Friday, June 10, 2011

Why the MT Crowd Insists That Translation Prices Are Falling

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
Bene Gesserit Litany against fear

Because it is a necessary component of the GMN (Grand McLocalization Narrative).

Because it is a selling point designed to shift paid MT systems that are just slightly better than freely available tools.

Because, to inflate a bubble, you have to create anxiety.

Because the greatest motivators in the world are fear and greed (yes, even more than sex and caffeine).

Because you can’t get funding and investment unless everyone is convinced we are in the Third or Fourth or Fifth (fill in the blank) Industrial Revolution.

Because everyone is afraid of the unknown: the Indian outsourcers thousands of miles away; the teenager with the killer app in his basement; the mythical translating crowd of hamsters.

Because a sales pitch is a story.

Because a story is a myth.

Pick your poison: Y2K, Soviet military superiority, alien abduction, the population explosion, the New Economy… (Oh wait, it turns out that the New Economy was a myth! We learned that ten years ago when the Internet bubble went ka-blammo!)

There is always a reason to fear: the depressed economy, the overheating economy, al-Qaida, cholesterol, immigrants, the brain drain, reality TV, the Latin Grammies, the real Grammies, all the red states, all the blue states, Hugh Jackman…

And there is always someone who profits.

Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center and H.B.O. International, as well as many small-and-medium-sized brokerages and asset management companies operating in Spain.


Rob said...

All you say is true, and what amazes me is that so many people are so gullible that they (a) just believe this stuff without question, and (b) naively assume that people and businesses are basically good and altruistic, rather than being driven by greed and self-interest.

Financial Translator said...

I believe there is an issue with "specialists" who have undisclosed ties to certain companies or businesses. This is a major problem in the medical research industry and recently was the object of much discussion among economists who get fees to say certain things (in the wake of a documentary called "Inside Job"). I have nothing against businesses being greedy and self-interested. That's what they're supposed to do. However, a speaker who portrays himself as an independent voice and is pocketing advisory fees or otherwise from companies whose business case he is furthering is a little compromised. You can't convince someone of something if that person's salary depends upon him NOT understanding that something.

Kevin Lossner said...

Rob, there's no reason to be amazed. Just remember what P.T. Barnum is alleged to have said about "suckers". And your point (b) is actually a good thing from a social order perspective; if the general population understood how often they are used worse than an underage girl in a Cambodian brothel we would probably have office building in flames and CFOs hanging from lamp posts. I prefer kinder, gentler methods of elimination like letting Lionbridge drown to death in its own red ink.

Miguel is right: cui bono? The ones selling the snake oil of course. Whether it's the MT barkers or "box shifters" with a sharp sales pitch but no added value to justify 100% markups for translation processes, these people must create a climate of fear and uncertainty among freelance translators in order to achieve their objectives.

The reality is that for freelancers with a well-planned business, rates have been stable over the past decade, even adjusted for inflation. This is not a statement restricted to my own business but one based on close observation of competent, experienced colleagues, all of whom could squeeze a lot more blood from the stone if they cared to. The cult and culture of captivity and poverty among translators is really not necessary and reflects more often personal insecurities and habits rather than real market conditions.

Financial Translator said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for commenting. I have only one comment to add to yours. My take on someone complaining about falling prices is: if your prices are falling, then perhaps you are in the wrong niche or an unattractive segment.

Kevin Lossner said...

Miguel, that's a good point about the wrong niche or unattractive segment. I think it's also important to consider that what might be a good segment today might suck in a year or two. It was that way with certain IT segments after the dot-com bust. Before things blew up I was getting several requests a week for interesting software-related projects (many related to DMS), then when many of these firms with recent IPOs and others in the segment hit hard times, the projects dried up. I don't think I saw more than half a dozen requests over a two year period that were able or willing to meet my rate, which was much lower than it is now. Was I hurt? No. Fortunately I had other specialties and just shifted my efforts to those. Thus while a particular group of clients might go through a difficult phase, with risk properly distributed across sectors I don't really notice a problem in my business.