No More Sisyphus: Shifting Our Focus

We hope all our lovely friends and colleagues had a great start into 2015! Time sure does fly, doesn't it? It seems like yesterday that many were worried about Y2K and now here we are 15 years into this decade. 

We wanted to start the new year's posts off with a trend that is neither new but surprising,  but one that seems to be gaining momentum: complaining about things we cannot change in our industry. Our industry is wonderful, but it's not perfect, and even though most clients are outstanding, some are not. Yes, there's significant downward pressure on prices, and we are all responsible because someone is usually willing to offer a cheaper rate, hoping to get the short-term benefit of a particular assignment. Sure, bad translations abound, the public oftentimes doesn't care about translation, and the internet is full of terrible, terrible translations. However, what if we spent the same amount of time complaining about things we cannot change on improving things we can actually change? Wouldn't that be a much better use of our time?

What it comes down to is this: it's very difficult to change others' behavior, and while venting about things once in a while can be useful and cathartic, we've seen that sometimes in our industry the complaining can get a bit out of control. Wouldn't you agree?

We are no different than doctors who tell their patients to lose weight and they won't do it. Sometimes a potential client or even any company choose to use a sub-par translation that it shouldn't use because it's so terrible and makes their product or service look bad. After giving our qualified professional opinion (if we are asked to do so), it is up to them to take that advice or not. We are also like the personal stylist who tells you that you don't look good in red with black hair and that you should go back to your natural blond and wear neutral colors, and you won't do it. We are similar to interior designers who tell us that the floral vinyl couch doesn't match the rest of the house, but we don't want to get rid of it. Our point is: we cannot make people do things we want them to do (even if we are right), so perhaps it's time to focus on the things we can change. That would be our attitude, our prices, our clients. etc. If a client is truly terrible, don't work with him or her anymore. If you are not liking the rates you are achieving, raise them. Of course, this comes with some risk, but we all must take risks to succeed, and the level of risk we want to have depends on our personal situation.

So how about it, dear colleagues?. Let's educate our clients without being pedantic, and let's analyze our own behavior and business practices, as those can easily be changed by the only people whose behavior we can truly influence: ourselves.


Jesse Tomlinson on January 13, 2015 at 7:21 PM said...

Hello~ Thanks for your post. I agree with everything ... except Sisyphus! :) I especially liked your comparison to other professions ... as with the couch not matching the decor.
I like to think though, that with better clients, raising rates, educating people about our professions, etc. we are making a difference! We shan't be like poor old Sisyphus! (Ok, I just wanted to say shan't.) With the help of associations & professionals I know we can push that dirty old bolder aside.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 14, 2015 at 3:13 PM said...

@Jesse: Many thanks for your lovely comment, as always. Much appreciated. We were proud of the comparisons we came up with, so we are very glad you like those examples. Maybe we could have come up with something better than poor Sisyphus, but we thought it was fitting in terms of always doing the same thing over and over with no real result. :) We actually just amended the title of the post slightly. And yes, let's move the boulder off to the side or something...

All Graduates | On Site Interpreting on January 14, 2015 at 9:25 PM said...

This is a truly wonderful post, a great way to start the new year for interpreters and translators! True that we also should think like our clients, and that there may be some points in our services that they do not want to have because it does not go with what they believe. However, it is our responsibility as professionals to educate our clients about our profession, and how they can benefit from our services regardless of our rates compared to what they will be getting from others that offer lower costs.

It is our responsibility as translators to improve the industry, and one way to do it is not to give in to pressure and maintain a positive mindset when it comes to landing jobs and contracts. Here's to the 2015 for all of us!

Jeff Alfonso on January 15, 2015 at 11:05 AM said...

Amen sister, amen!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 15, 2015 at 11:06 AM said...

@All Graduates: Many thanks for your thoughtful comment! And yes, here's to advancing our profession. :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 15, 2015 at 11:42 AM said...

@Jeff Alfonso: Many thanks, dear Jeff. Great to hear from you.

Marta Stemberger on February 22, 2015 at 1:48 PM said...

Thank you for encouraging us all to strive to change what we don’t like, instead of complain, or suffer.
It’s an unfortunate truth that big agencies are currently predominating LSP industry, focusing on their own profits, often to the detriment of the linguists + clients. It’s also sad that many of us {I’m fully guilty here} are relying too much on earning our money by being worker bees for these mega agencies. Yes, it’s painful when your favorite agency suddenly lowers the rates to a level from 15 years ago.
As I see it, when they lower their prices, we have three choices: Suffer and work for less; get out of the victim mode + become active by speaking up to change the situation; roll-up our sleeves + find your own direct clients who respect our work.
We, the translators + interpreters, the actual people who translate + interpret, are the language service industry + we need to start behaving as such. Let’s be the leaders + not the blind followers in our own industry.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on February 24, 2015 at 8:48 PM said...

@Marta: Many thanks for your spot-on comment. We could not agree more, and we are happy to keep on encouraging others to strive for good working conditions and pay, etc. Thanks for reading -- it's great having this lovely dialogue here on our blog!

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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