything is recorded and nothing is forgotten.

However, the Internet project that Borges is most frequently associated with is Wikipedia. "Collaborative work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers” is presented in Borges’ short story “The Library of Babel”. The subject of “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is that of a collective memory of facts and fictions, a precursor of “post-truth” perceptions of today.

Having said this, I admit that Borges seldom crossed my mind when I went to Wikipedia, usually when doing research for translation. That changed a couple of months ago.

A week or so after publishing our letter of resignation from IAPTI I surprisingly found a reference to it in Wikipedia. Yet shortly after, when I looked up IAPTI in Wikipedia again, the reference disappeared. I visited IAPTI’s Wikipedia page a few more times only to find out that this collective memory space was apparently in the process of being actively shaped.

Wikipedia pages have several tabs. Entries once made don’t fade into oblivion: when you click the View history tab at the top, you recall past revisions:

Wikipedia - View history - Past revisions of a Wikipedia page

A Wikipedia contributor Jose Carras added the first mention of our letter on November 2, 2016:

IAPTI International Interpreters and Translators Association based in Argentine

Until November last year the page appeared uneventful: since December 13, 2010 when another contributor, Fadesga, created a Wikipedia page for IAPTI there have been 25 edits in 2010, 2 edits in 2011, 3 edits in 2012, 2 edits in 2013, one edit in 2014 and one more edit in 2015. Another six edits dated back to January and February 2016: on February 24 the same page creator removed a “fake honorary member” from the list (edit summary on the View history page).

Yet since Jose Carras’ entry on November 2, 2016 and within less than 2 months the IAPTI page was edited 140 times, five times more than throughout the entire 6 years period. The reference to the letter triggered unprecedented activity.

The View history feature makes it possible to roll back the page in order to recover earlier versions. Like "Funes, the Memorious", Wikipedia remembers everything and shows the differences between any two edits you may choose. I didn’t have to do many comparisons, since it became obvious soon: the versions alternated between those with a reference to our letter and those where the reference disappeared. Someone stubbornly tried to commit the criticism to the page, while another someone was committed to eradicating any mention of it from the collective memory. In the course of time, however, the censors started making concessions. After 20 alternating edits, IAPTI’s status was stated as “pending”, though the reference to the letter was nowhere to be seen.

IAPTI - Wikipedia page of Argenine association - Revision of 2016-12-01

Then the events escalated. The edit fight peaked mid-December: an editor referred to IAPTI’s board of directors as “self-appointed” and “modifications of [IAPTI] bylaws” as an “attempt to refute accusations of unaccountability and duplicitous practices”. The edit was promptly deleted by another editor, but a reference to modified bylaws stayed. And then the page structure changed…

But wait. Let’s get back to Borges.

Jorge Luis Borges - El Aleph (book cover)

"I do not know which of us has written this page” is the last sentence of a short story called “Borges and I” (here in Spanish and English) where “he [Borges] inaugurates the possibility of erasing the very character he has inscribed” (Sylvia Molloy: “Signs of Borges”. Durham, Duke UP, 1994, p. 13). In “Aleph”, one of Borges’ most famous stories, the narrator fictionalizes his protagonist as “Borges”. Can it be that Borges’ famously divided self found its way to the Wiki article on IAPTI?

I have little doubt that the editor Fadesga, who created the IAPTI page and contributed many edits (and who was continuously erasing the mention of our letter from the Wikipedia page), is the person who the link points to – Fabio Descalzi, a translator from Montevideo, Uruguay, and a member of IAPTI, this Argentine organization "with global reach". What mystified me was this: the same user seemed both to apply criticism (like mentioning the letter or yielding to the unapproved status of IAPTI and, finally, removing "non-profit" from the description of the organization) and to stifle or censor it, again and again.

Whereas one “alter” of this seemingly multiple personality lashed out at the Argentine organisation with “ongoing unaccountability” and “duplicitous practices”, the other one responded with an apologetic narrative (“The registration process was very long, with the Argentine authority requiring lots of extra steps”):

IAPTI - censorship

The “alters” had similar account names – Fadesga, Fadasge… And all of the accounts were linked to the same page, that of Fabio Descalzi, translator from Montevideo, Uruguay, a member of the Argentine organization IAPTI.

