The Disposable Translator

LoyaltyB-uildingBlocks

We live in a disposable world. The Germans, with their unique sense for the picturesque, call it “Wegwerfgesellschaft” – throwaway society. Not only do we throw away most things we buy: they are meant not to last, something manufacturers baptized “planned obsolescence”. We have all had the experience where we wanted to get a broken [insert piece of equipment or device here] fixed, only to learn that replacing it would be much, much cheaper. To the point, of course, where we don’t even bother taking something to the repair shop (are there even still such things?) but drop it in the trash (at best, the recycling bin) and go out to buy new stuff. And it doesn’t stop there. While trends and fads, per definition, come with a limited shelf life, they now seem to pass through with dizzying speed, and we see the rise and fall of today’s Ziggy Stardusts—the Biebers, Lohans, Cyrusses—play out in fast motion, although the combined mass and social media attention can make the fall feel painfully slow.

Buy Buy Baby

It’s not really news that ours is a consumer culture which will collapse if we were to actually stop consuming. And it turns out that generation Y is beginning to counteract this first commandment of capitalism, apparently opting out of buying cars and houses (gasp!). While we might be on a road to change—although past recessions haven’t exactly brought us there, so I am not holding my breath—the habit to use something and discard it when something better (cheaper, cooler, hipper, newer) comes along is deeply engrained in all of us. And when we are not shopping for cell phones, computers, clothes, or celebrities (who now themselves have become the actual commodity rather than their music, movies or lines of perfume), we exhibit the same attitude toward any kind of services that we purchase.

We Have The Option, My Friend [sung to the tune of a famous Queen song]

Even in political discussions—for instance about Obamacare—it seems to always come down to the right of having a “choice”, something that Americans cannot and will not be robbed of. And while we could have a whole other debate on what exactly the determining factors are that put you in a position of having a choice or not in the truly crucial aspects of life, as far as services go, there is a very real risk that by constantly playing the options card, we might loose the kind of quality that only an extended relationship will yield. This is especially true for people-centric services, such as consulting, recruitment, public relations, marketing, and, last but not least, translation services.

Going The Distance

If your organization regularly requires translations from or into English, building a relationship with a language company of your choice will provide benefits on many levels, from pricing and reliability to ease of communication and process. But this kind of partnership goes a step further:  While some may feel there is no difference whether one or another translator of the same language pair works on materials for a specific client, there is a reason that project managers at top of the line translation agencies will make an effort to secure a team of linguists for recurring jobs from the same company or organization. Not that it’s a party—the individual team members will be living way too far apart from each other to enjoy more than the occasional Skype emoticon fest together. They will, however, be familiar with the material, the client glossary and preferences, and, above all, they will be vested in the project and in the relationship. By the same token, it is crucial for them to know that the project manager and the client appreciate their contribution and that they are not just along for the ride until a more convenient (or cheaper) option presents itself. The rules of positive collaboration apply: it is necessary for all involved to be able to trust each other, to work toward a common goal, to communicate openly, to show respect, to foster loyalty.

So as much as we don’t want to be tied down, as much as we want to keep our options open and stay on the cutting edge of things, a lot can be said for planning on long-term relationships rather than on obsolescence. And who knows, if Gen Y gets that message out to manufacturers and music producers as well, we might end up with long-lasting cars and Justin Bieber with a life-spanning career. 

Nanette Gobel

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One thought on “The Disposable Translator

  1. Hi Nanette,

    It is definitely a consumer society we live in – but this is not all over the world. People in other non-poor countries only purchase the things that they need, and they focus a lot on real estate and things that last.

    Generation Y are opting out from cars and houses, not because they want to spend less, but because they want to spend their money on things that do no matter and do not last.

    That’s my opinion anyway!

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