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Otávio Banffy

A dinner between Miguel Llorens and Renato Beninatto

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Today I'm bringing something relatively different from other posts I shared. I want to connect you with an interesting blog post from Financial Translation.

It's about a conversation between two players of the translation industry in different levels and scales. One of them is Miguel Llorens, a highly specialized translator in finances, and the other is Renato Beninatto, a highly respected localization expert, now more businessman than translator.

The two had considerably different views on the common practices of larger agencies, and that was the main topic for discussion.

Here are some snippets from the post:


It is not so much the facts on which we are divided. It is on the interpretation of those facts.

For instance, he is very enamored of the argument that a call for all translators to try to get into the high-rate sector is self-defeating. He drew a Gaussian curve on a napkin and told me that if everyone in the overpopulated, hamsterized portion of the bell curve jumps into the higher part of the curve, the better-paid freelancers would face increasing competition. In my view, that is a very simplistic way of looking at things. It assumes a perfect, undifferentiated market. In such a hypothetical (and unlikely) case, I still don’t think other freelancers would be my competition. Neither is Lionbridge, which is too large to be interested in the tiny companies I serve. My concern is competition from junky small agencies that are pure intermediaries for a so-so database, or perhaps a junky larger agency such as Transperfect, which is very aggressive in competing at every price level and for every single loose dollar drifting along out there (anywhere). No. I would welcome more translators emigrating from the middle of the bell curve, because I think a rising tide could well lift all boats.

Down here we can notice some mentions that are likely references to other things Mr. Llorens talks about in his blog. Still, one can understand his points.


Another pointed challenge: Do I think there should be an international brotherhood of translation teamsters demanding standard wages? Not really. First of all, I don’t think it’s feasible in the age of the Internet (except perhaps for interpreters), or even desirable. Rent seeking is not a pretty sight. We have to accept the good that globalization brings in with the bad: the former being access to a worldwide market, the latter being Lionbridge and those annoying South Asian agencies who claim to do “native Spanish.” I don’t think homogeneity is something professionals should strive for. (But even if that were to happen, at least homogenous rates would relieve me from the niggling worry [to which I’m sometimes prone] that I’m competing on price. It would allow me to focus on differentiation.)

Now in here we get some interesting mentions about output. Most people would be quite shocked at it:


On another issue, I asked him if he sincerely believed that a translator could deliver 10,000 words a day of high-quality, publishable material. He replied in the affirmative, but I was surprised to learn that it turns out technology has little to do with it, in his view. He confided in me that back in the eighties and nineties (when SMT was not even a twinkle in the eye of Phil Ochs and post-editing was a typo), his output was 7,000 words a day (he described his method as dictating into a tape recorder which would then be transcribed by a typist). My interpretation of this is as follows: A few productivity tweaks, whether from MT or TM or whatever, should suffice to push the profession into five-digit daily outputs. In other words, technology is a red herring. Renato countered by asking me what my output was. I answered honestly that 7,000 words a day was a bridge too far for me, but conceded that I had actually pumped out 5,000 words on many days. With the caveat that I couldn’t do it for more than two weeks in a row before being totally burned out. So you see, slight differences of opinion conceal vastly different views of the profession.

To me, personally, I'm faster typing than speaking out loud. But hey, ought to be something to try out.

Something stood out for me in the whole conversation, too:


Regarding the “quality is dead” issue, he explained that it is related to his view that quality as mere error detection was the wrong view. (...) I agree insofar as it means that the TEP model in which proofreaders add a myriad of useless tweaks (and often typos) is not efficient.

I find that all too common these days, particularly with agencies.

The rest of the conversation take many turns and touches on numerous subjects. It's was interesting to read about their chat and it gave me quite a few things to think about. Maybe it will for you too.

What do you think? What jumped to your attention in the story?
Tell us below. :)

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Very interesting reading. On the point about output - I can't see why there is a need to "push the profession into five-digit figures". If a translator (like me) can earn quite a reasonable living producing 2-3,000 high-quality words a day and maintaining a good work-life balance, why is there a need to up this? 

Also, I would add that output is heavily influenced by the content of the piece. With a familiar subject, it's easy to work at speed, but one can occasionally have a translation of only 2-300 words which requires lots of research and uses up an totally disproportionate amount of time.

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