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Peanuts, Monkeys and Zookeepers

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They tell us it’s a free market!

They tell us that if we don't take it, someone else will!

They tell us there are plenty of translators out there, just waiting to grab the job!

They tell us that we have no choice but to take it at their price. TIoLI!

Pah! Whom are they fooling?!

Sadly, they are fooling us! They hoodwink us! They treat us as monkeys, scattering peanuts in front of us as if we were monkeys!

They? Who are “they?” The zookeepers!

They tell us, be a good little translator, do your job, do it well at that, and yep, I got a sack full of peanuts here ready for you! Nope, they're not shelled, you'll have to do that yourself too!

And sure enough we do it. We throw ourselves on their mercy (like they know the word!), do our job dutifully and sure enough, at the end of the month a sack lands on our doorstep! Feeding time! Come and get it! Just be a good little monkey and you'll get what's coming!

They tell me there are plenty of so-called "translators" out there, right in our midst, even those already among our ranks. So maybe I should give up, let the zookeepers win, allow all and sundry to take my work away from me and do it for peanuts, for half a peanut, for the scent of a peanut, for the mere promise of a peanut!

And I say, who needs ’em? If my comrades-in-arms are those who have no respect for their own profession, why should they be members of our club? Why should they be allowed to join? If we are to treat ourselves with any kind of respect, we should close ranks against those who have no respect for us, for themselves, and for the profession itself!

If we are to negotiate with the zookeepers while retaining any kind of good standing, with the option to reject unfair prices, to reject jobs done carelessly and mindlessly, we should start considering who we are taking on! We MUST step up our efforts to protect the profession from those who are lacking in the talent, knowledge, and equipment to do the job as it should be done – that is, do it well. It’s expensive to run an office these days. What about software prices, all those simple tools costing hundreds of dollars, and the more complex ones costing upwards of thousands of dollars? Why let just anybody, anybody who’s nobody, compete with us? Why should rates start at 1 or 2 or 3 cents per word?!

Sure, there are those of us just starting out, their work needs more review than the more experienced among us can provide. But why should that affect everyone, across the board? Even those with years or decades of experience?

There's not a single translator out there who can guarantee 100%, cast iron quality! Not me, and not tens or even hundreds of highly experienced translators. But should this have such an adverse effect on our rates? Can a doctor guarantee 100% success? A lawyer, a banker, a candlestick maker? No-one can! So why it is it expected, even demanded, of us? But since we cannot positively provide such a guarantee, say the zookeepers, here's a peanut! Eat it and be thankful!

Perhaps the tone of bitterness is a little more pronounced than I intended, but there it is. After nearly a decade of activity in this field, I am beginning to despair and lose hope that anything will awaken translators from their slumber, their unwillingness to take action, unite and demand the respect due to them.

Wake up, people! It’s your life I’m talking about, you're not meant to work only for pleasure and satisfaction (that’s called “volunteer work”, slave work at its worst). You're supposed to work in order to LIVE, so you can take time OFF and have a vacation once in a while, enjoy life to the full, and not be dictated to by those zookeepers and their damn peanuts!

Down with peanuts! Down with monkeys! Down with zookeepers!

Avi Beidani, Raanana, 2006


Published - October 2008

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