Oct 25, 2014

Translators Without Borders: cui bono?

For years I have felt growing unease at the calls for translators to donate their services to "good" causes like Translators Without Borders. It's not that I'm opposed to pro bono work; I have engaged in it often enough myself over the years in translation and other professions. But with the exception of sustainable projects like the development of sustainable translation capacities for the Maa language in Kenya, with technology support provided by Kilgray and instruction time donated by colleague Marel Pawelec, I have not found the appeals particularly convincing.

It was at the IAPTI 2014 conference in Athens that I heard the concerns I had been able to articulate presented in another's convincing words, with many more ethical issues to consider. About halfway through Attila Piroth's talk, the slide above summarized the greatest of my misgivings in a rather humorous way. My first reaction to the "new Board" for "Report Without Borders" was rib-breaking laughter and no f-ing way! But really, does the composition of those calling the shots at Translators Without Borders look much better?

Not really. We have the Silvio Berlusconi of translation and a host of others representing companies with significant interests in the commoditization and sometimes hampsterization of the translation profession and markets encouraging their service providers to work for free instead of for the usual bag of peanuts. As the presenter expressed it, large buyers of bulk market translation, some of the largest translation companies, agenda-setters for the bulk market and providers of related services. What's wrong with that?

Climate change affects not only our planet but the character of charity in its landscapes. In the territory of traditional charities, material profit motives are considered not to be part of the works and the charitable acts typically involve either in-the-moment services or goods to address immediate needs or fixed-long term assets usually managed under strict guidelines and localized in communities. Examples of the former are food, medicines and medical care, the latter might be hospitals, schools, clean wells or power facilities. Transparency in many cases serves to encourage donors with the expectation that the gifts will be used for good, non-profit purposes.

With translation, the picture is a little different. The work donated to TwB not only covers short-term needs and frees up funds to pay for administration, information technology services and other more professional, compensation-worthy needs, it comprises long-term intangible (language) assets which are not localized to the charity recipients but which can be stored, replicated and perhaps transferred to commercial applications by its curators, those who control the organization. There is no special legal regime to regulate the use of such assets; translation work which is given today in good faith for disaster relief might tomorrow find its way into the resources for paid pharmaceutical projects ordered from one of the large companies represented on the TwB boards.

In a series of posts to follow, I'll examine some of the issues and ethical questions raised this year in Athens with regard to Translators Without Borders, so you can decide for yourselves cui bono?


The second post in this series is here.

The third post in the series, with details of the ACCEPT project, is here.


  1. Very good points Kevin, and thank you for writing about this subject.
    I long felt that TWB is a large laboratory experimenting with some questionable practices that can later be useful in the commercial market, if proven successful and well-tolerated in the great sandbox of translation.
    I find it vile that people who don't want to participate are made (sometimes semi-publicly) to feel self-centered, greedy, and generally very bad persons. After-all, who short of a pure evil villain won't be willing to help and support a good cause? Some people are not after publicity and volunteer their time and effort without issuing a press release about it, sometimes in their far-from-sight local community.
    Furthermore, not-for-profit doesn't automatically equate to free, and what I find ironic is that these accusations are made by some of those who gain a lot of exposure and publicity from their roles, exposure that can translate (no pun intended) to a direct commercial benefit, while the actual translators whose work could be later used without their consent, as you pointed out Kevin, will forever remain faceless and nameless – most likely by design.
    As a full disclosure, I joined TWB in what seems now eons ago, naively thinking that I can indeed spare a little time and effort now and then for a good cause, but this is not what I've found. The thing that bothered me most, and what I consider to be morally repugnant, was the feeling that something here is off, that this is not more than big sandbox in which commercially affiliated experiments are being conducted on unsuspecting subjects who in a commercial setting might have been less patient and far more resentful.
    Furthermore, I don't have hard data, but I think that many newcomers and aspiring translators find their way into the joining TWB as way of gaining experience, so it could be argued that overtime TWB has become another gateway the commercial translation market, and some stakeholders have a lot to gain if they could make sure that it leads to their part of the neighborhood.
    I'm not against volunteering one's time, nor criticizing anyone choosing to devote their time to translate for TWB. I just think that TWB has a clear conflict of interests that should be made more public.

  2. It has always struck me as something strange that there are almost no translators amongst them. One would imagine that the boards would include more than one or two translators in their ranks.

    Try to cross-check how many of them do also attend translator events such as ATA, IAPTI or even ProZ conferences, to show their support, and how many initiatives they have started in their corresponding LSPs to promote transparent and fair prices in the era of commoditization.

    Hint: You'll only need one hand.

    Oh, by the way, I work in an LSP.

    1. I am a translator. I attend all translator conferences, I am the vice-president of the Brazilian Translators Association, a play that I translated from French into Portuguese is one of the top hits in Rio de Janeiro, right now. Simon Andriessen is a translator, Dorothee Racette is a translator. What are you talking about?

    2. Renato, perhaps the commenter means "almost no translators" in the sense of persons who actively earn a significant share of their income or spend a very significant part of their time engaged in the act of translation. I can say that "I am a chemist", and with a degree in chemistry and documented years as a consultant and researcher it's a plausible statement. However, although in the past decade and a half I have used my knowledge of chemistry as a translator, very little of my livelihood has derived from the direct practice of chemistry. So in that sense I am not a chemist, but a translator. If the question were put to you and those you mention here "How do you make a living", would "I/they translate" be part of the answer? And if that is not the case, some concerns about the alignmenmt of interests may be understandable. Not being a translator does not, of course, disqualify one from translation-related activities any more than being a Catholic priest disqualifies one from being a marriage counselor. Many of us can cite examples of excellent service by priests as counselors if they can leave the choirboys alone long enough to help.

    3. Kevin, I have been living from translations for the last 30 years. How many pages do I need to translate everyday to be considered professional by my esteemed colleagues? I translate constantly: videos, movies, theater plays, Facebook, etc. I didn't realize I had to meet a certain test in order to be respected by my peers. I am a professional translator. Period. And I am on the Board of Advisors of Translators without Borders. So what anonymous said is inaccurate. No need to defend him.

    4. Do you earn more or less than 35 USD per hour as a translator, Renato? Just checking whether Moravia would be willing to work with you.

    5. Renato, you don't attend "all" translator conferences, because otherwise we'd have met in person at one of the ones in Europe. ;) You do translate, and I personally would not deny that, nor would I deny that you are, by extension, a "translator" - but we're talking about earning the majority of our income from translations, as in, translations we do ourselves. Your title at Moravia is not "translator", after all. That's the point here, and it's a legitimate one.

  3. People don't join this garbage because of any charitable reasons. They're mislead into thinking it's a marketing value. Even though the whole concept goes against the intelligence it requires to be a translator.

    What I find really interesting about this organization is how it tries to control the market. There's a contradiction baked into it where on the one hand, translation is so difficult you have to be assessed and selected for the right abilities, but on the other hand it's not even worth pennies.

    To get to translate for them, you have to have your capabilities tested. Associations such as ATA and ITI have joined the pseudo-association of Proz CPN in the gutter to help bypass the difficult assessment phase. If you've already been accepted there, you can start working for free immediately...

