Translators lumped together in Stern/”Unsichtbare Übersetzer” werden nicht ganz richtig gesehen

Ein Artikel in Stern online berichtet von der Jahrestagung der deutschen Literaturübersetzer, macht aber den Eindruck, alle anderen Übersetzer wären auch so schlecht bezahlt. “Unsichtbarer Beruf” – wenn die Literaturübersetzer unsichtbar sind, wie verhält es sich mit den nicht-literatischen Übersetzer?

Stern online has an article about literary translators – the Verband deutschsprachiger Übersetzer (VdÜ) has just had its annual conference. Its website is useful for information on contracts with publishers and other matters.

I hope readers don’t assume these statements apply to all translators:

Unsichtbarer Beruf kämpft um Anerkennung
Invisible profession fights for recognition

Ein Übersetzer muss derzeit von rund 1.000 Euro im Monat leben.
At present, a translator has to live on about 1,000 euros a month.

[Is that after paying health insurance and something towards a pension? It can’’t be. But of course, they have the possibility of support if they use the Künstlerkrankenkasse.]

“Viele arbeiten deshalb noch nebenher oder bis zu 70 Stunden die Woche. Manche leben einfach auf einem sehr studentischen Niveau weiter”, sagt [eine] Münchner Übersetzerin.

[It’’s OK to live a minimalist life, but perhaps not if it means working 70 hours a week.]

Seit 1988 können junge Menschen in Düsseldorf das professionelle Übersetzen in den Sprachen Englisch, Französisch, Italienisch und Spanisch lernen, rund 200 Studenten seien derzeit eingeschrieben. Der Düsseldorfer Studiengang ist laut Mona Wodsak der einzige Vollstudiengang in Deutschland.

Since 1988, young people in Düsseldorf have been able to study professional translation in English, French, Italian and Spanish; about 200 students are registered. The Düsseldorf course of studies, according to Mona Wodsak, is the only full-time university course in Germany.

[The only course for literary translators. There are courses for non-literary translators at university level in various languages at the universities of Mainz (at Germersheim), Heidelberg and Saarbrücken.]

Ob Übersetzer in Zukunft mehr Anerkennung bekommen, scheint jedoch zumindest fraglich: Der Studiengang Übersetzen an der FH München wurde zum Sommersemester 2004 geschlossen – die Fachhochschule hat dafür kein Geld mehr.

Whether translators will earn more recognition in future is at least doubtful. The translation course at the Fachhochschule (~ polytechnic) in Munich was closed down in the 2004 summer semester – the Fachhochschule has no money left for it.

[But this was a particular course that was still going through teething problems.]

Has this journalist not heard of the Fachhochschule in Cologne? The last paragraph plunges into non-literary translation, and then we want to hear about technology translation courses at Hildesheim and Flensburg. To say nothing of the Fachakademien in Bavaria, five in number, which were supposed to ‘feed’ the Munich Fachhochschule.

On top of all this, the article claims that translators’ names are often obscured by authors’ names – certainly true. But it is illustrated by a photograph of someone half-hidden by the Duden for spelling and style – a photograph presumably taken for a different article.

Meanwhile, things look better in India. An article in the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, ‘Foreign tongue translates into oodles of cash’, recommends learning French and German as a good way to make money.

If languages such as Java and C++ are too complex for you, don’t despair. Just learn French or German. For, translators and foreign language degree and diploma-holders are getting about as heavy pay packets as software engineers today.

With several business process outsourcing (BPO) companies garnering clients from countries such as France, Germany and Japan, demand for both translators and trainers of these languages has grown in recent months. Companies like Oracle even hire translators of Hebrew.

(Thanks to Noel for the last)

LATER NOTE: I see that the Stern article appeared earlier in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (reported by Richard Schneider at the Übersetzerportal).

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