Tell me what you translate and I’ll tell you who you really are!

I’m a translator who specializes in marketing. This means I am rather on the creative side of the craft. On top, I specialize in IT and digital media and, well… Let me say that I’ve been translating a lot of marketing materials related to the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory lately. So when I uploaded yet another blog piece to my CAT* tool tonight, I was like: OH EM GEE, I can’t take it anymore! Guess I get bored pretty fast…

This realization made me think about myself and other translators who specialize in different fields. Here’s my take on eight of the most common stereotypes among translators.

*) CAT: Computer aided translation tool. No, it’s not machine translation!

“I do marketing translations. Does that make me hyperactive?”

Let’s be honest. The typical marketing translator rarely has extensive documents to translate. The elaborate jobs will be your occasional complete website. Or an expensive brochure. Otherwise, the projects range at an average of 500 to 2,000 words. When we do get a larger project (in my books, anything over 8 standard pages is huge!), it takes quite a lot of effort to stay concentrated (read: feeling satisfied). While I’d describe myself as a butterfly, swaying from client to client, from project to project, other’s would say that people like me have the attention span of a demented mayfly.

“Most of my projects are technical manuals. I am absolutely resistant to any form of excitement.”
(“I don’t even use exclamation marks.”)

Technical manuals often come with a s***load of word repetitions. No trace of exciting dramaturgy. Technical, factual and correct. With word counts in the higher 5-digit range and above, these are comfortable projects that offer a limited number of acquisition cycles per year (compared to No. 1). Ideal for the whole-blooded translator who does not dare to leave their house.

“When I don’t translate them, I play computer games. Yeah, I’m a gamer!”

Life as a translator is not a game. So it’s good that one can escape reality through computer games. You can kill bad guys, build empires, beat the crap out of monsters, drive cars that you could never afford, you can plant gardens, travel to distant lands (even to other planets)… Needs can be satisfied playfully while making money. What more could one ask for? And if you tend to your gaming community, you can even make friends. But beware: A gaming translator is a player by heart!

“I might not always be right, but I have a stamp. That affords me judiciary superpowers!”

Once they have the license to put their stamp on a document, translators have it all made. Sworn translators are among translators what judges are among the people in the judiciary. The have prestige, respect and others simply listen when they speak up. After all, they have the last word. Um, I mean the last stamp. I really can’t say if they are all that opinionated since I try to stay out of their way, just like I try to avoid lawyers if I can help it.

“In theory, I could do brain surgery on you. After all, I am a medical translator!” (nods)

These are probably the golfers among translators. After all, they can save lives with their work results. However, let me give you a piece of advice: Don’t ever talk to them about hairloss or the consistency of your bowel movements. Generally, medical translators are like doctors: They want to give you the first opinion and feel offended when you go off to ask for a second one.

“Literary translators are like bookworms: What goes in, must come out. Just differently.”

It is said that literary translators are quite poor devils. At least those who have never translated a bestseller. But honestly: Have you ever been to a literary translator’s home? They hoard libraries! And books do cost money. If you ask them ‘Have you read ALL of them?’ the answer is always: ‘No, but I translated them!’ … at least in a perfect world. Truth be told, literary translation is the pinnacle from my point of view. Especially when you consider how narcissistic some authors are.

“Wind mills and solar panels are my world. I am a treehugger!”

In their quest to make the world a little bit better and to leave a healthier planet for the children, these colleagues have dedicated themselves to ‘Renewable Energies’. What most people don’t know: Their computers don’t run on conventional power, but are powered by many small hamsters in their hamster wheels, which feed generators. Most of them are vegan, just to minimize their own CO2 footprint. They are the good guys among us. You know, sustainability and sh*t.

“It’s really hard to sub-title a porn movie!”

No conference or powwow where the following question doesn’t pop up eventually: “Do any of you actually translate pornography?” Everyone wants to do it, nobody admits it. Those who have specialized in this area are usually regarded with an expression that resembles a weird mix of envy and disgust. But PLEASE! Besides translation, the sex business is one of the oldest businesses in the world. And there’s a lot of cash in it, too. If you’ve ever subtitled a porn flick you know that it’s a tough and rough job, no matter how… brief… the dialogs are. It’s hard work, for Christ’s sake! (Yes, that sentence could have been said by an actor of the genre.) The only question is, whether there’s anything worthwhile to learn from such projects. I will be sure to ask at one of the next conferences.


Before a shitstorm hits me now, let me say this to my dear colleagues: Don’t take this post too seriously. I carefully and consciously exaggerated. You all have my fullest respect for the work that you do every day. It doesn’t matter what you specialize in, because we all agree that our work is important. Very important, in any area of specialization. But I do hope I made you smile.

Entrepreneur, US American in Czechia. Soft spot for intelligent, decent people. Corsica lover. Loving life and living MY dream.

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