When I was in Junior High, I dreamed about playing high school basketball. Everyday when I got home from school, I would throw my backpack on the kitchen floor, grab a basketball, and head out to the driveway to shoot hoops.
I pretended I was the man, winning games, hitting buzzer beaters, and making it to the big time.
When high school finally rolled around, I tried out for the team and made it. Barely. I was the twelfth man sitting on the end of the bench.
That year I played in one game. For two minutes. When we were already winning by 30 points.
And that pretty much sums up my high school basketball career. I was on the team one more year after that before I dropped out.
I realized I would never make it as a basketball player except in my own driveway, so I might as well hang up the sneakers and try something else.
I was lucky, though. Nobody ever discouraged me from trying out the game in the first place. My family was supportive. My friends encouraged me. And even the other teammates I had were glad to have someone on the team playing behind them (because that meant less people playing in front of them).
I was happy to oblige.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, though, in the translation industry.
It seems that there is a lot of discouragement from the old guard towards new people interested in becoming translators.
And this is particularly evident when it comes to translation-related forums.
Here’s how it usually goes:
A new translator comes on the forum to ask for tips or techniques on getting started in the industry. Grizzled old veteran translators come on and the first thing they do is complain to the new guy how things were so much better when people actually valued translators, and before all this dang new technology came online, and oh, yeah, before everyone and their dog started translating which lowered rights tremendously across the entire industry.
Blah, blah, blah.
Pretty soon the original question gets lost on the rest of the commenters until the entire post descends into a cesspool of bitterness and complaining.
That’s why translation forums are the devil.
And that is the number one reason why you should avoid them at all costs.
Besides discouraging you from even starting your translation business, here are five more reasons to steer clear of those forums.
1. Glory and Vanity – Most forums have some sort of point system where people who participate more by asking and answering questions get more points, and thus more prestige, if you want to call it that.
Which means that most people are only responding or commenting to boost their own ego and could care less whether or not they actually help you out with your question.
2. Time Suck – I said it before, but translation forums are an incredible time suck for translators. It’s amazing how many people can spend so much time on a forum bitching about how little work they’re getting and how the translation industry is so terrible.
Maybe if instead of spending so much time complaining about things they actually went out and marketed themselves and looked for work, they’d actually realize that the translation industry is thriving and that there is plenty of work out there.
3. Digital Sharecropping – Anything you post on a translation forum does not belong to you. The site where that forum is hosted could close down tomorrow. Your thoughts, questions, comments, resources. . . It could all disappear tomorrow because you don’t own the land. You don’t own the website.
If you really feel that you have something to say about the translation industry (or anything else), invest in your own property be getting your own website. Then you can say whatever you want to say without worrying about having it all taken away without warning.
4. Doing is Learning – The best way to learn how to do something and actually get better at doing it is to do that thing. Reading about it is fine. Watching videos or listening to talks about it is also fine. But to really know how to do it, you’ve got to engage in that activity.
Forums are great at making you think you’re learning something or furthering your skill set without really doing it. Forums are a distraction from real work. You’ll only become more successful as a freelance translator by working on your translation business.
5. Unhealthy Competition – One of the things I hate the most about translation forums is that often the people posting are so damn competitive about their business and have this “how dare you” attitude towards anyone who is trying to join the industry.
And sometimes it’s more than just active discouragement like I mentioned above. It’s more anger and bitterness against anyone who dares to express a different opinion about how to do things that might be different than they way things have been done in the industry for the past 20 years.
Translators don’t realize that the translation industry isn’t going away. There are plenty of opportunities to succeed. You have to be willing to adjust to the times, though. Many aren’t willing.
Some Translation Forums to Watch Out For
So now that you know why you should avoid translation forums as much as possible, let me point you to a few that, while very capable of descending into madness, can provide some good tips and pointers.
Remember, these translation forums should be read very sparingly. I like to set up a time (one hour on Saturdays) to read through my RSS feed of translation posts and see if there is anything interesting I can use. After that hour, I shut them off and don’t look until the following week.
Proz bills itself as home to the world’s largest translator network. The site itself is meant for both translators and translation clients and has a lot of resources for translators, both those just starting out as well as those who have been in the business for a while.
Those resources include things like a job board, local translator meet-up opportunities, and various terminology resources. The one you want to be careful of, though, is the forum.
Generally, I think the Proz.com forum is better than the other translation forums out there. However, even it can sometimes veer off into tangents that will not be a good use of your time for building your business.
Again, the best way I’ve found to read the forums is to actually set it up as an RSS so that the new posts and comments are automatically sent to my RSS reader. Then I can just skim the titles quickly, see if anything is of interest, and move on.
It’s OK to completely avoid this translation forum.
For one, it’s not very active. Definitely not as active as those on Proz.
On the initial page, there are only 8 different forum topics, and out of those 8, only one had post from today. One other forum topic is from this month, four topics had their latest post last month, and two topics had their latest post over two months ago.
Not a good sign for a forum.
Granted, the site does claim that there are 70 forum topics, but again, most of those aren’t very active.
And what’s worse is that there isn’t an easy way to find what you’re looking for.
So instead of finding answers to any specific questions you might have, you spend an hour or two (or more) browsing and are no closer to being where you want to be business-wise.
The one translation forum that I do recommend for translators isn’t really a translator forum per se. Instead, it’s a language forum.
Word reference is a great place to go when you need language help for your translations.
That’s why it’s so great.
There aren’t a bunch of other forum topics that will keep you from getting things done in your translation business.
Instead, you can do a quick search on how to translate a given word or phrase and more likely than not, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
P.S. If you want more info on how to become a successful freelance translator, read my book.