Toxic Translation: A Twelve-Step Program for Self-Injuring Translators(or ‘How to retain your sanity after reading the job ads’)

I have recently found myself browsing through job advertisements on the translation website and despairing. The Monday before last, for example, I found myself confronted with an advertisement which sought translators for a ‘general contract’, 545 words in length, who were willing to work for between €0.01 and €0.02 per word. Yes, you read that right – that is 1 cent per word, not 10! Who the hell would translate for that kind of money, I asked myself. Surely one could not find anyone with the capacity to spell or form a sentence, let alone translate. Maybe it won’t matter, I speculated, maybe in the future the customers won’t be able to spell or form sentences either and no-one will notice how awful the translations are. Maybe it is all over for the written word.

I wish I had found this post on ‘Toxic Translation’ that depressing morning. Its twelve-step program for self-injuring translators is a really nice psychic survival guide for those of us who actually give a crap about writing and language, and who would also like to pay their rent occasionally. I particularly enjoyed step eleven:

“Stand up for your native language. Take pride in seeing it used eloquently, fluently, and well. Take offense when it is abused and disrespected. Don’t believe the hype about globalism, world languages, and all the rest. Stop caving in to the absurd and unverified claim that non-native translation is just as valid as native translation or that the people who read translations in their second language “don’t care” if they’re well written or not. Your ability to deploy your native language with sophistication, flexibility, and skill is your most important selling point. You may never succeed in convincing everyone of the importance of this issue, but consider this: many people also find it acceptable to drink wine that comes in boxes, watch Fox News, or buy Lady Gaga CDs. If you’re a language professional, you’re supposed to be above things like that.”

Thanks Wendell, couldn’t have said it better myself! And if ever you find yourself in need of solace on a penniless Monday morning, do check out the ‘ProvenWrite’ blog.


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