Current Translation Landscape: Sorting Fact from Fiction

low angle photography of grey and black tunnel overlooking white cloudy and blue sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ever feel like the media is playing a game of telephone? Misunderstandings seem to be cropping up left and right. Let’s talk about the buzz around machine translation – what does its widespread use mean for us, the translators?

Debunking Illusion #1: Smooth Sailing with Machine Translation? Not So Fast!

Picture this: You’re a hotshot lawyer, and a friend needs a privacy policy for their new online biz. They’ve got a half-baked draft from some online tool. They think you just need to sprinkle some legal magic, no biggie. Oh, and can we pay you a third of your rate? Yeah, right!

Or imagine: Once you’ve mastered Trello, Calendly, and a CRM system, your sales job‘s a breeze now. But guess what? You’re now footing the bill for those fancy software licenses. And by the way, we’re thinking of cutting your pay by a third. Easy job, easy pay, right?

And, oh, your customer has just roughly drilled some holes in the materials, sparing you of the rough work, right? You just do the rest of the work, the highly precise assembly. The fine-tuned assembly tools you have are incompatible with the customer’s prep, you have to use tools borrowed from your client.
Never mind, they’ll deduct them from your pay, too.

Surreal stuff? It’s real, and it’s happening in the world of translations.

Someone forces you to use technology you didn’t mean to in a process that doesn’t feel effective. You are expected to fix errors you haven’t made and charge a fraction of your usual pricing.

Debunking Illusion #2: Are Translators Facing Extinction? Here’s the Scoop

True. False. Both. Back to facts:

Translators aren’t fading into oblivion. In fact, the global translation industry is raking in a whopping $26 billion annually (maybe $57 billion by another yardstick). Keeps growing.

And translators are idly waiting, hypnotizing their empty inboxes? Quite the opposite, their inboxes are brimming with job requests. However, there’s a catch: Many of these assignments frequently come with inadequate budgets and preparation.

When translators express discomfort about the mass use of machine translation, it’s not about depressed people watching their empty mailboxes as the whole world ceased to need them. Their mailboxes are being flooded with demand, but for inadequately budeted and unprofessionally prepared jobs.

Debunking Illusion #3: Translators don’t want to reflect the ease of their work in their rates!

False. While the translation industry is on the rise, translator rates are in search for their bottom. This can be attributed to the supposed “increased productivity” brought about by machines, or the misguided belief that searching for machine’s errors is a piece of cake. However, the truth is quite different. Those who take on such assignments have lower income than before machines “made their tasks easier.”

The situation of language professionals is not about raking in more with the same effort.

What the translation industry currently has to offer to many, is inconvenient work process for a compensation that’s far from thrilling.

Freelancers are the industry’s backbone.

They invest in their technological tools while being offered meager compensation in return.

My inbox? Constantly flooded. Requests for translation and revision arrive from all corners of the globe. Yet, decently paid jobs are rare.

At first, some of the incoming job offers reminded me of my job with a non-profit. Then the pricing just got somehow “historical.” But recently, we’re in the sphere of the absurd, with breathtaking 3 USD/hr.

Let’s talk about adopting new tech. If it means that highly educated and specialized pros need to slash their earnings to “stay competitive,” is that an “opportunity”?

I think not.

10 thoughts on “Current Translation Landscape: Sorting Fact from Fiction

  1. If people realized they can’t trust the majority of the translation agencies for a decent work, they would be turning directly to translators…

  2. In legal translation quality is not negotiable. Full stop. And given that it is estimated that within 3 years half internet sites and information will be fake, clients should ensure they are not being infiltrated by agencies destroying their Translation Memories and Information Systems.

  3. Markéta Brožová Hanelová
    I see it a bit differently.
    I think especially US market is waiting for some serious translation mishap to happen. It is just question of time. I remember doing 100k translation of a nuclear fuel manual for Czech Dukovany power plant for a UK customer.
    They wanted it in 10 days, I delivered it but warned them that I will not be able to do any proofreading. They were OK with it (smile). The power plant is still running. But I did not use any machine translation. I know enough about nuclear fuel to do it right.
    So far so good.
    But soon or later something bad happens, lawyers will take over, Translators do not have the money, so the lawyers will go where the money is. I never wasted my money on any liability insurance. This is the big and bad and cheap translation companies problem.
    And we already published the biggest money grabbers in the translation industry.
    They better have really good lawyers, if they want to survive (smile). It is a Russian roulette and the big mishap is just the question of time.

  4. As for your debunking illusion #1, I only add that bad clients should be discarded at first. The good thing is that they are quite easily seen. The bad thing is that it is disappointing. It seems it costs you some welcome money but it is even more expensive working and chasing the client to be paid or earning half your rate if you agree to settle the dispute soon.
    Beware bad, unknown clients with appealing jobs. You can answer politely that you are a serious translator not a sloppy worker.

    1. Well, my experience has been that appealing jobs usually are really fine, while bad offers look weird at first sight or at least give the feeling that something isn’t quite right…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: