Working Together

Colleagues working in the same language combination are allies, not enemies.....

Many years ago, as an interpreter in a court case, I became involved in a situation with repercussions. My client, a solicitor, had asked me to sit at the back of a courtroom to ensure that the court interpreter interpreted correctly. Of course, I agreed to do it; I was being paid to do a job and my loyalties lay with my client. It’s a fairly common, even if slightly uncomfortable, scenario, and any confident, competent interpreter should have faith own in their ability and skill. There is no reason to feel threatened, and the interpreter should certainly not make an unprofessional scene in the courtroom and, even years later, post unhelpful comments on social media…but that was what happened. And yet it shouldn’t have done.

When I started out as a freelancer back in 2009, I noticed very early on how guarded fellow French-English translators were when discussing the sources of their work. And I completely understood why. We all want to make a living. We all want work, and at the moment work may seem in particularly short supply. In our industry, like every other, there is competition. However, I do believe that there is enough work for all good translators and interpreters, and a cut-throat attitude towards our colleagues merely taints our profession with negativity.

Turning opposition round

I firmly believe that linguists working with the same language pairs can use this common ground to the advantage of all. Some years ago, I posted a term query on a translator forum and was met with backlash from translators who told me loudly that I should not have taken on a job if I was not cut out for it. Even though many others messaged me privately in a much kinder and more supportive way, assuring me that the group was there for people to ask questions and assist one another and to take no notice of critical comments, it took me a very long time before I felt up to posting again on the same forum. And when I did, eventually I saw another translator receiving similar treatment. But this time, I sent a supportive private message.

In fact, over the years I have developed a wonderful working relationship with a fellow French >English translator, which, I am sure she would agree, has turned out to be mutually beneficial: I have paid her to train me on the use of CAT tools; we consult each other if we have terminology-related queries; we advise each other if we find ourselves in difficult situations in the course of our work; she is my first port of call if ever I am unable to accommodate a job; we have shared projects and proofread each other’s work, and she has recommended me to one of her clients who has subsequently sent me a steady supply of projects.

A little more conversation

Other examples of how we can use our shared language combinations in a positive way are the language networks within ITI. We are fortunate to have forums where we can bounce ideas off each other and help one another other out if we are unsure about how to translate a term. The French network has proved invaluable in this regard; I have frequently found myself faced with a looming deadline and been able to reach hundreds of translators immediately with one click on a keyboard, receiving just as many replies within minutes. Similarly, it is fantastic to be able to benefit from a place to check whether it is worth registering with that agency that purports to promising the world on certain translator sites. We are even able to help one another by issuing warnings of scams.

So, to quote Elvis Presley, "let’s be friends", and view each other as colleagues, collaborators, and opportunities – not threats.

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