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 absolutely 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 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: 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 actually a bear’s service.

Another article about the gap between translators and non-translators.


Other articles


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