stupidthingsI was at a workshop for small business owners, also known as the ideal place for me to network and to find direct clients. As I started talking to the people around me, I met a pastor in need for Spanish translation services for her church. It seemed perfect. [Insert heavenly choir of angels sound effect here.]

Later in the conversation, I learned that these very nice people ran an all-religions-welcome kind of place. They went on explaining how their community was constituted by individuals with varied backgrounds and lifestyles and that they would have sermons appealing to those different religious philosophies. It was really interesting, and in the context of Californian diversity, it made perfect sense. I shared my best notes on pluralism and otherness contrasting with my always handy Mexican perspective. Growing up in Mexico City definitely made me aware of a random array of people, but religious variety was not necessarily that obvious. At least it wasn’t to me.

Anyway, here we are in what feels to be a fruitful gathering until an actual subject matter comes up. They refer to one of the documents they want translated as the “exorcism manual”. I–genuinely appreciative of a quick and good gag–burst out laughing. I’m absolutely amused by the thought of embarking on new areas of expertise when I notice nobody else is laughing. Not even giggling. To recap: I’m in front of a potential client who is describing the kind of content they need me to work on, and I think it’s a joke. And I’m laughing.

There is no other way to recover but to admitting it out loud. With my foot firmly inserted in my mouth, I nervously apologized with an I thought you were kidding, as if it hadn’t been obvious enough. They gracefully moved on and we all went on to our next acquaintance. Although they kindly replied to my follow-up email, I did not indeed receive any such document to translate.

Besides the level of expertise in the matter, is the content ever relevant to getting the gig? Does it matter to you? Please chime in and share if you’ve had any experiences with subject-related dilemmas.

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4 thoughts on “How Not to Get a Translation Job

  • August 23, 2014 at 10:41 pm
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    That was hilarious. I like how after you realized your mistake you kept trying to validate your point of view. That’s determination.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2014 at 9:34 pm
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      I was mortified! All I wanted was to apologize.

      Reply
  • February 10, 2015 at 9:20 pm
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    It wasn’t for a translation, but when working in Venezuela I spent some time working with an engineer. Very capable, widely read, then one day he started telling me about cases of spontaneous human combustion. I had heard about it, and thought to myself: “Is he serious?” Yes, he was. Later he asked what I knew about Kabbalah. As a philosophy I thought was interesting, but not as a literal description of how the world works.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2015 at 8:22 am
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      Thanks for stopping by, Steven! We were probably just caught off guard with these unexpected topics.

      Reply

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