Although there is no dearth of translation blogs and translation forums, not to mention the publications of national and international translators associations, they do not fulfill the need of the translation community for an environment that not merely allows open and free discussion of the challenges today's translators face on a daily basis, but actually fosters and promotes open and frank discussion. In reality, of course, this should be the raison d'être of our professional organizations; however, from North America to South America, as well as in Europe and Asia, translator organizations are fearful of addressing anything "controversial". In fact, what stands out is a phobia of any mention, for example, of the current economic situation, the terrible, ongoing world recession and how these situations are affecting the translation industry. Even more terrifying to translator organizations, translator online gathering sites and translation blogistas is the idea of airing or even taking a position on issues that have a so-called "political" overtone, namely cases in which translators, both oral and written, are involved in torture, terrorism and immigration. Clearly, one would think that at the top of the list of issues that would be omnipresent in today's translation publications would be the precipitous decline in rates and translator earnings, along with the resulting out-and-out exploitation of translators. Yet, relatively little about our economic plight can be found in current translator-oriented publications.
In the collective mind of our associations and the various organizations which provide an online gathering place for translators, the mere acknowledgement that these issues exist and that these are troubled times for translators appears to constitute a real and present danger to the image they want to project. Indeed, the largest international translation association seems to be comatose from an overdose of image-concern.
If translator associations are running from anything controversial, this is equally true of translator websites, the two biggest of which maintain a vast network of "moderators" or "thought police" who are quick to muzzle anyone who brings up anything that might be considered "controversial" (one translation website specifically states "nothing controversial"). There is also a ban against "inappropriate" language. Curiously enough, there does not seem to be any real consensus among translators on what is "controversial" or on what is "appropriate", and that is exactly what we would expect to find in a free and open forum; but instead, we are nothing but children who must be shielded from the evil and insidious effects of opinions that differ from our own. However, there are fortunately some of us who know that it is only under the threat of censorship or when some "higher power" dictates what is "appropriate" that real problems begin. If we would all stop for a few minutes and really think and think hard about what we do, we would readily see that ours is not merely a diverse profession, but a profession that is diversity cubed. Just the number of languages, language combinations, subjects and sub-subjects should alone provide us with an inkling of that diversity. Then throw cultural context into the mix. The very idea that we should all be expected to think alike on matters dealing with language is truly offensive.
Unlike some blogs, this blog will not be about me. I won't be telling you about how I run my business or giving you advice on how to run yours. Lots of other bloggers are doing that very well. Translation associations and websites provide valuable information on setting up and running a business. They also do a good job with news about dictionaries, terminology, computer technology, etc. What I will be doing is publishing articles that are controversial -- a word that could be translated as "going against accepted ideology" -- because there is a need. As the translation industry has become increasingly complex, translators need more than just news briefs about what is happening. They also need to keep abreast of the myriad of ideas and opinions about our highly diverse profession and industry, the very ideas and opinions that translation newsletters and websites are looking to hide and, in too many instances, to censor.
So, in addition to my blogs, TRANSLATION COMMENTATOR will publish articles by guest bloggers, and I will accept and welcome contributions of articles about all aspects of translator-related issues. It will be my policy to post all sides of the challenging issues that confront translators all over the world because we are all part of a world community. I do not believe that translators need to be "protected" from ideas or to be fed sugar-coated news. I feel very strongly that if we are going to survive, we must all take the time to get involved, to demand a voice in the decisions that determine how we live and work. In order to do that, translators need to be informed. We need to know what is going on in the world and in the translation industry.