Friday, February 24, 2012

A little respect

I dropped a juice glass in my kitchen one morning. This was sad for me on a couple of levels.

1. The Paris Musées glasses aren’t sold at World Market anymore. I treated myself to a set after my mother died. The heavy glass goblets are molded with the Napoleonic bee, which also happens to be my name (“Deborah” means “little bee” in Hebrew, I’ve been told).

2. I was in my nightgown, and in bare feet, while drinking my orange juice.

After cleaning up, I realized I had embedded a tiny lump of glass in a toe. Even a Yoga Master could not bend enough to reach it.

3. The bill came from my local podiatrist. $500. She had to take a scalpel to my toe, but I didn’t require any numbing drugs. I have a high pain threshold. I did need a bandage for the bleeding, and her office insisted on a follow-up visit to check for infection. This second visit was also billed to me.

I probably could have gone to an emergency room, but I think my bill would have been much higher. In any case, I required some professional help.

Flash forward to a client inquiry about a week ago.

I was asked to provide a quotation for an English translation of a prospectus. A French company seeking American investors needed their executive summary translated into English.

Because it was a high volume assignment (it would take approximately ten working days)… because it was a direct client (not through an agency, which would pay me one-third or optimistically one-half of what they bill…), because this contact was found through my modest networking efforts (I am not a natural born saleswoman…), I quoted a reasonable rate. One that would split the difference between what an agency would pay and what an agency would charge.

The response from this potential client astonished me.

“Could you throw in translation of my PowerPoint presentation for that price?”

Should I have asked my podiatrist to “throw in” the follow-up visit?

What my podiatrist billed for thirty minutes of her time might take me as much as two full working days to earn on this particular translation assignment. The doctor will be paid in part by my insurance. On the other hand, I have no guarantee that this new client would pay me for my efforts.

He is seeking an English translation so that he can reach potential American investors. I do not choose to be his first.

I don’t pretend to practice at the same level as a physician, nor do I think I should earn a doctor’s wages. Nevertheless, a translator’s knowledge of language is a life-long learning endeavor, particularly given the technical complexity of certain assignments. Translators don’t get the respect they deserve.

There are technical and commercial writers who are hired to work a text from English into English, to make it presentable for publication. The translator goes above and beyond that skill to widen the audience to new cultures and linguistic groups.

Well, as it turns out, I acquired other business during the month that filled my time, and shored up my self-respect as well. They also paid better and I had great reviews all around.

Both my toe and my self-esteem are doing better.

No comments:

Post a Comment