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Raise awareness about the better recognition of language professionals

This petition had 33 supporters

Dear Madam,

We are members of the Language Students and Professionals Community (LSPC) Advisory Board, a volunteering language network with a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest. To date, our group has over 1,000 members, both students and seasoned professionals. Over the past few years, we have noticed that specific conditions in the Canadian language industry have deteriorated. Some examples of this observation include the decline of in-house position and internship opportunities, the requirement for language professionals to produce texts in languages aside from their mother tongues, and the constant trend for our clients to adamantly offer non-negotiable rates significantly lower than those a language professional with a university degree actually deserves. We have also noted that quite a few representatives from other industries are unaware of who language professionals are and what they do.

Considering these observations, the LSPC Advisory Board has recognized the need to draw up a petition to ensure that

a)       the role of language professionals will be better recognized by businesses in the private and public sectors, professionals, and individuals; and

b)      the professional realities of language professionals will ultimately be understood.

To that end, we would like to draw your attention to seven requests to encourage improvement in this matter:

1)      Educate the professional community about the reality of language occupations, given that they do not get the full recognition they deserve;

2)      Address job postings requiring language professionals to work in more than one target language;

3)      Target employers who require novice language professionals to have the same level of experience as seasoned professionals;

4)      Require clients who wish to use our linguistic services to comply with reasonable rates;

5)      Address constant position cuts; and

6)      Reinstate the Traduca internship or create similar internship programs.

1. Unfamiliarity with realities of language occupations. Many clients are unaware of who language professionals are and what we do. Furthermore, too many myths surround our occupations. For instance, employers often think that translators work with the spoken word. In fact, interpreters work with the spoken word; translators work with the written word. In addition, the general public’s ability to learn and speak a language leads most clients to underestimate the complexity of the work carried out by copywriters or translators. It is no wonder that clients set tight deadlines. We need the federal government’s support to raise awareness among contractors about our realities: working in the language field requires more skills than people recognize; qualifications to be a translator, an interpreter, a proofreader, or a copywriter are not given to anybody. It is important that the federal government set a precedent; our professions are being discredited because of many abounding myths. They cannot be dispelled if contractors are not willing to learn more about our occupations.

2. Requirement to work in one or many second languages. Some employers have gotten into the unfortunate habit of asking language professionals to master as many second languages as possible aside from their mother tongues. Many job search websites illustrate this reality, especially Jobbank, Monster, Grenier aux emplois, and Isarta. Many employers wrongly believe that multilingual capabilities do not require much effort. The reality is that professionals who work both in their second languages and their mother tongues are extremely rare. On top of that, some employers will require multilingualism for jobs that normally require one language (copywriter, copy editor, proofreader). Worse still, some federal departments or agencies ask language professionals to work in other languages besides their mother tongues—a practice that should be discouraged if quality management for official languages is the government’s priority.

We are asking stakeholders in the private and public sectors to refrain from creating job postings that require perfect mastery of second languages, regardless of the occupation in question. Language professionals are always at their best when they work in their mother tongues; it is impossible to ensure the same quality of work in another language. The solution is as follows: hire additional employees suitably qualified to work in each language (copywriting) or language pair (translation).

3. Unrealistic requirements regarding experience. To save money and avoid hiring additional copy editors and proofreaders, employers often look for seasoned professionals to prepare ready-made texts. Unfortunately, novice students and professionals looking to land their first job are often turned down because “they lack experience.” If recent graduates and emerging professionals cannot gain in-house experience, how are they supposed to know how employers work? Above all, how can they provide themselves with the tools that will give them more confidence? We are asking employers to be more open‑minded and provide the next generation with an opportunity to become excellent professionals.

4. Rate depreciation. This is the most difficult topic for students, novice professionals, and even seasoned professionals to handle. In Canada and across the globe, clients and employers regularly complain about rates being too high. Consequently, clients and employers propose extremely low rates to the point where language professionals are no longer guaranteed a minimum wage. This is unacceptable. We are often required to undergo university courses to carry out our occupations. More importantly, undercharging language professionals does not benefit clients or employers, since language quality in texts often suffers, obligating the contractor to hire a second—and more committed—professional to redo the assignment. It would have been more economical to give the contract to a qualified professional who charged more from the beginning—an example that reveals the importance of prioritizing quality over quantity. We are therefore asking clients, be they small or large businesses, and provincial and federal governments to adhere to reasonable rates. To that effect, they may notably consult statistics issued by national and international language associations.

5. Job cuts. Unfortunately, job cuts have become the norm in the past few years. Language professionals working for federal departments, provincial and territorial ministries, and the private sector are all affected. This situation is deplorable, since the work of language professionals is vital to ensure the highest standard of quality across written communications. Language quality is also adversely affected by automated translation tools, which incidentally bring about further language job losses when used on a large scale. We are therefore asking governing parties to intervene regarding language quality in the public and private domains. It can be done in part by putting an end to job cuts and re-examining the relevance of automated translation tools. We are also asking employers in the private and the broader public sector as well as non-profit organizations to respect their language professionals and understand the importance of their high-quality work.

6. Increasing scarcity of internships. The number of internships has significantly decreased over the past years, especially those that past federal governments used to fund. Chief among them was Traduca, an internship program that catered to Canadian students enrolled in translation programs in post-secondary institutions. Owing to a series of federal budget cuts, that program was discontinued in 2012. Since then, the number of internships in the entire language sector, be they government-funded or otherwise, has declined significantly. Internships are an indispensable training tool and a key to students’ success. Therefore, we are asking the government to either reinstate Traduca or create new internships.

The content in this petition is particularly important for us, not only because implementing our proposals would improve working conditions for all language professionals, but it would also encourage the next generation to receive proper preparation before seasoned professionals retire. We thank you for taking the time to read this petition, and we hope you will support our cause.


The Language Students and Professionals Community Advisory Board

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