  4. Odd posting. Translators without Borders is as far beyond reproach as just about any organization that I have been around. If my understanding is correct, before the organization started to get the attention it is now getting, Lori Thicke and her partner oversaw the coordination of pro bono projects for Doctors without Borders and the like -- and translators carried out the translations -- for something like twenty years, without receiving a penny. What's to criticize in that? Not only did Lori and the project managers and translators not charge the customers, they didn't even accept donations. Again, at least that is my understanding. Please correct me if I am wrong. It is this "good turn", I would say, that has inspired many others, including me, to do what we can along the same lines and on the same terms.

    As far as linguistic assets go, I can tell you they aren't even managed. (Though they should be.)

    To be charitable, Kevin: Maybe I am missing something. Maybe your "series of posts to follow to follow" will be more than creative writing. But that's all I see here. And if that's all you've got, this is pretty irresponsible of you.

    1. And how credible are your creative writings after incidents like these, Henry?


    2. I was there when TWB was started. They charged some clients, albeit just "at cost." But the translators weren't paid, so what "cost"?

  5. I'm saddened and a bit shocked by the unjustified, small-minded and (what appears to be appallingly poorly informed) attack on an organization that has a decades-long history of providing urgently needed charity for people in dire health crises who without such intervention regularly die what can often be gruesome deaths.

    This critique is wrong on so many levels -- and I'm already aware of the criticism leveled at it by IAPTI, about which they should be deeply ashamed -- it calls into question in my mind whether the individuals on the attack are even aware of the deep psychological scars they may be unintentionally revealing through such uncharitable, biased, misinformed, sad and tragic foolishness.

    Since this shamelessness requires a thorough debunking, I would request a more formal forum (like a guest post on this blog) at a later date to do so. Kevin Lossner and I almost never, ever (ever) disagree on anything at all, and I consider him a colleague worthy of the most esteemed respect, so perhaps we can take this opportunity to air out some dirty laundry on one of the very few subjects where we apparently come down on decidedly and I might even say dramatically different sides on a topic.

    If he decides that this is not the place for a response -- fair enough -- I will respond on my blog and assure that the response is widely disseminated.

    This is just so sad and dispiriting. It makes me vaguely ashamed of a position held by my colleagues and what their comments say about how incredibly out of proportion and out of balance their priorities and sense of what's important in life actually are.

    Here's a preview of my response. Do you know who benefits? The people whose lives are saved -- they benefit.

    I apologize for how I'm about to word this, but there's no other way to say this accurately. This critique is petty, narcissistic, angry, petulant and appallingly selfish childishness.

    It does make me wonder how many translators have actually suffered in their lives. Have gone hungry for years, or had to endure a potentially fatal disease, or had nowhere to turn in a crisis.

    Life is deeply unfair. When the opportunity arises to address that unfairness, to alleviate suffering, to promote the well-being of those at a severe disadvantage from birth -- arguing over who "gets credit" deep inside the bowels of an organization has got to rank dead last on the very long list of important factors to consider.

    Let's take a lesson from the physicians, people. You know, the ones without borders? I weep for how awful this makes us translators look by comparison to their sense of purpose, values, mission, charity and courage.

    1. Kevin, we already agreed a few days ago that I would host a response from you at whatever time you care to have it placed. I have probably failed in this blog post to capture the overall tone and certainly the scope of the original presentation, which I do not think can be correctly characterized by your description. Mr. Piroth's presentation in Athens raised a number of legitimate questions (and included some kudos for particular efforts), but it was rather long and raised a number of very discrete points which I did not want to get lost in some 5000-10,000 word novella of a post. But by choosing to divide the content into separate issues I've probably done a disservice by not including an overview of the whole talk.

      A good part of the original presentation could be summarized as a call for greater transparency, which can really only benefit any organization such as TwB. For years I have heard critiques in private settings, some justified, some clearly not, but in quite a number of cases my conversation partners were reluctant to raise their voices in public for fear of knee-jerk, emotional reactions or deliberate attempts at defamation rather than a reasonable answer to their concerns.

      One good result of this post/discussion is that it appears there may be a useful exchange early next month with Lori Thicke and perhaps others which may answer some of the questions raised in Athens. I'll be part of that and will include a thorough report - in one post - even if it runs a bit long.

    2. I look forward to reading it.

  6. One of the several problems I have with the post you actually have up here is that your post itself borders on character assassination and honestly very much crosses over into defamation territory -- a very far cry from "raising a number of legitimate questions," and several light-years from "a call for greater transparency."

    Look at the graphics you have at the top of this page. Look at what you have said about people who are volunteering their time in support of this effort, and the people you are comparing them to.

    This organization has a very long and distinguished history -- measured in decades -- of financial and personal sacrifice. This record predates the careers of several of the people taking cheap shots at it. It has been remarkably transparent on this historical time scale, carved out territory not yet explored, provided essential services nobody else had bothered to, and enabled essential medical services in very dangerous parts of the world.

    Whispered "critiques in private settings" is hearsay by definition, stands low on the credibility scale and honestly it bores me to tears that these unnamed, silent whisperers "fear retribution."

    My guess is that they've not done their historical research, are unaware of the range and difficulty of the languages produced, have no sense of the long-term commitment required, think it's easier to hide behind whispers and anonymity, and have never really supported charities in any serious way in their own lives.

    That's because people who support charities and give to causes in a serious way and over extended periods just don't think like this. They look at the world in a fundamentally different way.

    I think translators would benefit from getting off their fat asses and comfort of their safe homes and risk their lives for a change instead of taking cheap shots at organizations' "transparency." Many of the translators working for TWB are in-country, work under difficult conditions and live very far from the safe confines in which the critics lob their self-righteous smugness.

    It's also attacks like this that make it much more difficult for critics of the large companies to be taken seriously as we attempt to address genuine imbalances and bad business practices. It hampers those efforts, it sets them back, because it gives real credence to the notion that such criticism can accurately be characterized as incessant and indiscriminate whining. Wherever their names appear, no matter what they're doing, you attack them. It's victimhood run amok.

    This whole post is in astonishingly bad taste.

    1. Well, your guess is as wrong as wrong can be. I, for example, spend hours every week doing volunteer work in the neighbourhood: teaching children judo in the dojo for hours at a stretch, every single week, work or no work, ill or not ill. The difference being that I do this work myself instead of having others do it for me, and am not putting it on my resume or website so that I can brag about it and shout it from the rooftops. *That* is charity. TWB is merely public relations. As for character assassination: if you link your name to an organization and brag about it on your website, you'd better be prepared to face criticism on the very organization you just linked yourself to. You can't hunt with the hounds and run with the hare, now can you?

  7. What Kevin Hendzel said. Ipsis litteris.

  8. Charity comes in many forms. And the manifest benefits of judo aside, we're not talking about saving lives from disease in your case, and certainly there's no possibility of personal peril to you. But it's a nice activity to be sure.

