Paid vs. Unpaid Translation-Take 1

When young translators look for jobs to improve their practice, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘voluntary work’. A good idea, as it provides real-life practice, something that one is keen to get after a couple of years of learning how to translate.

When I started out as a translator, about 30 years ago, one of my first assignments was voluntary interpreting at a conference of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament held in Bradford, England. We were a small group from the same Paris university. Bradford seemed cold and grim, even in July, but the first evening, we ventured outside in search of a restaurant, only to find what seemed to us a crowd of Pakistani young men hanging out in the streets, just standing, not moving, looking very sad and idle and lonely… so -those were the days- we hurried back into the conference, into the comradeship of (unpaid) workers for a Good Cause. Our working conditions were very amateurish, probably violating every single rule ever devised by our international association, but this was offset by the warm, genial atmosphere.

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