Words from the Wardrobe
4 terms in translation

4 Terms in Translation (that need to go!)

Words can influence our perception of certain concepts and there are terms in translation that I believe need to go.

This year, I posted on LinkedIn about terms we should stop using to improve our perception of what we do and how people outside translation see us. 

It generated a fascinating discussion. 

And I felt it would be nice to summarise ideas exchanged about these words in a blog post.

Thank you to all who joined these discussions! Click the link on each title if you want to go to the original post and continue the conversation 🙂.

Terms in Translation #1: Translation buyer

I had an interesting conversation with my brother Julián.

He is a varnisher (like my father). Although he started working with Dad when he was 16, he started his own business around six years ago, after my father retired.

We discussed why it was easy to agree with some clients while others were inflexible and difficult.

‘You have to differentiate between clients and buyers’, he told me.

And he had a point. 🤔

Clients consider you part of their team 🤝. 

They understand your needs and try to help you because you are both on the same side. 

You both have the same goal: to deliver a quality product (a beautiful piece of furniture in his case; an excellent translation in my case).

Buyers, however, are only interested in price. 🤑

The lower, the better.

They don’t establish long-term relationships or care about how you can help them.

The term ‘translation buyer’ usually refers to companies requiring translation services.

But the use of ‘buyer’ may lead to this sense of being a company that is only worried about rates. 

Greg Glazer, a conference interpreter and translator, made an interesting point that the term ‘buyer’ makes him think of himself as the seller. Which he isn’t. And no translator should be.
I agree with this point, although I haven’t seen translators talking about being ‘translation sellers’.

Terms in Translation (that need to go!) #1 – Translation Buyer

#2: Professional Translator

Do we need to say that we are ‘professionals’? 🤔

A translator touched on this point in an online event I attended earlier this year.

Have you ever heard someone say they are a ‘professional lawyer‘ or a ‘professional dentist‘?

As translators, we have to value ourselves more.

Although we use the term ‘professional’ to differentiate ourselves from those who do translations as a hobby, how we work shows that we are a professional.

Our professionalism comes from training, linguistic quality, communication with the client, responsiveness, flexibility, and patience!

Not everybody has these features.
Audrey Bernard-Petitjean, English into French translator, agreed.

“When you are a professional, you do not need to specify it: this is implied in the way you work.”

Despite the unqualified practice, not everybody can be a translator.

Melanie Briens, a translator and Chartered Linguist, made an interesting point – so much so that it became a whole post.

She will avoid using the term translation ‘industry’ in favour of translation ‘profession’. 

The rationale being it feels appropriate for the work of a translator.

Does the term ‘industry’ now have a negative connotation because of most translators’ experience with big translation companies?

It’s an intriguing thought that I explored.

Read on.

Terms in translation - Professional Translator
Terms in Translation (that need to go!) #2 – Professional Translator

#3: Translation Industry

I use ‘industry’ as an English translation for the Spanish term ‘sector’. 

In Spanish, ‘sector’ refers to any industry, from the most technical, such as manufacturing, food processing or engineering, to the most creative ones, like publishing, marketing and translation.

Does the term ‘translation industry’ add a manufacturing connotation that could affect how people outside our world perceive our work?

What became clear from the comments was that translation services or providers are a preferred option. (thanks, Ileana Cari!).

And profession is liked ahead of industry, as the latter could have a negative connotation.

There is no law or medical ‘industry’. 

After much interesting discussion, I think we all agreed that ‘translation profession’ is the most appropriate.

Terms in translation - Translation Industry
Terms in Translation (that need to go!) #3 – Translation Industry

#4: Resource

Translation agencies and companies in other fields commonly use the term ‘resource‘.

In the previous discussion about the term ‘translation industry’, Dorota Miklasinska-Syfert pointed out that ‘resource’ was also a term of discomfort.

She has a point.

In translation, we use ‘resource’ to talk about the tools, dictionaries or glossaries we use to perform our job.

And this matches the definition you will find in dictionaries, like the one in the Collins Cobuild:

The resources of an organisation or person are the materials, money, and other things that they have and can use in order to function properly.

We all use the term ‘Human Resources‘ to talk about this department dealing with all things related to the staff in a company.

However, I often see companies talking about freelancers as resources. 

When did people become things? 🤔

How do you feel when clients talk about translators as ‘resources’?

Terms in translation - Resource
Terms in Translation (that need to go!) #4 – Resource

These discussions were fascinating, and I appreciate how many people took the time to comment on my posts.

LinkedIn has its detractors, but it’s a platform I enjoy – particularly when content can bring people and their opinions together.

Follow me if you want to see more of my posts and participate in the discussions. 

You can also follow my brand page, Prêt-à-translate, to learn more about translation, localization, Spanish culture and my main translation fields.

See you for the next post!

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