The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wild
Algernon, Act 1.
There are periods in the life of every freelancer that projects are not landing on the inbox as frequently compared with other periods. It seems to be the norm. This week, I am experiencing a mini project drought. Among other emails I received, three were of specific interest. All of these emails were sent by translation agencies I have not collaborated before in the past: the first was for an English-Swedish proofreading project, the second for an English-German translation and the third for an English-German proofreading project.
My language combinations include all the above mentioned languages but I only translate texts from these three languages into my native one (Greek). I explained to my clients the reasons why I had to refuse all three. Although my knowledge of the three source languages is of degree standard, it is a long way to the top if you want to be compared to a native speaker. The fact that this week has been slow does not mean that I need to ignore my principles and work ethics, jeopardize and sacrifice my on-the-making reputation on the alter of income. It could have worked just fine if the target text did not contain serious errors and no one would have known, but still, I might not have shown the fairness and justice all translations deserve.
I guess, there are different paths I could have followed apart from rejecting these projects. Maybe I should have accepted them and then have them outsourced. Would I have then become a temporary translation agent? This is not what I am. Should have I accepted them, diplomatically silencing the fact that I am not a native speaker in any of these languages? It is not in my nature to make profit from lying. I would rather pay for my honesty than make a few pennies by hiding the truth. I am a firm believer of honesty is the best policy. If, after reviewing a project, I realize my skills and terminology do not match the ones required by the source language text, I politely decline the project.
Then, the never ending question popped yet again in my mind: Would these clients contact me again in the future when a Greek project comes in their way? Would they direct it to my inbox? If I judge from myself, I reckon some people, even during this global financial crisis frenzy, do value honesty. These clients may not contact me not because I refused to work on a non-native language text, but because Greek is not a popular language. I do believe in the good side of people, respect will be shown when respect is already showed.
To translators: What would you have done in my shoes? Accepted, outsourced or declined the project?
To translation agencies: Would you prefer to have a project declined by a translator on these grounds or simply have the job done?