Recipe for the Perfect Translator [14 Ingredients!]
As a translator, we receive many translation requests every day. Some of these requests, however, simply demand too much of a translator. They might even be insulting. In this blog, I list these common requests in a recipe for the perfect translator, explain why it is too much to ask and occasionally offer a means of replying to it. Please be aware that this list does not offer a specific amount per ingredient. These amounts vary, depending on the client’s state of mind.
If you are a client requesting a translation, the following recipe for the perfect translator serves as a check: is this what I expect of my translator and if so, what is reasonable to expect? Taking this recipe for the perfect translator into account will definitely be beneficial to the relationship you have or will have with your translator.
1. The perfect translator works 24/7.
“What do you mean, only office hours? When I go home after a hard day at work, I expect my translator to finish the job.”
Unfortunately, your translator needs a good night of sleep too. We need to clear our mind before we start translating as we can use all the concentration our body contains. Breaks and sleep help. In addition, we cannot catch up on our sleep after your job is finished as we have the next job waiting, with another client expecting the same thing.
2. The perfect translator knows every word in the other language.
“Hey, how do you say [random word] in [the language into which you translate or even a random language]?”
Please do not assume we are a walking dictionary. We are very fond of dictionaries ourselves. Dictionaries are one of the reference sources we use to find the appropriate term. Other sources include translation software, term banks, Internet research, and native speakers. We are also the first to admit we do not know every word in our native language either!
3. The perfect translator knows at least five languages.
“You say you are a translator and you can only speak three languages?”
Yes. The extent to which we have specialized in the language(s) into which we translate does not allow us to specialize in many other languages to the same extent. Sure, we can say a “por favor” and a “vielen Dank” here and there. Even if we are an expert in only one language combination, we are still a translator. So, how can we help you?
4. The perfect translator does not have to be paid that much.
“Come on, that is way too expensive!”
Please, we want to be able to pay our rent and feed our family too. Alternatively, if you are looking for more ways to reply, one of the following answers from No Peanuts! may suit you.
“We have a quote that is lower than yours by a good 20 percent.”
“Hello! I said we have a quote that is lower than yours by a good 20 percent.”
“Oh, I am sorry. I was busy deleting 20 percent of the words from the text you sent.”
“You are making more money on this deal than I am!”
“You ought to consider becoming a translator then.”
“I know someone who charges less than you.”
“Actually, I know a lot of people who charge less than me.”
“I know someone who is very good and charges less.”
“I am awfully sorry.”
“What do you mean?”
“I assume he/she must have passed away or you would not have called me.”
“Sorry, we cannot pay more than that. It is a very large project. We are bidding for 25 languages.”
“I am just bidding for one.”
5. The perfect translator does not have to be paid on time.
“Hey, I am sorry, but my credit card is missing.” “Our company only pays after a month/two months/three months.” “Oh, I am sorry; I forgot about that invoice and did not have a chance to respond to your e-mails.”
We meet the deadlines you demand. Please return the favor by meeting de deadline we demand in our invoices. Most of us are self-employed and the amount of income varies greatly all the time. Unpaid invoices do not contribute to a steady income or to a regular payment of our rent.
6. The perfect translator never minds doing weekend jobs.
On Thursday evening/Friday: “I have a text that needs to be translated. Can you finish it on Sunday/Monday morning?”
This happens to me every week. That means that, if I were to accept every single one of those jobs, I would never be able to enjoy a weekend. It is the same as in ingredient number 1: we do need sleep and we do need breaks, just like everyone else. Moreover, translating can be a very lonely job. Seeing friends and family is definitely something we need in order to stay sane and keep loving our job.
7. The perfect translator never minds working 5 times as hard.
“I have a text consisting of 50 pages. Can you have it done by tomorrow?”
As Wanderlust Languages says, “We are not machines and we cannot produce perfect and instant translations. If you are asking for something to be done in a stupid time limit, do not expect it to be good. Ditto if you are paying peanuts. If you want a great quality translation that you can publish and use… you are going to have to give the translator a bit of time, respect and a decent rate of pay.”
