Sunday, November 7, 2010

Globalization and Its Role in Commodification

News Commentary


By Bernie Bierman

Speaking last week in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai (née Bombay), U.S, President Barrack Obama said that “India is a creator of U.S. jobs not a usurper of U.S. jobs”.   The reaction in the U.S. among Obama opponents was predictable, namely that the man is totally divorced from reality and is viewing the world from some academic tower where theories are alive and well…and where theories are not everything, but the only thing.  Among Obama supporters, or rather the ever-dwindling number of supporters, his remarks were received was gasping horror.  His political party, the Democrats, had just taken their worst beating in contemporary times, a beating ascribable for the most part to continued unemployment and outsourcing of jobs to cheap-labor nations.  And one of the nations that is high on – if not at the very top of - the American employment enmity list is India.

Two reasons are given as being behind  Mr. Obama’s comments that “India is a creator of U.S. jobs not a usurper of U.S. jobs” : (1) That the man is totally disconnected from reality and/or (2) he will kiss any derrière that is placed in front of him; indeed, he may be the most compleat kisser of les derrières in the annals of American politics, and an “equal opportunity” one at that.

This commentator would never expect a man like Barrack Obama with his fancy Harvard University education to be acquainted with the experience of a city like North Tonawanda in the northern reaches of New York State, and even less to be acquainted with the North American translation industry or even the western European (and perhaps even central and eastern European) translation industry.  Translation is not something that weighs on the mind of President Obama, even though he does get periodic reports from his military advisors about the chronic shortage of oral and written translators and other assorted linguist-types, a chronic shortage that appears to have some connection to the sexual tastes and proclivities of many military and government linguists.

In the United States, the bête noire of the translation industry is unquestionably India.  China may be a beast, but it doesn’t appear to be a black one.  Ah, but India is something else, a something else that is in a category of its own.  Is the condition called India perception or fact or a little bit of both? Or is it 20 parts perception and 80 parts fact?  Or vice-versa? 

Do we know anything about the Indian translation industry?  It seems to me that we most certainly do, and we know it because one of the key aspects of the Indian translation agency industry has been on open display to us for at least the past decade through translator “watering holes”, i.e., places like ProZ, TranslatorsCafe, TranslationDirectory and a score or perhaps two score more translator blogs, journals and “saloons”. 

I would say that based upon the data I have collected and/or noted from the aforementioned translator “watering holes” and “saloons” that very few, if any, can compete with the Indian translation industry in terms of price.  Not even the Chinese.  India is not the bottom.  India is below the bottom.  Can one even measure one (1) Indian Rupee against one (1) U.S. cent or one (1) Euro cent? Or try two (2) Indian Rupees.  In other words, what is the bottom line for “We have 10,000 words of (language) for translation into (language), and we will pay 2 Rupees per word”(?) 

I cannot speak with any authority – not even simulated authority – on European translation industry economics in an historical context.  But I can speak with some authority about the history of American translation industry economics, and I can say to the readers of this column with all of the authority and certainty I can muster, that the Indian translation industry has pushed North American translation prices not back to the 1960’s.  Not even to the 1950’s.  Indian translation prices of 2010 are perfectly in line with North American translation prices of the 1940’s and 1930’s.

But as Mr. Obama opines,  “India is a creator of U.S. jobs not a usurper of U.S. jobs”.  Perhaps next Mr. Obama will suggest that India has helped to raise income in the North American translation industry to all-time highs.  See what a Harvard University education can do?

* * * * *
 Stay tuned for reportage on the recent ATA "gathering" in Denver.

1 comment: