You’re sitting at home (or at work) slaving over a translation when out of the blue you receive a call/email/text message* (delete where appropriate) from a colleague/friend/acquaintance* (delete where appropriate) who you have not heard from for quite some time. The message usually begins in similar fashion regardless of whether it is a phone call, email or text message and whatever the nature of your relationship with the interlocutor – a polite yet brief query as to how you have been these past few weeks/months/years in order to momentarily detract from the main point of the message. Your suspicions are raised immediately – this is not the first such message you have received from ‘friends’ – yet you remain quietly heartened by the fact that this person has decided to contact you after such a long time.
However, you listen/read on and within several seconds your fears are confirmed. Your mind is awash with a range of emotions – anger, frustration and disappointment. Once again, another of your so-called ‘friends’ has demonstrated their complete lack of respect for your profession, not to mention an utter lack of respect for yourself. This ‘friend’ has done the unthinkable – he has asked you for ‘help’ in order to translate a phrase/sentence/text. The plea is usually innocent and nine times out of ten the task is ridiculously simple but what especially irks is the justification this person uses to ask you in the first place. Perfunctory explanations like, “I know it won’t take you a great deal of time…” or syrupy statements like, “For someone like you, this should be really easy…” or to really add insult to injury, “This should take you five minutes at most…”
Who are these people to determine the period of time a translation task should take? And then demand that we perform the task? What is more, the very fact that it would take, for example, only five minutes is surely testament to the fact that we are good at our job. Specialists, as we all know, are usually richly rewarded for their specialist services. Why is it that people who are not translators believe translation should be undertaken for free? Do architects receive calls from friends to ‘do a quick sketch’ of a proposed design of a room? Do copywriters get text messages from colleagues to ‘come up with a short slogan’ for a product? Do accountants receive emails from clients asking them to ‘undertake a brief audit’ of an investment?
Translators, language specialists and editors need to show people unfamiliar with our work that the services we offer are akin to those services provided by other professions. Not only do we have similar time constraints and financial requirements but we also have the need to gain satisfaction from our work. Respect for the work we do is key to achieving this satisfaction. In today’s society, the one tangible way in which measure for our work can be achieved is through remuneration. This is, after all, what we do for a living…