Translation/Interpretation online groups: A superlative failure in judgment?

January 7, 2013 § 6 Comments

Dear colleagues:

In this modern world where we practice our profession we often encounter resources that help us answer a question, confirm a suspicion, ask for a suggestion, share information, and offer a point of view.  Many of us are taking advantage of the web and constantly visit professional websites, blogs, dictionaries, glossaries, professional chat-rooms, list-serves, and many other sites where we can find tools that in the past were difficult to get.  Just like many of you, I have fully taken advantage of these resources and often post articles and opinions on my blog (, offer links on my professional Facebook page (, and provide links to information to those who follow me on Twitter (@rpstranslations).  I also participate in many professional groups and chat-rooms.

I personally find them very useful and interesting. It is fascinating how we can learn from a colleague 14 time zones away by simply writing a comment on a Linked-in professional group.  These practices have helped many of us grow professionally and as business people.  As many of you know, I have posted many times on many groups, chat-rooms, and list-serves that originate all over the world.

My experience has always been positive and useful, however, I have recently come across certain opinions that came very close to limiting the access and usefulness to some of these resources.  There was a translators professional group that was trying to limit postings to one language; an interesting policy for a translators professional group where by definition, those interested should be translators and therefore know at least two languages.  This policy risks losing many participants as a good number of translators feel more comfortable writing in the other language pair instead of the one this group wanted.  This would also limit the reach of the ideas circulated in the group as third-language professionals who otherwise may benefit of a business or good practices posting would now be kept away.  Obviously, this would also discourage many others from participating as the group can be perceived as censoring and controlling what members share just by reason of not using the ONLY language allowed.  Some colleagues defended this position stating that the group is for people who use this specific language, that those who disagree should move on to other groups. I disagree, and fortunately most of those visiting the group agreed with me: This restrictive policy was not adopted. Translators and Interpreters use at least two languages and often use them both.  The failure of this movement made me very happy although I have to say that even though the administrators of this group announced that there would be no censorship, even now this is one of the very few groups on line that still “reviews” your posting before publishing it.

Another even more extreme example of this trend can be found in a different professional group chat-room where the person that moderates it (and obviously runs it) has decided not to include anything that is not strictly about what this person believes is the subject matter of the group.  Let me explain: A few months ago I entered to this group and posted a few articles about the business and ethical aspects of our profession.  Suddenly, all postings (mine and everybody else’s) went away overnight. They were replaced by a notice that this person proudly re-posts several times a week that reads: “Cleaning up discussions on…(the) group.”  It is interesting to note that this group supposedly has 386 members, and after the “clean-up”  all “surviving” postings, going back one year, are by the person who runs and moderates the group; well, there is actually one exception: another person posted the ONLY other posting that survived, and that entry is dated 10 months ago.

I believe that professional groups, chat-rooms, blogs and list-serves should be open to all professionals. Of course there should be a moderator to keep us all focused on a specific topic when posting on a blog (there is another professional group where one of the members constantly posts adds selling shoes, but don’t get me started on that one) and to keep obscenity and useless personal attacks out of the professional discussion; however, limiting access in a linguist group because of the language, and eliminating all relevant entries because they deal with the professional or ethical aspects of our career can result on the demise of said professional groups.  I would like to hear your opinion, particularly that of those who regularly use these cyber-tools.

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§ 6 Responses to Translation/Interpretation online groups: A superlative failure in judgment?

  • JWAlfonso says:

    It’s funny that you bring that up because not long ago I read nagging posts from what seemed to be an extraordinarily hard headed moderator. I followed the back and forth discussion on the issue for a while and quickly got tired of it. I did not quit the group, but I might as well have since I have not bothered to return. Perhaps I should check it out again and see if it is worth staying. Considering that social media is supposed to foster communication in greater diversity, people should feel free to express themselves however they wish within reason. In other words I agree with you.

  • Duangtip Surintatip says:

    We do need a moderator though. In an interpreters’ group there are persistent ads about six aps and fast slim programmes, while another member post an obvious scam about no training needed recruitment. Sound familiar?

  • J. Tomlinson says:

    Thank you for your blog post. I agree with your comments—language should not be restricted and those moderating or censoring the content should be reasonable people who aren’t simply out to publish their own comments and opinions.

    One thing that I would like to see for some of the translation and interpreting groups on Linkedin is someone to monitor and help out with grammar on the posts. I see people saying “hello I am an english-xy translator etc. . . . ” and it bothers me that they don’t capitalize the E in English.

    This might be considered very nit-picky, but aren’t these little things and attention to detail what make good translators? It would be interesting if there could be some constructive criticism and help for people who are making common grammar or punctuation mistakes in different languages.

    The level of professionalism could rise substantially while fostering learning. I am immediately turned off when reading something with glaring punctuation and grammatical errors. I also realize that we all have different styles, even in the same language. What I am thinking about here are standard grammar and punctuation rules.

  • I think I know one of the examples you refer to and I agree with your position. I find it comes down to some professionals having a bee in their bonnets, so to speak, and not being able to see the big picture in the same way the rest of us do. I just leave groups/venues like that and enjoy those I consider to be effective.

  • Steven M says:

    Tony, thanks for the posting. When I first got on the Internet, I had an idea that we would all just get along. My first experience was on Usenet, where I quickly realized that there was a need for “killfiles” (ways to delete all postings from certain authors). I have since started a handful of discussion groups and moderate a couple of them.

    The best moderators have to maintain balance between the free thinkers and speakers, the ones who think they have a “right” to say whatever they like, however they like, and the others who come to a discussion group because they want to be entertained (and don’t want to be offended by poorly written, mispelled, illogical texts, or insulting texts). Both extremes kill groups: totally unmoderated discussion drives away the moderates, and too much control drives away the creative and the thoughtful.

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