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The 10 most common stereotypes about (certified) translators.

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

1. The translator who never accepts the proofreader’s changes.

Assuming the translator gets the proofread translation back in order to approve, reject or maybe discuss changes that have been made, this type of translator tends to have a slightly inflated ego and does not accept improvements, because she believes she is always right. This may be especially true with those having the credentials to produce certified translations, and who believe their stamp has the final authority! Of course, there are times when she is in fact right and the reviewer is wrong, but generally the translator accepts around one in ten of the changes proposed.

Proofreading a certified translation

My opinion: You have to be humble and know that four eyes are better than two. The recipients of the final translation will appreciate this additional level of quality control in their certified translation.

2. The proofreader who always changes everything the translator has done.

Here we have the opposite case to number 1: this perhaps occurs because of anger at not being the translator, i.e. playing second fiddle. Perhaps the proofread is having a bad day. This type of translator/ proofreader shows no mercy with the text he receives and changes it as much as possible so that it is clear who is in charge here and that his version of the translation is better. In addition, this justifies his work, if not many changes are made perhaps the translator or project manager will decide that no proofreading is necessary before finalising the certified translation.

Proofreading a certified translation

My opinion: If the translation is really bad, you should notify the translator and/or project manager first in order to discuss how to proceed. Perhaps it is beyond saving, and it will be less work to start from scratch than to bring it back from the brink. (Don’t worry, this never happens with our translators, honest!) If the translation is of a good standard, then great, but there’s always room for improvement or least confirmation of its accuracy. But the proofreader should also respect the translator's version if it is correct and avoid making preferential changes.

3. The translator or proofreader to whom everything seems wrong.

It is the next stage of the first two stereotypes. It does not matter if she is the translator or the reviewer: for this person, the client never has a clue about how to do things, her proofreaders never have any idea of what they are doing, in case of this person being the proofreader, the translation on which she has to work is a disaster. Of course, she vents her frustrations and criticises the other people involved in the project on social media, without saying a word to them.

Frustrated certified translator

My opinion: Again, you have to be humble. If something is wrong, it is better to communicate your views to the interested parties in the best possible way, in order to try to improve the quality of the translation. And social media should definitely be used for other things!

4. The freelance translator who works in his pyjamas.

OK, let's change the tone to something more positive! This is a classic for freelancers: raise your hand or leave a comment if you’re translator and have never worked in their pyjamas! Or perhaps naked or in your pants in summer. No response, thought so!

There are add-ons and alternatives of course. In winter, there’s nothing like a good blanket or good old hat and scarf to keep you warm when you can’t afford the heating bill. (Because you’re a translator, ha!) Fingerless gloves are also great so that you can still work on your certified translations on your laptop without your hands freezing in the depths of a northern winter.

Certified translation service in pyjamas

My opinion: I have done this many times, of course, and with many variations on the theme. Although for a while now the first thing I do when I get up is to go to the gym, do my training and then shower and dress ready for work. My lounging around days are over. This way I feel more mentally prepared for work than in pyjamas. This really is true, for me at least.

5. The freelance translator who makes videocalls with a shirt, tie and pyjama bottoms/boxer shorts.

Although many freelancers like to work from their den with their night clothes on, sometimes you have to meet with teams of translators or reviewers, or directly with clients. When you have to show up on a Skype call looking more or less professional, it is always acceptable to wear a good shirt, shirt or sweater... and your best pair of pyjama bottoms, boxers, or less!

Certified translation meeting wearing pyjama bottoms

My opinion: I generally don’t have to make many videocalls in my work, and for that reason I can honestly say that I’ve never done this, although the idea definitely appeals to me! I do know people who have done it though. They were on a call with me, and they told me about it at a later date when we were better acquainted!

6. The translator who ruins the thread on a forum talking about rates.

Oh, yes, the rates for translation work... that eternal debate! Everything was going well in a forum until someone asks how much is usually charged per word for such-and-such type of certified translation work. In the end the thing starts to degenerate and opinions start to fly the about translators who skew the market with their ridiculous rates, that those who do dubbing for television or work on video games are a mafia, that an association of translators must be created in order to regulate rates, etc. etc., ad nauseum.

