Sometimes interpreters hurt themselves in social media.

July 22, 2015 § 9 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

It is impossible to do business in our competitive environment without social media.  We all know the tremendous advantages interpreters have when they complement their service and advertisement with technology, and more specifically, with social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others.

Many colleagues have websites, write blogs, communicate on Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime; a good number of them gain access to list-serves, chat groups, and Facebook professional groups every day.  Most of us do it for the same reasons: To keep up with changes and developments in our profession, advertise our services, clarify a concept, term, or policy, and to develop our network. These are all valid and legitimate reasons to go on line on a daily basis. Unfortunately, in my opinion and that of many others, some interpreters, without even realizing it, are hurting themselves by doing what they are doing.  Let me explain:

The Facebook profile and cover photos.  Some colleagues use their personal Facebook page for their professional business. It has never been a good idea to mix both parts of a person’s life. It diminishes the credibility and reputation of the interpreter by: (1) giving access to potential and established clients to the interpreter’s personal life. This makes the interpreter look careless and provides personal information that a client rarely needs to know: It is difficult to think of a situation where a client benefits from knowing that the interpreter broke up with her significant other, or by being aware of the weekend party where the interpreter drank himself into oblivion. (2) The interpreter looks careless and uninterested in the profession. The client’s first impression is that the interpreter does not care enough about his work to have a dedicated professional Facebook page, or that he is such a bad interpreter that has never even considered the option.

I cannot think of a worse idea than using a sports team logo, a pet’s picture, or a picture of the interpreter with his significant other, or his children as a profile or cover photos for a professional Facebook page.  It projects lack of professionalism to the business. It sends a message that the interpreter is not very well organized, that he constantly mixes personal and professional affairs. Those pictures of your favorite team, beloved dog, or cute children have to go. You can have them in your personal page, provided that you separate it from your business activities. Chat groups, Facebook professional groups should be accessed from your professional page, the one without your team logo, cat or kid.

The advertiser without a website.  If you are going to do business as a professional interpreter, get a website! It is a fundamental element of your image as a professional. Go ahead and spend the money, hire a web designer and a web master. Your image will skyrocket after you go on line, and please… do not chose a “do-it-yourself” website. They look crappy and all those banners show disrespect for your client.

Once you have a professional website, you can go to professional groups and websites to advertise your services. It looks very careless and rests you credibility to advertise a workshop or a personal appearance by simply posting on the chatroom. The correct way to do it is to advertise in the professional group’s wall with a nice add with photos if you wish, but always linking the add to your website where all pertinent information will be available for those interested. By the way, please make sure that your email address for information (and in general for dealing with a client) is a professional address with your professional identity and your domain as part of it. Generic Yahoo, Gmail, and AOL email addresses look dated and unprofessional. Obviously, email addresses that made you laugh when you were in college should have never made it to your professional image. Lose the “partyanimal” “sexmachine” “shoptillyoudrop” email addresses immediately!

The assignment recruiter.  There are few things in life more annoying than a person trying to cover an assignment for her agency or organization by going into a professional discussion group and asking for availability. First of all, the people who register as members of a group of this kind, do it for professional and academic reasons; maybe even for some social purposes as well. These groups were never intended to be a substitute of other dedicated websites where people offer services and recruit individuals.

This practice also reflects very poorly on the person actively doing the recruiting. It projects an image of a somewhat lazy person who does not try the proper channels to cover an assignment, but simply takes the shortcut and dumps the question in the middle of the chat room annoying others, and also proving that the agency or organization she or he represents does not care for quality, all they want to do (as many of their pairs do) is to get “anybody” to send him to the client.  If you don’t want to savage your professional reputation, please stay away from the: “any French interpreter available tomorrow” so unprofessional postings.

The “what does it mean/how do you say” crowd.  All the above practices hurt your professional practice, but the one that inflicts the worst damage, and many times the least noticed by the person doing it, is the ever-growing habit of going online to any and all professional groups to ask basic questions about terminology, vocabulary, and interpreting.  I fully support those who enter the chat groups to ask about a questionable prospective client or about policy and business practices. I believe that this is one of the reasons we have these groups for; the ones that really do not belong, are the questions by many asking for the meaning of a word or term. In my opinion it shows laziness and ignorance.  It is very different to go on line and ask a group for their opinion on the interpretation or context of a term after the person asking the question explains the research process he or she followed, its results, and conclusions.  This is a very enriching exercise that we all can learn from. However, to have a person going to the group and ask: “How do you say such and such in Mexico, or in Peru” is demeaning of the group. That person is not only showing that he did not bother to study and research, he is also showing his professional level, especially when the questions about words are so basic that anybody with true command of the language should know. It also shows the lack of general knowledge that a person has. I have to tell you that these questions are extremely annoying, but they have helped me to compile a list of those who I will never contact for an assignment because of their total lack of knowledge, and more importantly, their absolute disregard for research and study.

