Weird Opinions on Translators and How to Educate the Public

‘Lay people’ tend to have a whole lot of weird, unsubstantiated and simply harmful views on translators. Taken away all wrongful misconceptions (like earning much for not doing anything, etc.) there’s still plenty of myths about translators that you can come across. Those listed below are taken from my own experience: believe it or not, at some point of my career I’ve actually heard (or seen) people making these statements.

1. Translators are female.

Only women can be translators, because they are gifted in languages. Men are too crude and rough to carefully play with words and meanings. And women are much more patient! Even if there is one or two male translators, they did it just to use their natural advantage in the profession and they must be earning much more.How to fight that: if you’re a male translator, advertise that. Be proud of your profession and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re less predestined to work with languages. Perhaps set up a network for male translators?

2. Translators wear glasses.

Translators read and write a lot, so they must all be wearing glasses! Perhaps those of them who don’t are less experienced and educated? Your sight has to deteriorate after that many books!How to fight that: If you don’t wear glasses, publish your photo and write a blog post!

3. Translators don’t talk too much.

They spend most of their time with their books and computers, so they don’t have too much time to talk. In fact, they read even in their free time and try to avoid talking with their closest ones as well. Letters, e-mails, sms – yes, but not a real conversation.How to fight that: If you are a translator and love talking, record some friendly podcasts or presentations and advertise them around.

4. Translators must be at least 40.

Come on, it takes years to get educated, learn languages and get enough experience. Most of translators enter the profession when they are at least 40!How to fight that: If you’re a young translator, tell everyone about your young age and success in the field. Your energy and enthusiasm will count in your favour!

5. Translators wear old-fashioned clothes.

Since translators don’t go out too often, they have no interest in clothes and fashion. They all wear black or grey suits and white, shapeless shirts. That’s all they need when they go out.How to fight that: Don’t be afraid to share your style, publish interesting photos or run a fashion blog if you like it. Also, don’t try to hide your style when meeting clients – professional doesn’t have to be boring!

6. Translators speak many languages and know all words.

Well, if you translate, you do it from many languages into many other. You’re not really a translator if you know just 2 languages.How to fight that: Come up with a witty response, like: you’re not really a doctor if you can do only paediatrics, or you’re not really an artist if you do only sketching.

7. Translators don’t like people.

Translators? They spend most of the time with books and documents because they don’t really like people. For them, words matter much more than human interaction.How to fight that: be active in your professional organisations, meet and network.

8. Translators wanted to be someone else, but it didn’t work out.

Who would like to be just a translator? Translators must have surely tried in other professions and they couldn’t cope, so they just turned into medicine or law specialised translators.How to fight that: if you wanted to be a translator since you were born and learned languages and studied to be a translator, hands up! Show that to others to prove that being a translator is not just a plan B.

What other harmful clichés have you encountered?

Marta Stelmaszak
Illustrated by Juan Manuel Tavella

Marta Stelmaszak is a freelance Polish – English translator and interpreter specialising in media, marketing and IT translations, a member of CIoL ( and ITI ( She also runs a successful blog on business tips for translators: You can find her on Twitter @mstelmaszak, like her Facebook page – Wantwords (, and connect to her on LinkedIn.