    I have no formal affiliation with TWB myself, so my defense is not because I'm in any way "shouting from rooftops." For most of its history, TWB never told anybody what it was doing, and only comparatively recently needed to expand programs through funding, which requires that one tell one's story. To some people that constitutes "shouting from rooftops," but it's a specious and silly criticism. The same could be said about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which works in collaboration with many other organizations, so it also "shouts from rooftops," but in the process has saved more lives -- millions -- than any other nongovernmental organization in the world.

    Are they going to get hit in the face next, complete with snarky graphics? Microsoft, those crooks! Who cares how many millions of children are alive today who would have otherwise perished, Bill Gates is a greed monster! Ugh.

    I do fund a lot of charity work, and have for the last 25 years, recently at very high levels. No, I don't broadcast details or link anything to my website. My most visible charity and promotional work has been of the "in-kind" form promoting the crucial role of professional translators and interpreters through my work with ATA as their National Media Spokesman for a decade, my work consulting on federal panels that set translator contract wage rates, and also establish working conditions, as well as work to promote translator expertise to allow them to move upmarket and work at higher rates.

    Nobody ever paid me a dime for any of this. In fact, I paid considerable sums out of my own pocket to enable these activities, and also donated thousands of hours of my time and effort.

    All of this requires a career-long commitment to collaboration with peers, market and training research, consultation, and a fair consideration of the facts. You learn a lot about the industry this way, and even about all the organizations that make up that industry.

    I'll be the first to admit that victimhood, blaming others, pointing fingers, whining, complaining and generally grousing are one big annoying snoozefest to me. If translators are not contributing, showing commitment, driving expansion in new directions or finding new ways to advance the profession, preferably by leaving the house and actually engaging with the outside world in proactive and committed ways, I do think we'd all be better served by their just switching off their computers and going quietly to bed. At least it wouldn't exacerbate or undermine efforts the rest of us are making to best represent translators as intelligent, fair-minded, just -- and yes, charitable -- professionals.

    1. I don't think there's any possibility of personal peril to the managers of TWB either, though.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I agree with Shai. I think some comments throughout this debate, on both sides, have crossed the line. And that's saying something when even I think that's the case. It just negates the merit of any positive points that can be made. It should be added that Attila Piroth did NOT make any defamatory comments in his report; he merely asked questions. Questions that do need some answering.

      I'm reminded of an old policy that was proposed by the British Liberal Democrats back when people still liked them. The suggestion was based on a study that showed people are willing to pay more taxes if they know what they are paying for, with a clear breakdown of where everything goes. I'm not saying I have the solution, nor do I think anyone else has it. There are legitimate questions to be raised, but we don't need to resort to mud-slinging. Please. Save that for Facebook. ;)

    4. This obviously hit a nerve, and I think that everyone would be better off calming down first before commenting further on the subject.

      Personally, I think Kevin Lossner raised valid concerns. No one is saying that TwB's mission and role are not important; there isn't even a question about the legitimacy of each of the individual current board members. The concerns are mainly about the seemingly one-dimensional composition of the board, the resulting potential conflict-of-interests, and how the translation profession is being represented by TwB.
      One thing that has not been mentioned yet is the information asymmetry between TwB and the individual translators volunteering there. It is easy to discount and dismiss individual voices as being isolated, ill-informed of the bigger picture, or out of an ulterior motive, but isn't that just a little oversimplification?

      Maybe these concerns are unfounded or overly nearsighted, maybe they are not - somehow I have the feeling that the truth lies somewhere in the middle - but even if these concerns are misguided, maybe the TwB leadership should ask themselves how come TwB, in its current iteration that as far as I know exists less than a decade, has gained a bad reputation among translators? And I hardly think all translators being privileged, decadent, greedy, and self-indulged is the right answer.

      And maybe there are other differences between a physician (and DwB don't recurite just about anyone, aren't they?) volunteering his or her time and expertise in directly influencing the lives of the people in front of them, and a forever faceless and nameless translator working through a first-come-first-served portal run by some intermediate organization that is not transparent or forthcoming enough about issues like IP and copyrights as some think it should be. And maybe there are also concerns about how all of this reflects on our profession, the role and importance of our work, and our professional good standing in the eyes of outsiders?

      Just my thoughts.

  9. @Shai, it took me 3 days just to calm down enough to write out the admittedly blistering critique I did above. So you are seeing my response long -- quite long -- after it "hit a nerve."

    You really do not want to see what my first 5 drafts looked like.

    Kevin did not "raise valid concerns," so much as engage in personal character assassination in a rather spectacular fashion, one seemingly innocent of any sense of historical and organizational perspective. Am I the only one who actually looks at the TOP of this page?

    Also, I continue to be amazed how this discussion gets bogged down in whining. Whining about "asymmetry" (seriously?) and the "one-dimensional composition" of the Board and "potential" (really, we're talking "potential") conflicts of interest?

    It really always is all about the poor, misunderstood, put-upon freelance translators, isn't it?

    No wait, it's not! It's not about those terribly tortured freelance translators who earn good livings in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

    It's about helping people in states of great desperation by donating time, money and effort. Giving away one's time, money and effort. Donating them. Making sacrifices to help other people. Putting those interests on a higher level. Helping out those who are mysteriously and totally absent from your comments.

    It's NOT about imagined slights and "potential" conflicts, and asymmetry. That's navel gazing, self-obsessed, me-centric and honestly vaguely embarrassing crap.

    Perhaps the reason there are not enough freelancers on the Board is that they are spending all their time whining about "potential" conflicts of interest, asymmetry and other imagined horrible forms of torture and devoting zero volunteer time (or God forbid, money of their own) to assist the organization in its mission.

    The truth doesn't "lie in the middle." The problem is that a major and long-influential charity organization is being unfairly attacked by people who have no idea whatsoever of how charities are run, and how enormously lopsided the investment is with respect to time, money, effort and focus. All this is regularly required of people in the interests of other people. Very significantly less fortunate people. People in various states of desperation.

    @Rose -- If you think this is "mud-slinging," then my recent equally vociferous defense of appalling behavior directed at you -- inexcusable behavior, for sure, but vociferously defended by the offending party and his cohorts for two days before they realized that they were so far out of bounds that nobody was left standing next to them -- would surely be characterized as "mud-slinging," too.

    No, in both cases the original unfairly horrific attacks were so far out of bounds -- were honestly offensive on a basic level, as well as misguided and innocent of fact -- that they required an unequivocal response of significant volume.

    What continues to strike me as painfully obvious is that the translators in this discussion so far really do seem fundamentally unable to engage the world in any way other than how it affects their own immediate selfish and narrow commercial interests. It's not just that they don't give a significant amount of their own money and time to charity -- although my guess from the discussion so far is that they are indeed innocent of that experience -- it's that they don't even appreciate how charity exists -- how it's actually pursued -- as an essential part of the human experience.

    I just hope the general public is not witness to this appalling display of Olympic selfishness. I cringe to think of how petty and nasty this discussion must seem by comparison to the virtuous and selfless behavior of those who actually are at physical risk in the field -- and yes, folks, that includes the translators who have been working alongside the doctors for decades.