A few weeks later, however, I found out that this Borgesian landscape of the “Garden of Forking Paths” had changed: now one link (Fadesga) led to the Wikipedia page of the user Fabio Descalzi, whereas the account “Fabio Descalzi” was blocked. The link to the other “alter” – Fadasge, the constructor of an apologetic narrative and a dismisser of “reckless claims and baseless, unfounded charges by some of [IAPTI’s] former members” – opened a warning from Wikipedia admins:

An editor has expressed a concern

It is unclear why Jose Carras, the initial critic (now also blocked), would take another online identity (“sock puppet”) to censor what he himself previously brought to light. But this is exactly this interplay of paradoxes and elusive self-references that make it so deliciously Borgesian.

Curious about the “explanation” (“Please administrators read the Talk page and also this explanation”), I went to the “Talk page” and found myself in yet another hypertext story, a distant variation of “Borges and I”:

  • 'It is to that other one, to Borges, that things happen… I do not know which of the two is writing this piece' (Borges)
  • 'This is the most strange and embarassing thing that happened to me… Whichever editions you see here or here, are clearly performed by "other" people, as I cannot log in with these users' (Fadesga)

I have no reason to doubt that the "edit war" that Fabio Descalzi, the “real” one, describes on the Wikipedia Administrators' Noticeboard, is true, yet strangely, I have a feeling that the truth doesn’t matter, since “(1) it is impossible to know truth; (2) the personality is determined by one’s experience and therefore changes constantly; (3) language is expressed and interpreted according to experience and thus is unreliable as a means of communication; (4) men build up masks to conceal reality, and thus render real communication impossible” (Mary McBride: “Jorge Luis Borges, Existentialist: "The Aleph" and the Relativity of Human Perception” in Studies in Short Fiction, 1977).

Whether fictional or factual, the edit war between several “alters” of one multiple online personality or between different users (including their “sock puppets”) did bring about a change I already mentioned. The page structure suddenly changed. The “controversial” statements were pushed down to a new section named “Disputes” below “Honorary members”, whereas new sections, too, appeared above.

The section “Purpose” was introduced as the first one, apparently to convey IAPTI’s marketing narrative:

"Its founder, Aurora Humarán, considered the creation of an association to discuss rates only among professionals, and that would be unique in scope, providing a framework, and with practically unlimited scope, in the belief that the globalized world needed a really comprehensive association able to embrace all translators and interpreters from any language pair, any specialization, and any country".

This, too, was repeatedly reshaped or censured. This time, however, the censuring was being done by Wikipedia admins. The comments (edit summaries on the View history page) speak for themselves:

  • “Purpose: Avoid mission statements”
  • ‎”Purpose: Fadesga, please go easy on the marketing hype, thanks”

The fight for references continued within the section “Disputes”. It is here or rather on its View history page where you can learn e.g. that

Anthony Pym questions true motives of IAPTI

It is here that you see how the passage is being reshaped to fit in into the self-gratifying narrative of IAPTI:

IAPTI

A few edits later “shameless” is redacted and replaced wirh “outrageous”, whereas "many professionals" are elevated to "many outstanding" ones:

IAPTI calls Anthony Pym "outrageous"

In a Wikipedia setting, "shameless" and "outrageous" are probably as close to "yuk, boo, gross" as you can get. A few more edits down the road there pops up another warning sign from Wikipedia admins:

IAPTI on Wikipedia - Neutrality of section is disputed

What is it all about, I asked myself. Why the struggle to rewrite history, cover up facts and apply self-serving adjectives?

IAPTI (initially AIPTI) was started by Aurora Humarán and the translators who worked for her then translation company, the Aleph Translations. In Borges’ story, the Aleph is a microcosm, a point in space that contains everything.

Today’s IAPTI still contains – and largely boils down to – its original microcosm. What was purported to become an “international” organization has been struggling, since 2009, to acquire a legal personality as an Argentinian “intercontinental” (?) association:

IAPTI, intercontinental association based in Argentine

Those who worked for Aleph Translations back in 2008 (as listed on BlueBoard in ProZ) are the same persons who hold positions on IAPTI's board today.

IAPTI and Aleph Translations

No elections have been held, no financial accounts ever produced. With the organization officially unapproved, unaccountable and without a tax number, it means that “any fees paid to IAPTI (such as membership or conference fees)” are likely to be regarded as payments to private persons, not “as business expenses in your own income tax returns”.

