I started my translation studies at ISTI (the Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et Interprètes, which is now part of the ULB, the Université Libre de Bruxelles) in Brussels, five years ago. After three years of a Bachelor’s degree in this department and an Erasmus at UEV in Valencia (Spain), I had fallen in love with translation and decided to continue my Master’s degree at ISTI (ULB).
At the beginning of the first year of the Master’s programme, students can choose between a career in translation or interpreting. Personally, having always loved writing, I made the decision to study an MA in translation.
I’m sure many of you can identify with this scenario: an end client sends an agency similar documents on a regular basis and most are largely the same with just a few tweaks needed here and there to incorporate new information. Sometimes this work is handled by agencies that farm the job out to the first available translator, provide them with a TM and tell them not to touch 100% matches (which they don’t pay for). Sometimes the agencies are quite happy for you to alter the TM and pay a sliding-scale revision rate for matches. Other times the agency sends the work to the same translator year after year, who can then use his or her own TM to do the job. However, in the latter case, the one I’m most familiar with, the preferred usual translator is inevitably not always available, so the document is sent to another translator to process along with copies of previous translations.
Have you heard of the latest trend in the translation industry? It’s called PEMT and it stands for post-editing machine translation. This is when clients use a program to translate their text before sending it to a translator for the final edit. Some clients use more sophisticated MT (machine translation) than online offerings, but in my experience Google Translate is the most popular translation tool, and, therefore, the one clients use more often than not to get a translation for the price of a revision, usually around 50% of the cost.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the bulk and premium market and whether ranting or complaining about the poor conditions found in the former will ever do any good, especially as what everyone should actually be doing is following the lead of the gurus, getting out there and grabbing the best jobs, charging a fortune, earning a six-figure salary and flying first class. Because then there wouldn’t be anything for them to complain about, now would there?
If only this were so easy or possible. The translation sector encompasses as many markets as there are language combinations and specialisms. How you fare or how much you might earn probably depends more on the market you operate in than where you live. It also depends on the subjects you have studied and your specialist knowledge, how good you are at translating and your personality; whether you have the drive, get-up-and-go and belief in yourself that will enable you to land direct clients and charge decent rates rather than relying on an agency to do that for you. So many factors are involved that it’s almost impossible to generalise. And it’s also impossible for anyone to know what it might be like for a colleague in a totally different situation to their own.
Don’t you just love it when the agency says in the very last email of the exchange about a job, when the conditions are supposedly already done and dusted: “Oh, by the way, the client says this translation is extremely important so please make sure you pay special attention to doing it well.” Even when they sweeten this a little by adding “We know you always do”, it still exasperates me no end.
A chance remark on Facebook just over a year ago made Csaba Bán realise that his colleagues would quite like him to repeat his earlier conference-arranging success in Budapest. A few hours later BP14 was born; the following day the venue was booked; and the rest, as they say, is history.
In this case, however, BP does not primarily refer to the two settlements, Buda and Pest, flanking either side of the River Danube (which we sailed down whilst having dinner on the first evening of the conference) forming today’s vast city of Budapest. It actually stands for Business and Practice because the conference was held over two days, the first devoted to improving how we relate to clients and portray ourselves, and the second to perfecting our craft. That’s also why BP15, which is already in the pipeline, will not be held in Csaba’s hometown but in Zagreb instead.
I can’t help it, really I can’t, but every time someone mentions the “bright side” I think of that Monty Python song at the end of the Life of Brian. This “bright side” isn’t quite the same, however. It’s not about finding the positives in a negative situation. It’s about sharing the experiences of colleagues who have realised “that the solutions to the ups, downs, bounties and challenges of life as a freelance translator are in their hands, and their hands alone, who buckle down, refuse to whinge and get on with the job”. This bold statement, which for many is their philosophy of life, also sums up why it has not been well received in all corners of the translation sphere (especially as it seems many critics didn’t get much beyond the first paragraph of the introduction, which this quote comes from). It has inspired Herman Boel to write a series on his blog Alta Verba called The Reality of Our Profession. It might also explain why the new slogan for the IAPTI conference in Athens in September is now: “Neither nihilist nor naive”. Because obviously things happen that are totally beyond our control and change our circumstances. The recent recession springs to mind, and let’s not even get started on machine translation and the impact it has and will continue to have on various segments of our industry.