    1. Those who were there present at the Athens conference may remember that I started my session with warnings. That the aim of my presentation is to encourage colleagues to dare and ask questions that are often considered inappropriate when charity is involved. The comments in this blog and in the social media confirm that this is a very sensitive topic. But an important quality of a good translator is the ability to step back from the material and remain balanced and objective. And the same applies to reflections about various aspects of our profession.

      The landscape of charity is changing. In the digital age it creates fluid, intangible and replicable ’help’ that can be or become valuable assets in the for-profit sector. There is no precedent for managing this transparently. Nobody is telling translators to shun TwB. Rather, translators are asking: ’How does this all work, and who provides the checks and balances that standard charities have?’ There is nothing personal or bitchy about that kind of question. But in my view – and in IAPTI’s view – these questions are very important to ask. And it is precisely the role of associations to ask these questions. IAPTI takes that role very seriously.

    2. Well said. And just as professional and balanced as your presentation in Athens on the topic.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Kevin H, your posting strikes me as an emotinal knee-jerk response, not the rational rebuttals you usually write. Following this reasoning, you can't criticize any charity organization whatsoever. I'm sure that will help the children depending on Foster Parents, you know, the organization that paid 18000 euro per month to its CEO who only worked three days per week. Or Pink Ribbon, the organization that only spent 288.000 on actual breast cancer research and had the remainder of the 16 million they received disappear. Or ChildRight, whose CEO spent millions in casinos.

    You should always be critical towards *any* organization, no matter whether it's a charity organization or not. Defending such organization under the guise of charity alone is a huge red herring and a very cheap way to silence feedback. I won't fall for that. Organizations, including the IAPTI I represent, should be scrutinized by the public. Charity organizations even more, because it's too easy to get away with things once you try to portray adversaries as selfish and egocentric just because they dared speak.

    I, for one, have become very curious why it's necessary to translate corporate marketing material of Symantec for free, especially because I know that McAfee and Kaspersky, both being former clients of mine, have to pay for every single word they outsource to translators. What's next? Localizing Microsoft Windows for free because someone decided that will make this world a better place? And what about the manual of my stereo? Stereo receivers too can have very good purposes and help people connect to other communities, you know.

    Don't know what I'm talking about? Read Kevin's newest article and shiver.

    1. Loek, they tried that with Windows 8, even made an argument not much different than what you jokingly suggest. Just to be clear, though, TwB wasn't involved with that ;-)

  11. I’ve thought long and hard about replying to this blog post, not least because as Chairman of ITI my normal response to such public arguments about our profession has been to maintain a dignified silence and not risk drawing my organisation into a debate with no rules from which it will not escape unharmed in some way.
    However, as ITI’s name has already been dragged in, courtesy of the comment above that we “have joined […] in the gutter to help bypass the difficult assessment phase”, I feel that I have no alternative but to respond.
    Just to be clear from the outset, I would like to state a couple of points that I feel are fundamental:
    1) ITI has supported and will continue to support the efforts of TWB to facilitate the bringing of aid and assistance to some of the poorest locations in the world. We have done this by publicising TWB’s work in our magazine, the Bulletin, giving TWB a platform at our conference and agreeing that our MITI qualified translators whom we have already assessed should be able to sign up to TWB’s platform if they so wish and start translating immediately.
    2) I deplore and am deeply dismayed by the use of ad hominem tactics and character assassinations to make a political point.
    Translators and interpreters are, by and large, free thinkers. They engage with the world on their own terms, and are frequently not shy in letting it know what they feel. At the same time, as Attila says, our work requires us to be objective – seeking neither to distort the author’s message nor impede the recipient’s reading of it. The free-thinking part of our brain must disengage as soon as we accept the translation commission, because at that point we are both an extension of the author’s own free expression and a conduit for the reader’s interpretation. If our opinions, morals or ethics conflict with the author or their message, or with the reader’s intentions, we must either set them aside, reconciling our own consciences with the professional activity and remuneration it provides, or simply reject the commission.
    From Attila’s description, it sounds as though the presentation, which I emphasise I have not seen, is attempting to wrap a veneer of objectivity around his view that the large translation corporations are fundamentally bad. The result is a confusion; is his research and presentation really objective, or is it starting out from a subjective premise that he and his organisation hold as a basic tenet? I’m afraid that whatever objectivity there might be, and I accept that the intentions were to be objective, is irrevocably compromised by his resorting to the Private Eye-esque comparisons of TWB’s Board members to Rupert Murdoch and Silvio Berlusconi, the latter having been convicted of tax fraud. What parallels is he actually trying to draw?
    From ITI’s perspective, one of the reasons for the generally weaker position of the translation sector compared with that of the sectors it supplies is its lack of uniformity. It is very easy to exploit the differences in the translation sector, to play one part off against the other. It is our view that the only way to strengthen the collective position is for all parts of the sector to engage cooperatively and positively with each other; ITI seeks to be a platform to facilitate this engagement. So in the crudest of terms, which I hope all will understand: quit the bickering and put your toys back in the cot.
    We know that there are topics where we won’t all see eye to eye, and we must all recognise that the mote in our own eyes is just as large as that in our neighbour’s. Challenging bad behaviour and bad practice is part of the job of an association, but it has to be done properly. When an association in particular plays the man rather than the ball, it casts a shadow over the whole profession. As Kevin Hendzel says, “I cringe to think of how petty and nasty this discussion must seem […].” Time to grow up, folks.

  12. Not aimed at anyone in particular: could people please stop talking about the stupid (yes, it's stupid) comparison that is used in an illustrative way and instead start addressing the issue at hand? In libertarianism, tax fraud is a heroic feat, so to some people Berlusconi is a legend. Not acknowledging that would be sheer arrogance.

    The message of the comparison is not that TWB is a fraud, the message of the comparison is that there is a clear conflict of interests. That is the issue, so please all, stop pretending we're stupid and address it.

    Objectivity is an illusion. The only way to find the truth, is to actually discuss all pros and cons in the open, using factual data. We will not find it by repeating the statement that TWB is the Holy Virgin Mary. We may not all see eye to eye, but eye to eye we must see. This whole defensive attitude makes people think the rabbit hole is deeper than we think and only makes them more curious.

    Is Symantec indeed getting free translations of marketing material from TWB and if so, what is the reason behind this? This is a *very* valid question and if it is not answered properly, people will smell a fish when they see it. Asking valid questions about the activities of this organization is not blasphemy. The TWB is an organization, not our Lord High Up in Heaven. If its intentions are truly good, it has nothing to hide.

    As a side note, I can state that at least some of the LSP's represented in the board are inherently bad, I'd even say evil, and *very* detrimental to the industry as a whole. Some of them have translators sign The Mother Of All Contracts, some of them pay absolute peanuts and some of them are not even trying to hide the fact that corrupt is their middle name. I have worked directly with these organizations and have first-hand information about their inner workings.

    There *is* a severe conflict of interests. This is a fact that is not even up for discussion. So please all, stop pretending and start answering.