In fact, little in today’s IAPTI would pass the checks and balances of a democratic professional association. Some may find it troubling (those of us who already left certainly did), but someone like Borges probably wouldn’t. In one of his recorded interviews (1976), when speaking about politics, the great Argentinian said:

Question: What's your position on democracy?
Borges: What I wrote in the prologue of my last book, it's abuse of statistics, nothing more.
Question: You don't believe in democracy?
Borges: No. But, I may be talking as an Argentine. […] For the time being, my only observation as to what could be convenient would be to delay the next elections about… 300 or 400 years, but beyond that, I can't think of any solution.

So where I am going with this?

There is no personal agenda. Only disillusionment. For me – as probably for most of us, former members, whose only remaining solution was to leave, after heated discussions with the board – it took months to see through the self-glorifying marketing hype of IAPTI. It takes time to only start to sort facts from ficciones. Then it takes time to resolve your cognitive dissonance. In case of IAPTI, the outward image and the inner reality don’t match. You may get familiar with the facts – including those erased from public memory – but you still have, in the words of a German philosopher, to “have courage to use your own reason” and delineate right from wrong.

Borges said that “the man who acquires an encyclopedia does not thereby acquire every line, every paragraph, every page, and every illustration; he acquires the possibility of becoming familiar with one and another of those things.”

In a post-factual culture, our ability to interpret “those things” is getting more diluted. But also more valuable.

Among German translators, Giselle Chaumien is unique in that her contribution to the professional translators’ community is comparable to that of an entire professional association. While others may incessantly promote their CPD business or obsess about monetizing their websites or blogs, Giselle, without much ado, has been offering a plethora of knowledge and expertise through her Wissenswinkel website (together with Sabine Lammersdorf) and her personal blog.

On Facebook, she moderates a popular Café Umlaut group. For years, she has been providing help and advice to those starting their career. Above all, she herself sets an example of someone who finds great satisfaction in mastering skills and, as a writer and translator, living a successful professional life.

There may be more in the offing and I’d be happy to spread the word in due course, but now back to what’s there. A few months ago, Giselle and Sabine started a series of interviews 'Five Questions for the Experts'. It was my honor and pleasure to be asked to contribute.

Another esteemed colleague, Allison Wright, kindly volunteered to translate this interview, originally in German, into English. She did a brilliant job that, for once, justifies using my clandestine slogan 'Better than the original'. Thank you so much, Allison! As for the pictures, they have only a remote connection with the interview: I happened to be visiting the 'Upside Down' festival in Aarhus, Denmark, when replying to the questions.


Valerij, what do you think is the most important key to success in our profession?

To look at every single translation job through the client's eyes:

Client's perspective + Thinking like the client = Success.

02 Above the town

It is a simple formula, yet not always obvious. Translators usually understand translation to mean conveying the text at hand into another language. For clients, however, it is more important for our translation to achieve their goals—as does the source text, only in another language. By not understanding what these goals are – why the client sent the documents for translation in the first place, I believe that success will be hard to come by.

We need to understand that clients expect a product; for clients, that product is simply a means to an end. And then there is the related service which arises from our thinking like the client. We have to ask ourselves what exactly the client will achieve with our translation? Does the source document really persuade the target group in the best way possible? What can be changed or improved? How can the translator help clients to communicate better with their audience? A means to an end—medium versus message: To be successful in our profession, it is important to understand the relationship between these two elements, and not simply to work in “text in, text out” mode.

Your own survey on what clients want from translators revealed clients' dissatisfaction because of the widespread misconception that “the job is about the text, and the text only”. The reason the translation was commissioned in the first place often falls by the wayside when such a narrow view is taken. (If you read German, I would strongly recommend that you read Giselle's article entitled “Was Auftraggeber sich von Übersetzern wünschen“ in the 2016-4 issue of the Fachzeitschrift MDÜ.)

In my book, now with the working title, “Through the Client’s Eyes: On Becoming a Better Translator” (possibly due for publication at the end of 2017), I call the key to success the 4 Ps (analogous to the 5 Ms of management, and the 4 Cs of marketing, and so on). The 4Ps are not the standard “Product, Price, Place and Promotion”, but a combination of Professionalism, Project-thinking, Personality and Packaging. The book deals at length with how our clients see translations, but also discusses what we can learn from other industries—from their perspective. First and foremost, it deals with publishing, advertising and design, where the visual counts for far more than the verbal.

We look forward to reading it. Do interpreters have a better idea of what clients are about? Are they more client-orientated than translators? You work as an interpreter and translator. What do you think?

