#CurrentlyReading in Translation

This post is part of a regular series where I share what I’m currently reading and engage in discussion about the field of translation and interpreting.

[Musings] How Translators Are Saving the World

By Olga Tokarczuk (June 2019)

“…indeed, the translator literally becomes a guide, taking me by the hand and leading me across the borders of nation, language, and culture.”

I enjoyed this look at language, literature, and the translator’s role in bridging the (necessary) gap between what the author calls collective languages and private languages.

Toxic Translation

From the Translation Confessional podcast by Rafa Lombardino (9 Sep 2021). Original article by Wendell Ricketts.

“Translation rates are dropping because translators accept low rates.”

There is much in this article that is true for our field, but I disagree with the general approach to the question of rates which I see repeated in many parts of the translator-sphere.

The problem with simply advising freelance translators to refuse substandard rates is that the expectation is that we as individuals, in our isolated one-on-one negotiations, can change the tide of underpaid (and undervalued) translation work. Somehow we are supposed to be able to accomplish this while, as the original author writes, we should also “Admit that [we] are powerless over translation agencies.” Which is it? Are we powerful enough to refuse poor pay? Or are we powerless against the agencies and businesses with whom we contract our services?

There is plenty of high quality analysis that offers insight into how our current gig economy is built upon downward pressure on workers, both in terms of pay and benefits. But suffice it for me to emphasize here that pay and working conditions are a social (hence collective) problem and thus a social (hence collective) solution is needed.

I understand the ATA and similar professional organizations cannot negotiate or set prices for the profession as a whole. However, we need some kind of collective body (call it a union or a solidarity network or a cooperative or whatever you like) to truly change the tide and give translators control over our own working conditions and thus the strength in numbers to demand better pay for our services.

Why Translators Should Be Named on Book Covers

By Jennifer Croft (10 Sep 2021)

“Translators aren’t like ninjas. But we are the ones who control the way a story is told; we’re the people who create and maintain the transplanted book’s style. Generally speaking we are also the most reliable advocates for our books, and we take better care of them than anybody else.”


What are you reading this week? Feel free to share in the comment section or email me links to content you’re enjoying!

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