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Criticising translators and translations

A translator’s lot is not an easy one. Possibly because they seem to work in a field in which all human beings are (or consider themselves) de facto experts, namely communication, there is certain tendency to see translators as drones, harmless drudges who do work which everyone else would be perfectly capable of doing were they a bit less busy. When companies outsource projects to an LSP, it is very common to hear comments like ‘I would do it myself but I don’t have time.’

This is a bit like assuming that, because you are a competent driver, you will automatically know how to put an engine together. ‘I go on the internet every day, of course I could build a website! I’m just too busy.’

This attitude conceals a lack of understanding which can cause even the thickest-skinned translators frustration and, sometimes, offence. The fact is that translation is a deeply specialised art, and career translators will have spent as much time studying and training as any other professional.

Every translator has been on the receiving end of criticism from someone with zero experience, someone who often doesn’t even speak the target language of the translation in question.

As with all the practitioners of those crafts which the modern world has downgraded from ‘professions’ to ‘services’, the translator is often defenceless in the face of this sort of criticism. Sometimes the only option is to bite your tongue and explain that, whilst the internet is awash with cowboys and amateurs, a respectable LSP will use only experienced and specialised professional translators (all of whom only translate into their native languages), will never use internet translation engines, and will have a stringent review system which guarantees not only that the translation itself is of the highest possible quality, but also that it is phrased in an appropriate style or register.

Reputable translators are skilled and experienced linguists. They will repay your confidence.

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