It is a well-known fact that translators always ask for “more context”, yet they seldom see the relationship between “their text” and the client's actual motivation behind the text. As another of the clients you surveyed said, the world of business relations is a completely unexplored territory for many translators. What better way is there to understand the internal processes of a company and business connections and relationships in general than by getting to know clients and their companies on site?

As an interpreter, I am lucky to have been to the premises of many companies. For over twenty years, I have also been an interpreter in the fields of corporate consultancy and management training, mainly for GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the German international development organisation) and its partners. This is one way to learn how business really works, and you can't help but pick up specialist knowledge as you go along.

I believe the best way to specialise—a magic word for translators—is through practical, hands-on experience. The same is true for market knowledge. What I have just described definitely applies to “my” market segment, which I have come to know through practical experience; that of direct B2B clients. Obviously, this would not apply to those who mainly translate personal certificates or work with translation agencies.

I also think that specialisation alone, without general knowledge and the ability to understand how businesses operate, is only one half of the success coin. It is through my contact with business executives whom I meet through my interpreting work that I have become particularly aware of what is termed methodical competence. Many CEOs and management executives move from one company and sector to another several times during their careers. They tend to be generalists, but are always able to acquire the specialist knowledge that matters.

In my opinion, there is a great deal of synergy created when interpreting and translation are offered as part of the same service. But here too, everything starts with the client. I sense how important it is for clients to have someone they trust—a reliable partner—for all their language-related and communication needs. If this trust is established when working with an interpreter, clients find it extremely difficult to understand why they should have to look for a different service provider for follow-up work—which just happens to be in writing. Take, for example, the translation of a written contract prepared after negotiations at which the interpreter was present and during which the terms of the draft contract were discussed.

What recommendations would you like to give to younger translators who are just entering the profession?

This dovetails with my response to your first question. I would advise young translators to keep their eyes open so that they can see what they are doing in a larger context from the client's perspective. But perhaps I would also mention this: Technology—by which I mean the technical means used, such as software—is simply a means to an end. Cooking utensils are not essential for you to be a good cook. No matter how fantastic they are, even cameras are useless without people, and being a bad, good or brilliant photographer does not depend on your equipment, or the latest software.

Robert Mapplethorpe's Tools

(Robert Mapplethorpe’s tools (the exhibition ‘On the Edge” in Aarhus Art Museum, October 2016)

Translators tend to be perfectionists. They are always looking for (and finding) errors and have a hard time coping with the idea of “better done than perfect”. Having said that, I have discovered recently that many translators do not even deliver a finished product. Many have the “text in, text out” attitude towards the job at hand mentioned earlier; they do not even see the text as a whole, and have no real concept of what “done” means. They merely translate individual segments in their CAT tools and send off the segments in the target language, without first checking the document exported from their CAT tool in the original program–and certainly do not check the document through the client's eyes.

I don't know whether it's because of the CAT tool or because many translators work mainly for agencies (i.e. for "the trade" and not for the end client), but I encounter this lack of versatility and inadequate sense of responsibility for their own products and services more and more. Obviously, they expect someone else to finish the job properly—that someone else will read the text through again, format it, adapt it, and take responsibility for it. But in real life, it is not like that.

I completely agree with you on that. What do you wonder most about when it comes to the behaviour of younger colleagues on social media?

I get the impression that criteria other than age or experience (younger versus older colleagues) are at work when using social media. But demographics apart, a lot depends on your personality. I have also noticed other things play a role, such as membership of a professional translators' association. Even among the members of our own association, the BDÜ, I have met many colleagues who avoid, dismiss or ignore Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Some of them call it “Facebook & Co.”, and have a very negative attitude towards social media of any kind. Either they see no value in being involved in social media, or hide behind pseudonyms or are afraid to express their opinions in public. It would be interesting to know what percentage of BDÜ members are in the better known German translator groups (such as Café Umlaut, for example).

I would like to see something of a more ambitious, or more professional, approach from active users of social media, especially on Facebook. I see no sense in wasting time bemoaning agencies, with their shamefully low prices. As a service provider, you are the one who determines your price, and not the agency. If your quotations are not accepted, look for other clients. Don't offer your products and services via the trade (agencies); offer them directly instead. Most translators, however, have difficulty believing that this works. Or that a stable, six-figure annual income is not only desirable but also quite realistic.