  13. Thank you for joining the discussion, Iwan. I really hope you will take time to voice your opinion about some of the issues raised in Kevin’s second blog post.
    In your comment, you attribute to me the view that “large translation corporations are fundamentally bad” – even if you wrap it into “it sounds as though the presentation, which I emphasise I have not seen, is attempting to...”. Would you care to substantiate this?
    Context is everything. Those slides were accompanied by words. And not the ones you attribute to me. If businesspeople of a certain sector join forces in a non-profit of the same sector, it is in their best interest to ensure total transparency. The boards of TWB – and to a slightly smaller extent, that of the Rosetta Foundation – are full of major industry players. Their know-how is a great asset for the organization. But I think it is a valid question to ask who provides the checks and balances that standard charities have, to ensure there is no conflict of interests. Because the trust this creates translates directly into donations.
    Raising this question in our own sector seems to be a particularly sensitive issue. I would truly like to understand why. So, as an illustration, I used a hypothetical example: major industry players of the media sector – four well-known figures – joining Reporters Without Border’s board. Because my point about the importance of transparency to ensure there are no conflict of interests is totally obvious there. That was the aim of this slide.
    I will let you come up with a good parallel in the medical sector.

  14. Kevin, you tagged this post with "Scammers". Care to elaborate?

  15. I'm a TWB-volunteer myself, so of course, I wanted to read this thoroughly. As everyone reading Kevin's materials knows, he has a particular style. This specific blog entry did not strike me as out of the ordinary in that respect. If the reader should feel that this post is about mud-slinging and character assassination and in it's style is wildly different from other entries, I suggest that might have more to do with personal perception than with reality.

    I'm not under the impression that the tasks I get to do through the platform are immediately live-saving. They also don't make me feel as if I make a greater sacrifice than a volunteer judo teacher would (in fact, I'm sure he gets physically hurt more often than I do). Maybe I'm ignorant and maybe there is indeed a gradation in "worthiness" as far as volunteering goes, but I can't say I particularly care. My personal volunteering and charity commitments are more based on what I can and want to do, than they are on an assessment of the relative merit of the task at hand. Besides, whether something is useful or not is for the receiver to decide. In that respect, the TWB platform does allow for communication with the beneficiary of the work, so I do have an idea about that.

    The questions contained in Kevin's remarks and in the comments seem valid to me, both on a personal level (do I do this for the beneficiary or for the label?) and on a "business" level (is this the best way to "give back"?). The more information we have to reflect on such matters, the better.

    1. Thank you for contributing a voice from the constituency I am said to have insulted. I would be quite interested to hear from other actual contributors to the "cause" regardless of what they might think of me personally. I really have to laugh when I consider that in the midst of all of this bullshit, the ad hominem attacks and the inexplicably unhinged rants from one individual who does far too much to discredit what might in fact not be such a bad cause in the end, I am in fact helping one of the people for whom I have the greatest respect to offer some focused support to TWB. It's too bad, really, that some people cannot let their own conflicted interests and personal demons rest long enough to answer some simple questions, such as those raised in the second post of this series. In any case, however much some might dismiss my comments about the many individuals who have expressed legitimate concerns - concerns which may in fact have very good answers, yet unvoiced - I must at this point thank Messrs. Hendzel et alia for making my point too well about why they remain silent.

  16. @Loek I suppose one could characterize my response as an "emotional knee-jerk" response, although a more discerning reader would certainly recognize it as screaming outrage -- the only appropriate response for people of good conscience -- at an appalling, wildly unjustified, ill-informed (bordering on zero-informed) and exceedingly offensive personal and venomous attack on an organization with a very long distinguished history of doing an enormous amount of good for people in desperation.

    Your blithe comparisons to corrupt or poorly-run charities is not an argument or even illustrative in the present case, since there's nothing even remotely in that class being charged, and those "concerns" that have been voiced have been laughably silly, weak and embarrassing, and perhaps revealingly still stuck on the "potential" harms that affect the outraged writers solely in terms of their narrow and selfish commercial interests.

    As I wrote in my first post, the nature of these objections reveal more about the psychological scars and imagined slights of the people making petty, selfish arguments based entirely on how these events affect them.

    I have no intention of repeating myself endlessly on this, but what we still see in this conversation -- what is STILL screaming at full volume at even the most objective reader -- is that the participants appear fundamentally unable to see how offensive it is to try, convict, sentence and then ridicule a well-regarded charity organization with a long record of sacrifice and good works based entirely on specious and imagined "potential" offenses that are entirely speculative. They are imagined slights.

    They are magnified by feelings of impotence and fear.

    And ultimately they are sneakily leveraged against one's own prejudices against large corporations, as Iwan Davies has pointed out.

    These are people of good faith who are working and volunteering their time with an organization with a long-term record of established performance. There are also large sums of money being donated by many of these individuals and companies, and I'm sure that too will be dismissed as irrelevant, because, well, we're back to that deep-seated prejudice again. That's the problem with prejudice. It gets under the skin and is difficult to discern and extract.

    Just judging from my email, there are many other people who are equally outraged but for various reasons feel that they cannot speak more vocally on this subject. A few have said that I've already covered the same territory they would have, so it would be duplicative.

    Kevin Lossner owes us all an apology. This is a disgraceful public lynching of an innocent charity organization whose malice is making our entire industry look like a bunch of petty, selfish idiots. His follow-up post of pure rationality -- perhaps an attempt at a strategic retreat without actually admitting any fault -- feels like a cover-up.

    Any reader of this blog knows that I've long admired Kevin Lossner, but I am sad to say that his continued silence and refusal to retract this obscenity is making me re-consider my public support for him in many, if not most, other areas.

    1. Point taken, again. We know your stance on this now, I'm curious after your stance on the Symantec issue though, raised in the second blog post. And I mean it.

  17. (Part 1/2)

    Thank you, Iwan. Your courage to speak out publicly has given me courage to do the same. In many respects I can simply only second what you have said here.

    So, dear everyone:

    My personal stance on TWB has been the standard stance learned through the scepticism of my peers. I'm questioning that, the same way everything deserves to be questioned. I realise I simply don't know enough about how the organisation is run to have an opinion any longer. I can see issues, sure, but this may only highlight a more general need for transparency, which is something all organisations can benefit from. I'm concerned by some of the points Attila made during his presentation, one of which is addressed in Kevin's next blog post. If companies involved in TWB have in some cases made significant financial gains, perhaps even getting commercial work for free, then this needs to be discussed in the open. Not, however, like this. I'll comment when I see people outright twisting things, but I can't say too much about TWB right now as in my mind there is an investigation in progress. TWB seems willing to respond to concerns, so I guess I'll have my answers soon.

    I, too, was shocked at the use of ad hominem tactics and character assassinations to make a political point. I've been a victim of this and risen to provocation before now, but this stuff really has to stop. Now. We can't keep doing this. This is just ridiculous. Like Iwan, I was absolutely stunned by the Berlusconi remark. Renato and I are not friends, but I felt moved enough to tell him privately that regardless of our other disagreements, this is NOT something I support. It's borderline racist, and it's shocking that people who generally support some of Attila's original arguments, or are at least curious, have not publicly condemned this. I'm sorry, Kevin (Lossner), you know I respect you, but this post was just *too* emotional and the Berlusconi comment was enough to make me pity Renato, so something clearly malfunctioned. Any valid points you (or Attila) had to make are completely clouded by this now. Comparisons with sleazy, corrupt politicians associated with both a tax scandal and a sex scandal (and still good pals with Putin, for the record) are hardly appropriate.

