The funny side of the translation business Some lessons are learned the funny way!




Greater than 5 minutes, my friend!

Translation is a serious profession, occupation and business. No doubt! But from time to time I like to look at it from the ‘funny’ side! And not just for the laugh!

I have compiled a list of 10 absurd and funny situations from the early years of my work experience as a translator, interpreter and a project manager, situations that might actually get start-up translation professionals learn about some of the serious aspects and issues of our profession.

No comments provided, though. None needed!

Some lessons are learned the funny way!

  1. What’s that much important about your services?!

A client refuses to pay the agreed sum for a job I have done for her. When I ask why, she exclaims: “What’s that much important about your services?! After all, you open your mouth and you speak in the foreign language just as you do in your mother tongue! And you write in the foreign language in the same manner as you do in your mother tongue. Why would you then expect me to pay that much for the easy things that you do?!

         2. The word order is different!

A client calls me back to say they have some issues with my translation. I ask what these issues are and he says: “The order of the words in your English text is not the same as in Bulgarian!

   3. Our editor disapproves of your translation!

A client refuses to pay for my translation. I ask what the problem is and they explain: “Our editor disapproves of your work!” I politely ask who their editor is, and whether he/she can show me the mistakes I’ve made. “Our editor is our secretary. She speaks English perfectly and she does not like your translation. She won’t lose time however to explain to you what or why!

   4. Stop! Let the interpreter eat!

I am interpreting at a business dinner. Long table, lots of people on both sides, everybody having fun, and I am doing my very best to attend to all the questions, answers, comments and jokes exchanged. Meanwhile, drinks and dishes are served and taken away, me being unable to touch or taste anything – too busy! And then speaks the MIP (the Most Important Person) at the event. “Everybody, may I have your attention, please!” (naturally, I’m interpreting his words right away) “Stop talking for a while and let the interpreter eat!” I freeze and look at him. “Translate exactly what I’m saying, please!” – he insists. And he ain’t smiling! So, I do, feeling extremely embarrassed. The reaction is shocking! Everybody laughs and many call the waiters to bring my drinks and food back!

    5. I want to be a translator

A woman comes to the office of my translation agency. “I hear you are looking for translators with Spanish” – she says. “Yes!” – I am excited. “Do you have any experience working as a translator?” “Oh, yes!” –she says. “I lived for two years in Spain and worked at a meat processing factory. Most of my co-workers were Bulgarians and did not speak or understand Spanish at all. So, when the boss would scold them for their bad work, I translated for him.” – explains she proudly.

    6. Oh, please! I don’t need it!

Year 2007. SDL Trados has just only started being used in Bulgaria and still being a terra incognita or considered as some sort of an extravagant luxury for most professionals involved in the translation industry on a national level.

For a large translation project I reach out to several colleagues, professional translators – big names locally, hoping they would like to work on it with me as a      team. One of the requirements however, is to be able to work with Trados. I get an enthusiastic ‘Yes’ from almost all of the translators I have invited. Most however commented: “Trados? Oh, please! I don’t need some CAT-tool to translate!

  7. Would you please pay for your article!

I receive an email from someone working for an in-flight magazine published and distributed for an airline company. “In our next edition, we would like to publish an article on the growing business of professional translation. The article will feature the opinions of several LSP-s, and we would be happy to have you among them. We would like you to give your professional opinion on the following subject: XXXX. The length of your text should be approximately XXX words.

Further, attached please find our price list. You are free to choose from a variety of rates for publishing your text on the pages of our magazine.

   8. Tête-à-tête with politics

June, 1989 – just a couple of months before the political regime changed in my country. I am hired to translate for a large group of participants in a cultural event abroad. At the end of this crazily busy trip I am invited for a têteàtête meeting with one of the representatives of the foreign partners. “Would you like to work for us?” – the man says. “We are planning to have active relations with your country and it would be great to have you as a translator working for us. We shall arrange everything and we hope to have you with us within no more than a month.” I am speechless! I am thinking, it’s a wonderful opportunity, but it’s all so sudden! Shall I take it? I decide to give my answer on the next day.

That same evening however, back at the hotel, another têteàtête meeting takes place, this time with a representative of … well … the ‘partners’ from the NSS.

I know about their offer” – the man says. “I understand that it’s a good chance for you and your professional career. But …. Would it be as good for your family back home, as well?! You do understand we cannot allow them to join you, don’t you?

I never dared to take that chance!

Those were the times!

9. Yes, Sir!

Being still a young translator, interpreting at a business meeting, and I am trying to be as polite as possible to the foreigners. “Yes, Sir!” … “Of course, Sir!

Until one of them whispers to me –Why do you keep calling me Sir?! I’m not a knight or some royalty, you know!

I feel both embarrassed and confused. What have I done or said wrong?!

How should I address you then?!” – I ask.

Relax! Mister …. would be all right, my dear!” – laughs he.

  10.  Oh, don’t mind her! She’s just the interpreter.

Another business meeting and I feel like walking on eggshells, as both sides are high-level businessmen and they have all come prepared for intense negotiations. I need full concentration!

So, everybody is preparing for the meeting and meanwhile a cup of coffee and a glass of water is being politely served to each and every one. Not for me, though.

One of the guest businessmen notices that and asks: “What about her?” – he asks. “Doesn’t she get at least some water?” – and he smiles. I have to translate his question – it’s my obligation, after all! But I feel so embarrassed while translating.

Oh, don’t mind her!” – comes a reply. “She’s just the interpreter.”

At least, they let me sit!

Rossitsa Iordanova

About Rossitsa Iordanova

Translator, Translation Project Manager/Outsourcer & Editorial / Content Writer/Blogger

8 thoughts on “The funny side of the translation business Some lessons are learned the funny way!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Simon!
      The purpose was indeed to make my colleagues smile, remembering their funny situations, but also to show the start-ups what they may expect.
      Wish you a great week ahead! 🙂
      And keep writing your articles – it’s always such a pleasure to read them! 🙂

      Report comment

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