Pure-bloods vs. Muggle-borns: The hard life of translators & project managers

By my dear Twitter friend @MoiraineM

Have you ever thought what’s life like for a modern translator/project manager working in a translation firm? The truth is that it can sometimes be really hard: among others, she or he has to deal with a whole „army“ of very special people (freelance translators) and a highly demanding translation agency owner (who, very often, has nothing to do with the profession of translation).

Most importantly, however, she or he has to reply to the every-day translation requests coming from people who, usually, are not familiar with the process of translation at all. As you may imagine, this can sometimes lead to very funny incidents. To make this easier for you to understand, I will give you a short description of the handling and management of translation requests in terms of the famous Harry Potter universe:

Life in the Office

The life of a Pure-blood Translator/Project Manager in a translation agency can be arduous when one has to answer the questions of Muggle-borns. The Pure-blood Translator/Project Manager has been put in this position so she or he can answer to the frustrating inquiries of ignorant Muggle-borns regarding the subject of translation. The Pure-blood has been trained to be very patient, understanding and helpful (characteristics that are not so common in wizards, as is widely known): she or he explains the art of translation and the translation procedure to the potential Muggle-born client and, having done that, tries to persuade her/his interlocutor that „Yes, we can certainly handle this translation and this price is the best possible price there is.“ Success is usually frail, however, sometimes Muggle-borns are convinced and the agency is assigned the translation project in question.

„Extreme“ queries

However, sometimes the demands and questions of Muggle-borns are such that even the highly-trained Pure-blood representative is at a total loss to deal with them. To give you an idea:

  • „Would it, please, be possible to ask your Spanish translator, who sits in your office, to come by my house right now and help me out with my Spanish text?“ (Yes, could you hold on a moment, I will take the translator’s chains off, get her/him out of the cage and she/he will be on her/his way.)
  • „Hi, I have a text in some Balkan language which I don’t understand of course. Could I read it to you and you can tell me what language this is and what this is about exactly?“ (Hold on, switching to Balkan languages mode.)
  • „Why, yes, I accept your offer regarding the interpreter. One other question, please: will he be carrying his ‚home‘ with him?“ (That’s the well-known „snail-interpreter“.)
  • „And when you say ‚word count‘, does this include the ‚ands‘, the articles, commas and full stops too?“ (I would love to be able to send you a text without them.)
  • „Oh, you sent me the translation offer by fax half an hour ago, hold on, let me check… Okay, what colour is the fax page?“ (There is literally no rational reply to that one.)

Unfortunately, there is no spell known to be able to handle such requests satisfactorily.

In modern terms

These are a few only of the things a translator/project manager has to put up with in her/his daily routine when handling incoming requests from prospects. Nonetheless, translators are there to protect clients, guide them through this difficult and unfamiliar, even strange process for them and facilitate their communication and their language needs as best as they can.

* I wish to deeply thank Catherine (@LinguaGreca) for her invaluable input and, of course, Marion (@msbrains) who had the idea for this post and for hosting it in her blog.

Moiraine is a professional English/French into Greek translator; she worked for 5 years as a PM in an esteemed translation agency in Athens, Greece. Follow her on Twitter and learn more about her here: @MoiraineM

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