  18. (Part 2/2)

    In Attila's defence, his style has always been to pose questions, and let others draw the conclusions. He has always been open to new information, and I don't believe, as an academic, it is in his nature to seek evidence to support the points he wishes to make. I don't know him that well, I admit, but he has never struck me as someone who is closed-minded, cruel, or against big business per se. I can be wrong about people, sure, but that's just my opinion.

    Going back to the matter of personal attacks and why I did not respond in a way similar to Iwan any sooner: I guess I felt intimidated. I think a lot of people do, including the person who originally showed me the post but did not comment, as well as a couple of others who I discussed this with. I've also experienced some awful character assassination tactics, full of outright lies and distortions of the truth. I'm sick of this. I'm sick of the constant tit-for-tat. I'm sick of having to wonder what so-and-so might have done to me next, or how so-and-so might react if I dare say I think they took it too far. I'm sure some people are reading this and thinking to themselves, "She should grow a thicker skin", or "She'll grow out of it". Maybe I just think we all need to grow out of it and stick to the facts rather than backstabbing each other, lying about each other, and comparing each other to public hate figures or cartoon characters. That's not to say I'm going to stop calling out exploiters on their bullshit, nor supporting fellow translators and interpreters in their battles against unethical institutions and businesses, but that is to say that I want the personal, unprofessional bitching to stop, while fully acknowledging that I've responded over-defensively in the past. Some things here and elsewhere are unforgivable, sure, but let's try to please, PLEASE act like adults about this.

    Let us please look at this post, with its comparisons to the great Italian philanderer and all-round scoundrel, or the recent post which culminated in laughs about what might appear on my gravestone, as a sign of how far we have fallen. How lost we have become. How distracted we have become. Let's try to draw a line in the sand. When we're pissed off, let's stick to facts. When we're provoked, let's try to turn the other cheek. Instead, let's work on promoting our industry, supporting our colleagues, and pleasing our clients. This in-fighting is a big fat waste of time.

  19. As someone only peripherally related, and in a maybe vertical but distinctly separate industry, I thought it might be interesting to you all how this reads to an outsider. I heard "objectivity" brought up a lot in the comments, so here you go ...

    Typical industry in-fighting for the most part. However, if there is a not-for-profit modeled after Doctors Without Borders, it is absolutely reasonable to ask if companies whose leaders sit on the board are getting free services. Refusing to answer, getting defensive, and playing the "how dare you question an organization with such a reputation and mission" has been used by many who are indeed engaged in wrongdoing.

    Just answer. The right to ask is fair game. Attempting to strong arm people from asking pertinent questions is quite nasty.

    It seems to be that setting an entity up as above reproach and intimidating people who ask valid questions is the historic pattern the author was highlighting in his choice of "board members." If one wants to be offended by that, it is certainly their right, but I can see WHY he chose to do so.

    Hope the objective view helps.

  20. The problem is that this is not an "objective inquiry." I'm not even sure it qualifies as an "objective character assassination."

    Read carefully: "We have the Silvio Berlusconi of translation..." <-- immediate comparison to a convicted felon.

    The others in the industry already know that I've been challenging the leadership of the major translation and localization companies for at least a decade before Kevin Lossner even began this blog. I think it's fair to say that I've got one of the longest "speak truth to power" records of anybody, anywhere (and the bruised egos at the top of those companies to prove it) so you'll not find a more staunch defender of proper and fair-minded scrutiny, evaluation, doubt and fair play than me.

    But this is none of those things. This is none of those things by a galactic margin. This is a personal, nasty, convicted-without-trial, lynch-mob-style personal attack on people because they stand at the top of organizations.

    What the objections voiced in these comments have in common is outrage at the specific personal and unfair NATURE of this attack.

    By comparison, the second post in the series begins to look more objectively at the data.

    The first one is a guy picking off innocent people with a high-powered sniper rifle.

    No, sorry "anonymous outsider," you're off on the wrong track.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  21. Thank you, Anonymous, you said EXACTLY what I was thinking all along:

    ''...if there is a not-for-profit modelled after Doctors Without Borders, it is absolutely reasonable to ask if companies whose leaders sit on the board are getting free services. Refusing to answer, getting defensive, and playing the "how dare you question an organization with such a reputation and mission" has been used by many who are indeed engaged in wrongdoing.

    Just answer. The right to ask is fair game. ''

    To Kevin H: You do not speak for me. Please do not apologise for me or any other translator on Twitter. Especially to a guy who compared translation to ''toilet paper'' and who pays his translators $0.03 a word through Moravia. Think about it, Kevin, there's not a single charitable bone in his body. Just take a look at the Board and the Advisory Board. Do you see the ATA there? The ITI? The BDU? The FIT? ...

    ''Outrage'' you say? I am outraged when I see who's on the Boards of this seemingly charitable organisation. I am outraged when they use my work to say ''here, look how good we are!''. Are we translating for Symantec for free? Where did the 2 million go? Where are the TWB's financial reports? Stop being so outraged, Kevin, and let them answer. Until then, you can say ''how dare you?'' all you want.

  22. Kevin,
    I'm following you (as in social media, not in a creepy stalker kind of way) for quite a while now. I have the utmost respect for you as an ambassador of the translation profession, and I'm very appreciative, admire even, your efforts in protecting and promoting our profession.
    Usually I would have been thrilled to participate, engage in, or simply follow a discussion with you - even a passionate one - but not this time.

    I don't think that using insults, calling names, and outright dismissal of opinions and concerns will advance this discussion, and therefore I've decided to disengage. I have no intention to get into a personal or semi-person altercation with you – or anyone else for that matter. It won't add any dignity to any of the parties involved, or the forum it is held in. When a dialog cannot be achieved, the conversation tends to repeat itself and run in circles, which is a waste of time anyway.

    If the professional translation community cannot discuss even the utmost controversial topics in civil, polite, practical, focused, and respectful (or at least respectful-ish) way, without resorting to insults or letting emotions run too high, possibly clouding better judgement (and note that I'm not using the term objectivity because I don't believe that it can be achieved. As humans we are all biased to some degree, a bias that was shaped by our life experience and personal preferences);

    If a generally good relationship between colleagues cannot survive a third-party related disagreement;

    And if people should be afraid to speak their mind - as misinformed and misguided as other might think it is - out of fear of being verbally abused, ridiculed, personally attacked, or suffer other behind the scenes repercussions, then the community is just a tyranny of thought that uses technology as its tool of oppression, that has far more alarming underlying and rooted problems and issues than an almost random single gesture in bad taste or overly provocative nature (such as the now infamous illustration in this post).

    Just my opinion.

    Signing off from this discussion at least until after the meeting that should be held next month,

  23. So, we have criticism thought by some to be groundless and based on supposition and prejudgement. Is this refuted by logic or the statement of facts? Indeed not, instead the counter position consists of more equally groundless suppositions, not even against the criticism, but against the person(s) making it. “Character assassinations”, to use the popular term in the thread, but not even against actual character; no, the author “guesses” what people are like, their character and even their life experiences. None of which is relevant to the holding or expressing of an opinion, even in the unlikely event the portraits painted are accurate.

