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A bear’s service to aspiring translators 

That infamous awkward moment

On an annoyingly regular basis, we find ourselves in the same situation: some John Smith says, “Hey, I know you do translations professionally, and my daughter (sister, niece) just happens to have graduated with a linguistics degree and is now looking for a job. She speaks English (German, French) so great! She even spent a month in London (Berlin, Paris)! Could you try and get her a position at your company?”

What should you say to that? Lots of answers rush to your mind. For example, you can give short shrift:

— No, I could not.

But it is rude. John will be offended, and offending people is not nice. That’s why you try to be polite:

— Mr. Smith, please don’t get me wrong, but it’s impossible to become a professional through the back door…

Still kind of rude. Mr. Smith will be offended anyway, “Why are you insulting me? I thought you were a good person.” Perhaps you should try explaining what it is like in the translation industry. For instance:

— You see, dear Mr. Smith, the thing is that knowing a foreign language and being able to translate are different skills. Moreover…

But that is when you realize: Mr. Smith is not going to listen to your explanations. Instead, he will think you are just ashamed to admit that you do have not enough power to help the acquaintance get a position at your company, and now you are simply trying to look smart.

Finally, you reply like this:

— We have a standard admission procedure. Anyone coming to us has to go through it.

This answer will offend Mr. Smith slightly as well: my daughter (sister, niece) is not just “anyone” and deserves your assistance without all those procedures.

However, that is when Mr. Smith will realize: that there is no way to get a position through the back door. But he will still have no idea that trying to lead a daughter (sister, niece) through the back door is a bear’s service.

Another article about the gap between translators and non-translators

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