Dear colleagues, social media is an invaluable tool for an interpreter when properly used, but it can also be the dagger of your professional seppuku when abused and misused in the fashion described above. I truly encourage you all to get rid of these practices that do nothing but hurt you personally, and damage the profession.  I am aware of the fact that to some of you these examples can look as an exaggeration and nonsense on my part. I assure you that many potential clients think like I do and they are watching everything you post on line. I now invite you to share other practices that go on in social media, and in your opinion, they hurt the interpreter professionally.

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§ 9 Responses to Sometimes interpreters hurt themselves in social media.

  • Paragraph 8 gives free reign to the animal kingdom (savage your reputation).

  • Tony, I always read your posts as I find that most of your thoughts are aligned with my own on many subjects. However, I have a different or alternate opinion of some of your comments here.

    I agree that free website are a no-no because the advertising shows disregard to the website visitor. I always encourage interpreters to create their own website. Not all of them can afford to pay for a web designer, but a simple one-page information page is more than sufficient for the novices and for the person seeking more information on interpreting services. You can create your own website using the free templates provided by the webhost company without ads. The idea is to show your client that you are out there, that you’re not a fly-by-night operation and it shows your commitment to the profession. It also allows you to post your credentials, experience and specialties. I’ve had an individual website since 2004 or so. I have built my own and many clients (agencies and direct) have found me. I paid someone to build my new business website with a lot of help by me because I know exactly what needs to go there. It’s fancier, but ultimately the content in it is my own. So I don’t discourage anyone from creating his or her own website with a little patient.

    Since I administer a professional group on Facebook I can tell you that job postings are welcome by the members, who are mostly independent interpreters, since they may be available on short notice. I do resent a recruiter coming in just to post jobs offers. They are not allowed as members unless they are small interpreter-owned businesses. Mass emails and text messages are more annoying to me than a group job post.

    Questions about terms are always welcome in my group, some may be very obvious to me, but when you read the answers given by the members you realize all the possible answers to what appears to be a dumb question. We have student members, newly certified members, and interpreters from all over the U. S. and abroad, we cannot expect them to know all the answers. Not everyone is Google savvy, and it’s a fun way to participate in these discussions. Interpreters who belong to social media are there to interact with other professionals and share their knowledge. This is what keeps them coming back over and over.

  • elenaruiz2 says:

    Reblogged this on cautivadulce and commented:
    I can do without belonging of any social network. Many litigation attorneys know my good work in the real world.

  • I happen to know a German interpreter who uses social media regularly to slag off her colleagues. I am sorry to say that it does not seem to have harmed her chances of getting work.

  • khaldunqs says:

    Hi, I do not accept to criticize other colleagues, I think that they are aware about their action and image.

  • Hartmut says:

    While agreeing to many of your points, I do see the question “How do you say such and such in Mexico, or in Peru” as appropriate to ask into the the round. An ASL-English interpreter, who often has to interpret into second language, learned as an adult in classrooms and from videotapes, a similar question is valid, taking “deafies” instead of “Peru or Mexico”, The question often asks for vocabulary, morphological, and syntactic tips that are applicable in certain pragmatic situations within the Deaf community or in the interactions between Deaf and Hearing peoples that are nowhere taught in training programs, but only obtained by “living and breathing” within the Deaf community. Many ASL interpreters cannot really do that, for they have their own families and other obligations like as a mother being active in a PTA group.
    When an ASL interpreter ask me for the most appropriate equivalent of an English word or idiom, I insist her to supply me with several contexts and different sentence in which the word appears. The questioner must do some preparatory research into the usages of a given word.

  • […] Dear Colleagues: It is impossible to do business in our competitive environment without social media. We all know the tremendous advantages interpreters have when they complement their servic…  […]

  • Thank you very much for your post. I agree that very often interpreters, as well as professionals from other fields, can hurt their professional reputation by using, or, rather, abusing social media, especially facebook. However, I’m not entirely convinced that a professional facebook page is the option. Facebook, compared to networks such as linkedIn, seems to be the less professional option from the start, and will by definition make it harder for the person to separate private life and work.

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