    The rest of the counter-position consists of rebutting points that weren’t made. No-one has said TwB doesn’t do loads of good work. No one is criticising the people working for them, from the best motives in most cases (the foot-in-door factor cannot be ruled out). The criticism here is not about TwB’s impact on the hungry and the sick.

    Even where good deeds outweigh shady practice, and by some margin, that is no reason to shrug and walk away from the shady practice. Just shouting about good stuff is not an valid argument that bad stuff is not happening.

    As for “me-centric” and “self-obsessed”, only one person has spent an extended period of time in this thread talking about themselves while adding no value to discussion of the issue in question. And what could be more “childish” than the “I won’t be your friend any more” conclusion to one of the posts from yesterday?

    And let’s not get derailed by focusing on references to Silvio. A clumsy way to get a message of disapproval across, perhaps, but let’s try to concentrate on the content, not the form of delivery. And certainly not by hysterically describing it as “obscene”. There are only two obscene things about this thread. One is the words I mutter to myself reading yet another Hendzel rant. The other is the fact that in 2014, there is even the need for charities to dispense the basic requirements of human life to other people.

  24. Just to be clear:

    1. The FORMER president of ATA does not represent ATA or its translators' interests.
    2. Of course the financial reports are available online. It's a legal requirement. I was referring to the 2 million dollars - I would like to see the paper trail.

  25. Kevin H: I hear your message that you consider TWB to be above board and Kevin L to be completely wrong and unfair in his questions and opinions. However, I note that your language is at least as rhetorically loaded as that used by Kevin L, and I would suggest that rhetorically expressed anger is not helpful in separating fact from fiction. This is especially the case in relation to the open questions about the underlying issues.
    It is agreed (as far as I am aware) that TWB encourages freelance translators to work for free in the interest of projects which TWB considers charitable and meritorious. It also seems that this work has been instrumental in helping in a number of real situations (famine, disease, basic health needs in poor countries etc.).
    However, it also seems clear that the board of TWB includes a number of people who adopt cost-saving policies in their dealings with translators in commercial work. Issues such as word rates of $ 0.03 and the systematic use of MT coupled with PEMT are emotional topics in their own right, and there are good reasons for freelancers to question the business policies of such people.
    It therefore seems reasonable to ask questions about the role of such people in an organisation such as TWB, and specifically about whether their cost-cutting approach in commercial translation is in any way linked with their advocacy of pro bono work through TWB. Such questions are not character assassination, they are simply a matter of good sense.
    To cast this in specific terms, Kevin L's second post has been up for a day and a half now, and there have not yet been any comments. This second post mentions specific cases which require clarification, e.g. the question of whether TWB has been instrumental in procuring pro bono work for commercial companies such as Symantec. This is a serious question, and it requires a factual and transparent answer. Simply wiping it away by saying "How dare you ask!" will not in any way address the real questions involved, nor will it restore confidence in initiatives such as TWB.

  26. Let me quote Renato Beninatto who, only a few months ago, made the following comment on another blog: “Thanks for your analysis, but it is flawed. I didn’t participate in the session, but a quick poll of the attendees who participated in it tells me that your comments [are] out of context. He [the presenter at the European Language Industry Association (ELIA) conference accused of showing disgustingly sexist slides] was actually talking about perception and how people interpret things wrongly“. (http://www.ineverylanguage.com/uncategorized/elia-conference-presentation-sexist/#comment-13295)

    As an attendee of the presentation at the IAPTI conference where the slides were first shown and “were accompanied by words“, as the author of the presentation put it, let me assure every commenter on this blog that all members of the imaginary “Reporters without Borders” board on the picture above were chosen for their high-profile in the media industry only. Any other interpretation with reference to other deeds or misdeeds of the personae depicted leads to fundamentally flawed and absurd results.

    So instead of “talking about perception and how people interpret things wrongly”, let us address “the real questions involved” (Victor Dewsberry). Let us “look more objectively at the data“ (Kevin Hendzel). I hope those at TWB who “oversaw the coordination of pro bono projects“ (Henry Dotterer) could clarify the question of pro bono work for for-profit companies (if any) and help us get a better idea about “their sense of purpose, values, mission, charity and courage“.

  27. Part 1 of 2

    I've written six posts on this subject so far, and have attempted to avoid repeating myself, with limited success.

    And yes, of course I've been rhetorically forceful and even explosive at times because that's the only appropriate response from reasonable people when character assassination without the benefit of trial or even the slightest nod toward objective inquiry makes the job of those of us who've been challenging the business practices of the largest companies impossibly more difficult.

    I've been challenging the business practices of the biggest companies and their owners longer than most of you have been translating, and much longer than this blog has existed. Hell, I used to be the lonely guy standing up in the back of the room challenging Renato in public in Washington DC when Common Sense Advisory was first founded in the 1990s. Everybody else was too timid to say anything to his face.

    It's sad to me to see that the translators in this thread do not appear to even be reading my posts. They seem -- as always -- overwhelmed with the distraction of how much the victims of the attacks "pay them" (wow, now that's revealing), imagined and "potential" conflicts, "imbalances," and the criminal outrage of a charity organization asking people to actually donate, whether it be in the form of time, money or in-kind services.

    Too many of the responses in this thread are not in response to what I've actually written. They're about the dialog ongoing in that freelancer's mind about the emotions stirred up in connection with what are to that person the offending personalities, business practices, rates or any number of other factors unrelated to the offensive content in the original blog post.

    In other words, it's always about them.

    I have never said that TWB was above fair inquiry, or even a forcefully challenging inquiry. After all, I've been the one chasing down Renato and the crazy claims of MT vendors for years, and most recently have been in multiple Twitter confrontations with Jack Welde, the CEO of Smartling, about their mis-representation of professional translators and translation and the value they bring to the enterprise.

    I've also been deeply engaged on the positive side for well over 15 years -- working with government agencies to secure guaranteed higher rates paid on government contracts, better working conditions, higher visibility and what can only be characterized as an explosion in translator and interpreter visibility in 2002-2012 when we were able to secure national and international media coverage for the industry on a regular, weekly basis. This had dramatic and tangible positive impacts on driving work to ATA members, improving their perceived value to clients and expanding their businesses.

    Did I mention that these were all volunteer positions? Thousands of hours subtracted from my billable time? Tens of thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to sponsor events over 15 years to change the power-of-balance equation with the large companies, the MT hucksters, the "translation is a utility" crowd?

    Charity, people. You should try it some time.

  28. Part 2 of 2

    Back to the post at hand.

    My objection -- as it has been from the beginning -- is that nothing even remotely close to a fair inquiry is occurring here.

    What we are seeing in the first blog post is an assassin at work.

    At this point I'm growing increasingly uncomfortable with my name even being associated with this blog or Kevin Lossner personally. I'm not going to speculate about what motivates a person to pick up a sniper rifle and shoot at innocent people's heads.

