When I was a translation student in college, one of my professors shared a story with our class about a lady with three grown-up children. One day, a friend of hers asked her about her kids, specifically what they had decided to study and what they were doing for a living.
The first lady replied with pride, “Well, my oldest became a doctor, and my second is a teacher.” Her friend then asked about the third. The lady, somewhat embarrassed, replied, “He’s like a translator or something.”
What an atrocity! Why is it that the majority of people view translators as people who decided to become translators because they couldn’t do anything else? When I was in school, people would always ask what my major was. When I would reply, “Spanish translation,” they would undoubtedly follow up with, “So, what are you going to do with that? Teach?”
Does nobody believe that a translator or an interpreter is a valid and honorable profession? Well, most of the experiences I’ve had with people unfamiliar with the industry seem to think it isn’t.
This blatant disregard and near contempt for translators can even be seen in the media. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read a story in the newspaper about a translator, but the reporter kept using the words translator and interpreter interchangeably, like they meant the same thing. Sometimes when I’ve tried to correct this error, the person will look at me like I don’t know what I’m talking about and with an air of superiority exclaim, “It’s the same thing.”
It’s not the same thing.
Translation is not an easy profession and translators are under similar pressures and deadlines that other professionals have to deal with.
So while doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. are valued professionals, please remember that translators are people (and professionals), too.
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