Skip to main content

Are there texts that you won't translate for any money?

When you read translation blogs, especially advice from more experienced translators to their less experienced colleagues, the most popular topics are: setting your rates and keeping them, defining your fields of specialization, working on your quality, productivity and marketing. But I think there's one more thing we need to think about from the very first days as translators: topics that we won't cover, no matter how much money we are offered for our services.

Those things differ from person to person. What you will or won't do really depends on your personality, views, religion, life experience and a lot of other factors.

I don't translate texts that promote any occult practices, pornography, abortions, prostitution, smoking, drinking or any illegal actions. Please don't think that I am trying to impose my views on you! I don't work with such texts because of who I am and my priorities. My goal is helping people with my work, not doing them any harm.

If you are a translator, could you please share what topics you would never ever agree to work on?

Comments

  1. I wrote about this on http://translatorsteacup.lingocode.com/what-makes-a-successful-translator/ actually - under being true to your values. I basically say the same thing, that it is normal to refuse certain jobs, and even better for your business to do so, for a variety of reasons.

    Similar to you, I refuse certain things. I refuse texts that promote smoking, drinking, prostitution, animal farming, animal testing, weapons and the military, pornography, worker exploitation, state oppression, and certain big companies that I know are associated with environmental destruction, human or animal health abuses, or any of the above. I would think twice about all of the areas you list, too. I stick to the fields I do partly to avoid these issues. It comes hand in hand with something else I know both of us do - giving to the causes we support.

    I am curious though, have you really been asked to translate texts relating to illegal actions?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is an interesting discussion of this issue on ProZ at: http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/200518-what_type_of_translation_work_have_you_refused_on_moral_grounds.html. Out of the areas you mention, I would probably accept verbal pornography (not visual, though) and texts about smoking/drinking (except where these practices are praised). I would not accept: terrorism, racist/homophobic texts, bomb manufacture, paedophilia, texts in favour of the drug trade, among others. So far, I have not had to refuse a text on moral grounds.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rose, Paul thank you for your valuable feedback. And thank you for the links! I will study them carefully. I haven't so far been asked to translate something that directly opposes the law. But there have been some cases when I was asked to translate texts on occult practices, hypnoses and even a couple websites for pseudo-spiritual sects just because I have "religion" on my list of priorities. So that's why I have also put Christianity there to show what kind of "religion" I mean :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. In general I do not translate the same kinds of texts, but I'm very rarely asked to do something like that. Perhaps customers somehow feel I won't do it.
    Recently I was asked to translate a school leaving certificate into German and to change the 2s (the worst marks in Russia) into 3s, meaning I had to translate 'unsatisfactory' as 'satisfactory'. I was just wordless...
    I definitely won't translate anything connected with promotion of cigarettes. Recently I am very reluctant to translate something about unhealthy food, e.g. something containing allergens, harmful substances, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Olga, thank you for your feedback. I can understand your feelings when you were asked to change the grades in the certificate. I don't do those types of translations since it's not exactly one of the fields I am interested in, but I can imagine how tempted some people may be to ask a translator to change their grades just to make the results of their studies seem a little better...
    Wow, the list of topics gets longer and longer!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very delicate topic. I wrote about it on interpreting, and there was also an #IntJC tweetchat on it. This is indeed something you need to be clear about when you start working, and also always think about. Thank you!
    My blogpost: http://interpreter.blogs.se/2011/03/11/when-is-it-right-to-refuse-to-interpret-10806939/
    The tweet chat: https://sites.google.com/site/interpretjc/home/archive See session five.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Tolken, many thanks for your comment and all the links you shared! I didn't know about this hashtag before, but I will surely follow it on Twitter. Yes, this is a very delicate question, but also a very important one. I am so happy that more and more colleagues are joining in the discussion and sharing different resources that will surely be helpful to many translators and interpreters.

    ReplyDelete
  8. AS to interpreting, it's also a challenge in many cases.
    In October there was a conference in our city and I was invited to interpret, and it turned out that the topic was 'juvenile courts' and so on. This topic is very urgent now here in Russia and many people feel negative. So do I. When I was looking through the presentation I had to interpret the next day, I felt uneasy and very sorry that I had agreed to work. But the conference turned out to be a positive one, and I even felt a bit relaxed after that. But still...

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

10 interesting facts about the Russian language

In my previous post I promised to follow with the  interesting info about some other languages. So here are 10 facts about the Russian language which might be of interest to those who are studying it. If you would like to have this list in Russian, please contact me and I will send it to you by email. So, what do I find interesting about my native language?

1. Russian has about 500,000 words, but only 2,000-2,500 of them are used frequently. 100 most frequently used words make 20% of all written and oral speech. A high school graduate's vocabulary usually has 1,500 to 4,000 words. Those who have graduated from a higher educational institution normally have a richer vocabulary consisting of approximately 8,000 words.
2. It's compulsory for all astronauts in the international space station to learn Russian, so we can call it an international language of space :)

How to Reply To a Negative Feedback About Your Translation

We are humans and we screw up many times!

And receiving a negative feedback about your translation work if one of them.

As translation professionals, we work daily with people from different cultures and backgrounds. So, it is quite important to keep a level of etiquette while we do our business communication.

Whatever your years of experience or your educational background, there are times when daily life affects our business badly. It is how we react to these situations what makes a big difference between professional translation service providers and those who are not.

I was lucky enough when I started my translation career back in 2004 to read about the “A Complaint Is a Gift” business book and receive my training by a true professional Arabic translator.

My colleague taught me the tactics of a professional’s reply to a negative feedback and the book mentions the bright side of receiving a complaint about your work. If the client does not like your work, he can just move to anothe…

8 typical mistakes startup EN<>RU translators make

A few days ago I finished teaching the translation block at our Basic Course for startup translators. It was an unexpected turn as somebody else was supposed to do it. But the situation changed a few days before the New Year, so I had to stand in the gap.

While teaching this group and while watching other groups for the past 4 years, I noticed eight common mistakes startup EN<>RU translators make in their translation work:

1. Word for word translation and various calques
2. Punctuation and syntax mistakes
3. Wrong sentence structure (Theme–Rheme relationship)
4. Making unnecessary transformations and forgetting about them when they are necessary
5. Adding things that are absent in the original
6. Skipping parts of original text while translating
7. Not studying the topic of their translation
8. Forgetting to check their work before sending it

I strongly suspect that the above-mentioned mistakes aren't exclusively made by beginning translators in the EN<>RU language pa…