What many now refer to as the “poverty cult“ approach is something I regard quite simply as self-sabotage, like shooting yourself in the foot. Far be it from me to lay the blame on the victims, but many, many problems that colleagues on social media complain bitterly about are, as the Germans so neatly put it, home-made. And it should be remembered that self-sabotage not only hinders your own success, but reduces the chances of success for others too. It has a negative effect on the whole translation “industry”. And the image of the translation profession itself suffers too.

01 Marketing tips for translators

(At the 'Upside Down' festival, Aarhus, October 2016)

I feel exactly the same way, Valerij. One extra question, if I may, on the subject of the poverty cult and self-sabotage: You know that a significant number of our colleagues have a problem with the word “success” because it has negative connotations for them. What is your response to that?

I wonder which word would have positive connotations for them, in that case. First of all, what alternatives are there, if “success” is seen as offensive? “The main thing is to enjoy your work” or “What counts is achieving the right work-life balance” or even “At least I am my own boss and do not have to commute”?

The only problem is that the supposed alternatives and success are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary. It is precisely success that creates these alternatives and other possibilities.

My worry is that the negative perception of success, or the term “success”, paves the way for people to cling proactively to defensive attitudes such as “It doesn't really matter if I am not successful”, or “No good comes from it, and it’s not up to me, anyway”. Because there are plenty of things to blame out there for your lack of success: the market, clients, the translation industry, machine translation; the list goes on. One has to ask what successful colleagues are doing that is so wrong, when in spite all of these things, they are indeed successful.

So that the grounds for justifying their lack of success remain firm, success has to be negated, relativised, called into question, or whatever*. This creates a vicious circle, since those who are successful have very little motivation to talk about it in the face of such opposition. And if no one talks about it, then success does not exist. So, let's banish the idea entirely!

06 Child in Museum

Exactly! Can translators' associations help us to enhance the image of the translation profession? What do you think?

As far as associations go, I particularly appreciate the German association, the BDÜ. I think the best way forward for the BDÜ would be towards greater professionalisation and centralisation. Which is why I was doing what I could to achieve a greater BDÜ presence in the north of Germany, because two years ago, there was still no BDÜ in Hamburg.

Unlike other associations, the BDÜ stands by its target group:  freelance translators; no agencies. Giselle, you know the automotive industry very well. Can you imagine an association which lumped together drivers, mechanics, spare parts distributors, used car dealers and major automobile manufacturers, and then claimed to represent “the industry”? Not a good idea. But that is, effectively, what many translator associations do.

In terms of BDÜ, however, I would like to see a more refined approach than, for example, the one employed by ISO 17100 (as discussed in German in my article on its predecessor, DIN EN 15038). And, one more thing: I find it incomprehensible why the few search criteria in the BDÜ online database include—aside from Qualifications (translator, interpreter, etc.), Specialisation (Are the biopharma industry and biopharmaceutical industry really two different areas?) and Location—a field labelled “Translation tool”. I know of no trade directory where “tools” used are searched for, or of anyone who goes to a hairdresser because they use a certain brand of scissors or clippers. Shouldn't the choice of technology be left up to the service provider? To my mind, the BDÜ database is making a clear concession to translation agencies. I am aware of the BDÜ's justification in this regard—that there are supposedly direct clients who attach importance to the use of certain CAT tools. Such clients—companies whose own internal language departments mirror the model used by agencies—are, however, in the very small minority. Ninety-nine per cent of the German economy is made up of SMEs. They have no CAT tools and do not search for freelancers according to the CAT tool used. They cannot do anything with the half-finished products a CAT tool produces, just as they have no use for the “language experts” mentioned in the title of the BDÜ database. What such clients are looking for are communication service providers who can convincingly convey what the client's sales people, financial experts, legal advisors or engineers have to say to their own clients or customers. Removing the “Translation tool” field from the BDÜ database would help to enhance the image of our profession, in my view. Perhaps it would also contribute to our colleagues achieving a better understanding of the role they have to play and to improving their sense of self-worth.

Thank you, Valerij, for an interesting interview.

Thank you, Giselle.

03 Two Persons Over the City

Interview voluntarily translated and adapted by Allison Wright, because she agrees with the views expressed in the interview on adopting the client's perspective during the translation process.

* It is only from later comments that I realised that 'success' may be such a 'loaded' word for some colleagues. There are many interpretations, of course. The range from happiness as opposed to materialistic thinking to 'If you're still poor, you deserve it!" by Jack Ma. I find Jack Ma more motivational.

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