    What I am going to do is remove myself from my association with this person in public, and right here.

    So this will be my last post in this thread and in fact on this blog. I retract my offer to post a rebuttal in a guest post. The very last thing in the world I want to be is a "guest" of this man.

    I wish you all well and hope you will carve out in your mind in the future enough charitable space to consider every side of an issue before standing on the sidelines, cheering on a hit man at work.

    1. This one is for you, Mr. Hendzel: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/2232358.html. Lie down in the bed you've made, and please don't complain so loudly if you end up with fleas. I suppose you think it's cool that pro-Mugabe propaganda got translated by TWB volunteers with facilitation by ProZ. I am choking on the smoke from that gun.

  29. That's a very long-winded way to say that you simply cannot defend TWB's activities anymore. Fair enough.

    Kevin L and I have had our differences too, by the way. But we always kept talking, and we still do. The fact that I write here does not mean that I always agree with his views. It would be foolish to think otherwise.

  30. Quick review of KH's first 5 paragraphs in his part 1 of 2: "I....", "I.....", "I....", "....my posts", "... what I've written".

    Paragraph 6, astonishingly, then claims the responses in this thread are "all about them" (i.e. the posters).

    Further comment is surely superfluous.

  31. This has been a fascinating, though totally misguided, discussion, attacking the wrong targets. Translators without Borders, and the newly formed Rosetta Foundation, are very worthy organisations run by really good people. What is wrong is that they need to exist. They translate documents written by aid agencies like Medecin sans Frontier from the original language into some other target language thought to be more accessible to the population that they seek to serve. These languages, both the original language and the target languages, are almost invariably the languages of former imperial rulers - one contributor recounted how he had translated from French into Portuguese. Why was the document written in French in the first place, and why into Portuguese and not the language of the people? The shame is not upon the translation agencies but upon the aid agencies for having this need in the first place.

    It may seem that the solution is for the aid agencies to employ local people who speak local languages, and so I thought until I helped run a two-day seminar on translation technologies in Nepal. I found that very able Nepalis working with international agencies wrote the documents, but they wrote them in English and then maybe they or somebody else translated them into Nepali or other local language. Why didn’t they write them in Nepali? They explained that there was not the terminology in Nepali, they had to use English. But why hadn’t the terminology in Nepali been developed? Because all discourse within the agency was in English or other imperial language. What should be happening is that the discourse is in Nepali (or other local language) with an active interest in developing the appropriate terminology. With the documents written directly in the intended target language.

    Of course for some highly specialised humanitarian services, like medical relief, conducting their business in whatever language the experts speak must be accepted, their time is too precious to spend time learning some other small language. But for other agencies concerned with general aid there can be no excuse. Peace Corps used to, and maybe still does, give their volunteers intensive language training before releasing them into the wild. The same is true for the Christian missionaries. But not alas for the international aid agencies. It is those agencies that you should be attacking, not each other or the very worthy TwB. If aid agencies cannot fulfil their mission of assistant respecting the recipients cultural values like language, then they should pay for the extra help, translators or whatever, and not expect pro bono work to make up their shortfalls.

  32. Unlike those of a more "spirited" disposition, I recognised Kevin's mischievous way of painting a picture – albeit from a palette that had already been provided, as Valerij rightly points out. Given my experience in marketing, I would see TWB's problems as being 'image' and 'stewardship'. Is it smart to have a consultant board that includes at least three people who make their money from translators (rather than from translation)? Are they advising on leveraging content or leveraging effort? Lori hints at localisation expertise... Just how much does TWB 'localise'? Strikes me as odd, as I didn't think their need was there, but rather in the more immediate, specialist/newsy type of content. I find that Valerij, Victor Dewsbery, Charlie Bavington and Loek make very valid points. I do not question the vital need for the good ship TWB, but rather – like others – suggest caulking its hull to keep it afloat on its exemplary voyage, while making its inner workings open to all shipyard inspectors. I shall continue to contribute.
    As for the rest?
    To me, the rabid reactions putting KSL forward as the Devil incarnate succeed more in suggesting that there is, indeed, something to hide.

  33. Why is ITI considering (or maybe it has - I haven't heard any more news about this) withdrawing the corporate membership of an important player in the industry, famous for its unilateral approach to rate reducing when they post millions in profits? And why is ITI more than happy to collaborate with some LSPs on TwB's board, famous for paying peanuts?

    1. This takes the biscuit ;-) If you are referring to the TPT rumors, you are probably also aware of the reasons why the matter may have been dropped. I have my own thoughts on that, but they aren't relevant to the present discussion.

      I have seen issues with a number of professional organizations which mix individual and corporate memberships in the same pot. One of the few things I really appreciate about the BDÜ is that they don't. But that, too, is not relevant to the present matter, so we should debate that on another day in another place, preferably with a decent Belgian beer in hand.

      The issues raised here and in the second post are clear enough, and despite all the sound and fury of some, no clear, plausible answers have been offered, though surely there are some. Emotional fulminate is no substitute for the simple answers and simple transparency that should be part of any program for a non-profit relief organization. Let's not play the same game of distraction that some insist on so far by pointing out the bottomfeeding practices of some of the board members' companies/employers. The Medicis spent a lot of their time poisoning enemies, friends and relatives, and yet look at what a magnificent cultural legacy they created for their country. Verily I say unto thee, the end justifies the means ;-) At least for some in the present discussion.

  34. yes, I'm talking about TPT and I'm not aware of anything... has it been dropped?

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Once again they have proven wrong any concern about TwB being just a front to a big sandbox in which corporations experiment with technology on translators in order to define and refine their future commercial practices and systems.

    Socialize the cost of business, but keep the profit private.

    Class act.

  37. Oliveira SimõesAugust 30, 2017 4:46 AM

    Very good points. I'm shocked to see the composition of TWB's Board of Directors. Who's representing the translators? The money-driven companies? This finding, plus the ethical issues raised in this article, will make me think twice when I'm offered a "job" by TWB.

    1. It's also interesting to observe the developments with that lot over the past two years. Many of the intentions disputed have proven to be true - ProZ, for example, developed a commercial workflow platform on the back of the volunteers. And this is the same immoral bunch who saw no problem promoting the agenda of Robert Mugabe by free translation of his propaganda. The TWB translation center in Nairobi has failed and laid off most or all of the staff; the model of giving away translations and hoping to cover salaries through donations is not only idiotic, it's simply unviable. All the while undermining the ability of translators on the local economy to make a living.

      However well meaning some of this TWB nonsense might be, it ignores fundamental truths which are apparent to anyone who has looked at the history of "aid" programs, all the while supporting dubious big corporate agenda. And all the threats from interested parties and ignoramuses don't change a bit of that. I'll stand with my African colleagues or those anywhere else in the world and help them develop sustainable infrastructures for good works, but the models of operation found with TWB and organizations like it have nothing at all to do with that!

  38. It is just curious to note that companies with the greatest profits in the translation industry ask the translators (qho has very ñittle margins) to work for free for dubious causes.

    Gentlemen, if you want to do charity, first pay your translators and then donate part of your big profits to the charities you want. The rest is hypocrisy.


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