Open letter to the Grievance Committee (that's you guys!)

I have a grievance I want to share with you all.

A certain translation agency, which shall remain nameless, sometimes asks me to evaluate the work of prospective translators or editors. This involves receiving from the agency a sample text, say two pages long, and its translated or edited version. I'm asked to check the translation or the editing done, and give my opinion in writing, in some detail. I.e. not just "yes, he/she's okay" "no, don't bother with him/her." I think you'll agree with me that this is a very responsible task. For this type of job, they are willing to pay only NIS 30. Flat rate; not even "per unit". I tried to argue, but in vain. Anything higher is considered "exorbitant".

Last time I turned them down, the project manager shrugged her shoulders and said never mind, she'd give the work to someone else.

Obviously, there are "someone elses" out there who take on such work for this ridiculously low rate. I even know one personally -- a highly educated person, a very good translator, who is a member of the ITA and is far from being a starving student who must take any work at any price.

Now, obviously I can't tell people what work to take and what to turn down... But I think anyone who agrees to do this very responsible work for 30 shekels apiece is doing harm to the entire community of translators, and reinforcing agencies' practice of exploiting translators. Mind you, if all good translators/editors refuse to undertake this type of work, the agency might lower its standards and give it to mediocre translators/editors, who might misjudge the work of aspiring translators and thus cause a different kind of damage.

To be fair, I'll add that despite my disapproval and resentment I have in the past taken on such jobs, out of sheer curiosity. I wanted to see what kind of translators and editors are out there, looking for work. I wanted to see for myself how good they were. And if they weren't that good, I wanted to know what kind of mistakes they made, what are the most common pitfalls. I find this kind of information very useful in my work, and in helping other translators avoid said pitfalls. The agency in question was only too happy to take advantage of my weakness and curiosity. Can't blame them. But I have decided to be a collaborator no more.

I actually thought of airing this grievance on the ITA Group website on Yahoo Groups, but was not sure whether there was any point and whether it would serve any useful purpose. At worst, it would trigger a long thread of arguments, stirring up the embers of resentment and discontent without doing anyone any good.

So I thought I'd post it on my blog and get it out of my system. Constructive suggestions welcome.



N K said...

No constructive suggestion, Nina. Sorry. Just words of total support and empathy, FWIW.

Nina Rimon Davis said...

Thanks all the same, N.K. Eight other comments appear on my Facebook page. The blog is automatically imported into FB, and most readers comment there, rather than on Blogger.

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