Wish you were here

Despair by Davide Nadalin

Despair by Davide Nadalin

Subtitle: when I have to pay my bills, dear outsourcer

I promise I won’t be too verbose on the issue, we’re all going through hard times and I suppose it’s everywhere the same old story. This thought just came to my mind when I received this creepy message from a outsourcer:


Yes, you’ve read it right, 0 $ for reviewing a bunch of words. Well, I would not even ask money for that if a customer of mine asked me to proofread (I wonder how a list can be ‘reviewed’ actually) a short list, I even offered new customers to translate very short texts for free just to let them see how I work, but this sounds obscene. Obviously, I don’t mean to refer to this specific outsourcer, so its name is mercifully covered, but to bottom feeders of the translation industry in general. It’s not the first case and it will be not the last, I’m registered to many agencies that don’t assign me anything due to my high rates (if 8 euro cents can even be considered high). This peculiar agency sends me calls for bids from time to time, all indicating that they expect to pay peanuts for the job and – to my big surprise – in the lapse of few seconds the bid is already closed. OMG, using a chat acronym I learnt recently while translating my first book.  I cannot even imagine how a full-time freelancer can live and pay his/her bills earning something like  0,04-5 Usd (mor or less 3 euro cents), 7 euro gross per hour deduced taxes, i.e., 3,5 euro net. A charwoman would probably be paid  twice as much – cash-in-hand, of course.

Some freelancers do it, instead. I suppose they all translate at the speed of light, otherwise I expect to see them having lunch in some soup kitchen. Joking aside, I wonder how rocket translators (I mean those who work at rocket speed, not stellar translators) can grant quality if they have to work like mad to make ends meet. How can they focus on the text it their thoughts are focused on bills? How can they concentrate on the text if they have to run across it, instead? Maybe I’m too naive, maybe I’m living in a cavern, but I don’t think that any translator – even if equipped with a smashing, cutting-edge CAT tool – can translate decently and earn decently at such prices.

I’d really like to launch a poll on this topic, how much translators are paid? How many hours a day and days a week they work? If I’d do, I would kindly ask translators to respond hand on heart to both questions.

At the risk of looking a slacker, I confess I consider eight hours a day and five-six days a week an adequate working time, no more, no less. Translators are human beings and require a minimum rest, otherwise they can go kaput. I know many consider this category of professionals as a sort of human typewriter, but let me tell you that they – I should actually say ‘we’ – are much more than this (apart from the fact that even machines can go kaput under pressure). Translation requires study and research, sensitivity and intuition. Behind a single word there’s often a huge work of research and tons of (obviously cleared) doubts. Hours of hard work to transfer a message and the emotions behind it into another language, to move, translate it from a culture to another one. No damn Google Translate could do that (though I personally thank it so much each time I run across Japanese, Chinese or Russian pages on the web!).

The point is that there’s no education on this in the translation industry. Surely no equity. I feel outraged every time I hear someone comparing a in-house translator to a secretary (and, please,believe me, I’ve a clerical job and I know that it’s as hard and complex as any other job so I’m not uppish on that). Translators are no secretaries, no typewriters, no machines. They deserve what I call the 3R, i.e. respect, revenue and rest. They need 3R to work to their best. So, if you want a quality work, then you must be willing to ensure 3R to your translator as well. You get what you pay for, that’s the equation.

I’m realizing right now that I started off declaring that I’d be brief, I wrote War and Peace, instead. Forgive me, it’s been such a long time since I expressed my thoughts on this hot (to me) topic, so they  ‘flooded’ in the post.

Well folks, closing time. This translator is going to enjoy one of the 3R.

Have a good night and … don’t dream about my bills, thanks God I’ve a permanent job so I can pay them easily. Quite easily, at least.

Your passionate (Italian) Translator

P.S.: I suppose you guessed where’s the link to music in this post (Wish you were here by Pink Floyd), but there’s another hidden link to rock, i.e. the image on top. It’s called Despair and it’s a piece of digital art by a young designer named Davide Nadalin. He’s a young freelance graphic designer and founder of Nerve Design. A passion for fantasy and rock, particularly heavy metal, he designs impressive and imaginative book covers and CD concepts for rock bands. A musician himself, he plays drums in a metal tribute band to the Brazilian rock band Sepultura.  Among his passions, photography and photomanipulation. A brilliant career in spite of his very young age. I’m really proud to say he’s Italian. Italians rock!


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