One of the greatest problems for modern translators is the question of remuneration and prestige. The two are of course intrinsically linked. It is interesting looking at the history of translation and translation studies and noting how the prestige of translators has ebbed and flowed like the tides of the sea. There was a time when translators were seen as great artists, cultural experts and greatly respected, if not revered, for the work they did. At other times translators were seen as the manual labourers of the publishing world, the minions who were forever at the beck and call of their masters.
As mentioned, prestige is linked to remuneration and with fluctuations in respect for our work come similar fluctuations in the state of the translator’s pocket. Happily, translators are a more organised group nowadays and there are certain standards implemented that do not allow employers to pay under the ‘going rate’. However, in Poland, for example, there is still a tendency for employers (who have little or no idea about the complexities and subtleties of translation) to employ younger, less experienced translators for very little pay. The overall effect is, of course, disastrous. Inexperienced translators lower the general qualitative level of translation throughout the country, in turn lowering the prestige of translators, and because of their eagerness to accept any low fee lower the general level of remuneration.
There are two solutions. Firstly, an improvement in the overall quality of translation training and secondly, a campaign to inform society of the need for better language use and therefore a greater respect for language skills and in turn a greater respect for the work of translators.