8. The perfect translator knows he/she is replaceable by Google Translate.
“In a year or so, you will have been replaced by Google Translate/a robot/a trained monkey.”
Google Translate has gotten much better in the last 10 years. Some tasks might have once required a professional translator, and now Google Translate can handle them. Nevertheless, some tasks still require a professional translator. “If you want to get the gist of an email or website, or send a non-professional email to someone who speaks another language, go right ahead. Please do not Google Translate your entire novel, website or corporate communications and then actually publish or send it! Google Translate can do quite a bit, but it cannot write accurately and grammatically; nor can it replace a human’s judgment for the correct word for the context, style or specialist language (and certainly will not for a long time),” as Wanderlust Languages states.
9. The perfect translator is an interpreter.
“You are a translator? Yeah, we need one at our conference.”
No. You need an interpreter. Those are two different professions. Even though interpreting and translation are two closely related linguistic disciplines, they are rarely performed by the same people. The difference in skills, training, aptitude and even language knowledge are so substantial that few people can do both successfully on a professional level. If you want more information regarding the difference between an interpreter and a translator, please read Language Scientific’s page.
10. The perfect translator is in-between real jobs.
“What did you study? Literature?” “You can work from your bed if you want, go on vacation when you choose and have as many tea breaks as you like without someone shouting at you. That is not a real job.”
Wanderlust Languages puts it nicely when the site says that working as a translator “earns me real, actual money that goes into my bank account once a month and I can spend it on real things. Like council tax. The same applies to freelance writers, editors, proofreaders etc. Because we tend to work from home in our own time, we are not on a level with office-bound ‘real’ workers. Alternatively, because we work with words, not power tools, people assume anyone can do it and it is not a real skill. However, just because we can all speak a certain amount of words does not mean we are all qualified to write, edit or proofread in our own language. In addition, speaking more than one language does not automatically qualify you to be a translator. Most translators have a degree or other qualification.”
So yes, we work hard and yes, we do have a degree or two.
11. The perfect translator can handle any specialism.
“I am looking for a legal, medical and business translation. When can I have them?”
We translators cannot translate in every field of expertise. Most good translators can only handle one or two. We do not simply substitute one word for another. As Wanderlust Languages explains, “Someone who is a medical translator will have good knowledge of medicine, biology, the medical profession, the appearance of medical documents, and the appropriate terminology. Do I know the right way to describe a specific chemical process, drug action mechanism or medical procedure? No. So I do not take on specialized medical translations and screw them up.”
12. The perfect translator always offers a discount, even if it is a rush job.
“I have this text for you. What is your best price?” “There will be more work in the future. What discount do we get?”
I have an image for you:
13. The perfect translator always thinks that, when someone you know who speaks the other language and who says the translation is terrible, that person is right.
“My secretary is bilingual and read your translation into Spanish. She thought it was absolutely terrible.” “I asked four of my friends, all of them very well educated, and they disagree with the way you translated this sentence.”
No Peanuts! responds: “Ah, my mistake. I thought you wanted a translation. If all you wanted was an opinion, I would have given you mine for free too.” That is one way of responding.
14. The perfect translator is always willing to offer a quotation immediately, even if the texts to be translated are floating around somewhere in the online universe, full of difficult formatting or confidential.
“I need my website www.exampleofdomain.com translated. Part of it is Flash and the remaining part is dynamic content managed via a database. Please look at the website and send me a detailed quote.” “The document to be translated is confidential and I cannot send it to you, but I need to know how much you are going to charge for it to be translated!”
Translators usually offer a rate per word. Sometimes we offer a rate per hour. Either way, we need to be able to assess the work properly, so we can offer the right quotation. That means full access to a document and no distracting things.
What can I do for you if you need a perfect translator?
I can translate your text from Dutch to English or from English to Dutch. Contact me if you want to talk about an upcoming translation project: firstname.lastname@example.org