Arguing online about tranlsation rates

My opinion: It is good to debate this topic, but always with respect and good arguments, and without low blows. We know that translators charging ridiculously low rates offer low quality and necessarily reduce the average rates of all translators, but at the same time, many of those charging less are in developing countries where they can afford to do so, even though they may be struggling to get by in these precarious economies. In short, it’s economics, it’s supply and demand, and it’s complicated.

7. The video game translator who cannot say what he works on.

This, unfortunately, is not very funny, since it happens to a great number of video game translators. Here you will find everything: from clients who credit all of the members who have participated in the translations in some way (as Nintendo does) to agencies that make you sign a non-disclosure agreement saying that you must never ever talk about which games you have worked on.

This point is necessary to make, and some initiatives within the industry have helped to make the work of translators more visible, in general, and perhaps especially for video game translators, due to strict confidentiality agreements that they are normally bound by.

Translator with a zipped mouth

My opinion: Time has taught me not to obsess over this topic, because after all we have to be aware that you are providing a service that you get paid for, and in reality we consume many products and services about which we do not have no idea who has made or provided them. For example, the same right to be recognised exists for technical translators or those who work on mobile applications, and whose work is also very important. Obviously, I support the recognition sometimes given to translators and I put my hand up and say I perhaps more than anyone likes to be recognised for the the games I worked on at Nintendo, but as I say, maybe over time I have learned to cope with this fact.

By the way, an argument that is usually given is that the identity of the translators is not revealed because the client can contact them directly instead of going through the agency, but in my experience, large client prefers to use an agency always in avoid having to deal with each translator individually (especially when there are many languages ​​to which the games need to be translated).

8. The interpreter who always has to clarify that he is an interpreter and not a translator.

Interpreters, I do not forget you. In the same way that the student of Translation and Interpretation has to repeat to everyone that no, he does not stand in the middle of meetings or at the United Nations translating for a live audience. It seems that it is still very usual for people outside the sector to call those who work making consecutive or bilateral interpretation “translators”. Strictly speaking, a translator works with the written word, while the interpreter works with oral language (I am simplifying things, but it’s in order to get the basic message across).


My opinion: Sometimes I have been told that, of course, my career is important because it is not only about translating a text, it is about interpreting its meaning well in order to translate it into another language. Of course, this is true, but I think this use of the word “interpreting” is different to the meaning of the word in what we typically study: "Translation and Interpreting". They are two related but different jobs, requiring overlapping but separate skills, and they both deserve respect.

9. The freelance translator who never gets sick.

As a freelancer, and interpreter, a certified translator, whatever, if you don’t work, you do not get paid. So what’s this about not doing providing your certified translation service this week because you have a cold, fever, back pain or a tremendous cough? The truth is that being a freelancer does has an advantage after all: you become resistant to diseases!

Certified translator working while ill

My opinion: Of course I get sick from time to time, especially with colds and some minor headaches. But I sincerely believe that, in my more than 10 years as a freelance translator, I have never stopped working because I was sick. I mean, I was never at death's door either, so perhaps I also would have dragged myself to work in that state if I still had a regular office job. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think that a few years ago I had a bad migraine and I had to go to bed, but later on that day or perhaps the next day I made up for my lost time and the little bit of missed work.

10. The translator who lives in a mansion and has a private jet.

Oh, but does she really exist?!

Mansion and private jet

My opinion: One can make a living from translation, even a very good living in some cases, depending on the circumstances. But no, for now I do not have to have a mansion in Madrid or a private jet. But I do live happily and calmly, I am my own boss and have a lot of flexibility. I can choose my own timetable to a large extent and I can take on the types of jobs that I am interested in. I am also able to travel and still carry out my certified translation work. This is enough for me, and I’m happy with my job. Of course there are more stereotypes that I have left, but I think that more or less these are the main ones. You can tell me your ideas of those stereotypes in the comments section!

Thanks for reading!

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