Archive for September, 2011

The translation as a vegetable

September 21, 2011

A few months ago, I was somewhat stirred up when a client informed me “I buy translations locally in the same way as I buy my vegetable box.”

It took me a long time to work out why that riled me so much. After all, vegetable growers are skilled people.

In the end it boiled down to two things:
1. Few translations are commodities in the sense that local vegetables are. If I want to “buy” a certain language pair or specialist subject I wouldn’t necessarily even be able to procure it locally or even on the same continent.

2. I felt the person in question was in a position to be more aware of that, which is why I am posting it here – another small contribution to making buyers aware of the nature of the product and the care that is needed in sourcing translation and interpreting.

I was translating this client’s non-English qualifications for a job application in another country where English was spoken. Try the above sentence with a few telling substitutes: “I buy scientific research/nuclear physics/Emerging Economy investment advice locally in the same way as I buy my vegetable box.” See? Not essentially local businesses. They’re purchased on quality and expertise, you would be proud to find a local provider, but would you really make it the primary criterion? Think about it.

On a lighter note, I have two puzzles to share with you, one linguistic and the other not:

1. Why do people who come from hot climates hate the British weather, but dive under cover into air-conditioned houses as soon as they get home?

2. Why is the football team FC Bayern München known in English as FC Bayern Munich and not FC Bavaria Munich?

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