So you know how I have a second job as a translator, right? I’ve been working as a translator since the age of 14. I have translated for all kinds of organizations and private individuals in a variety of countries. I have translated for Iranians who were secretly buying Ukrainian weapons technology, petroleum companies, artists hoping to promote their work overseas, fellow scholars, video game manufacturers, philosophers, and PR agencies.
The way you get translation orders is as follows: a company (or a governmental entity) makes it known that a translation order is available and a competition is open for translators who want to take part. A translator is given a small portion of text to translate (for free), and the person who did the best translation gets the contract. The process is very straightforward – you send an email expressing interest in the contract, get a file to translate, send it back, get the response. That’s all there is to it.
Today I discovered that the EU is looking for translators in my language pair. As usual, I tried to express interest in working for them (which, I repeat, is always a very simple process) and then I discovered that doing so is more complex and requires more paperwork than applying to grad school, for a green card, or a grant.
There is an elaborate mile-long form you fill out online. Then you print out page 1 of that form and use it as a cover page to your 32-page application form that has to be filled out on paper and submitted in two copies mailed in two different envelopes. The application form should be accompanied by a portfolio printed out on separate, very elaborate and long forms. The questions you are required to answer are extraordinarily condescending and intrusive. The list of documents you need to submit includes a written statement from your banker testifying to you being financially responsible and your bank statements for the past two years. You also are required to describe all of the translations you did in the past two years and state what you were paid for each. Just think about it for a second: they will be the ones to pay you (supposedly), but you are the one who has to disclose your financial history.
Mind you: this is not a job application for an actual job. (I don’t even want to think about what that would entail.) This is simply a way for you to communicate that you are interested in passing a translation test to be put on a list where you one day might be considered for a small, temporary contract, that’s all. This is not a life-changing career option by anybody’s standards.
Now think about it: who will be able to dedicate at least a week of their life to creating this byzantine portfolio, filling out forms, and finding supporting documentation? Will a good translator who has several orders going on be able to sacrifice the time for a vague hope of nothing in particular? Obviously not.
The system is set specifically to weed out productive, talented, high-demand workers and privilege lazy, stupid layabouts with nothing better to do than to fill out forms. And then we are wondering why the EU is in such deep shit right now???