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Not that I don't believe that outsourcing can happen in technical writing,
but I think that companies that try it are going to be in for a rude
awakening when they get back manuals that are written in poor or even
unrecognizable English. This is not to say that no one in India and other
countries could do an acceptable job of writing in English. I'm sure that
there are many who could. However, I would imagine that the pool of
competent English-as-a-Second-Language writers is small, and companies in
the U.S. would quickly find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel of
foreign writers looking for someone who even remotely understands English.
In that case, they will definitely get what they pay for.
To illustrate how things get lost in translation, I tried a little
experiment using a free online translation program. I translated a sentence
into Spanish, then I took the results and translated it back into English
using the same program. I don't speak Spanish, so I don't know if the first
translation was very good, but I'm making that assumption. For arguments'
sake, I'm pretending that this might be the level of competence of an
average native-Spanish writer who also happens to speak some English.
- The front panel display shows the printer's operating status
and allows you to change settings as needed to work with your
media and label formats.
TRANSLATED INTO SPANISH
- El despliegue anterior del entrepano muestra la impresora's
que opera la posicion y lo permite cambiar los escenarios
necesitaron como trabajar con sus formatos de medios y etiqueta.
TRANSLATED BACK INTO ENGLISH
- The unfold previous of the entrepano shows the printer's that
operates the position and permits it to change the settings
needed as working with its formats of media and label.
Repeat with me--HUH???
Rather than panicking as English-speaking technical writers and finding new
professions, I think we should concentrate on learning other languages. That
way, if our jobs are outsourced to other countries, we can be available on
the sidelines to help edit the resulting manuals into more standard English
or to translate them from the native language of the original writer. In the
next few years before all of our jobs theoretically disappear, each of us
should be able to learn to be somewhat fluent in something other than
English. If you see lemons on the horizon, start making ice cubes and get
out the sugar!
I was out of the workforce for two years after a layoff, but I always seem
to have optimism and enthusiasm to spare. If only I could bottle the
Technical Writer II
Vernon Hills, IL
TRUE OPTIMISM: Rather than running around yelling, "The sky is falling!" ask
yourself what you can make or do with pieces of fallen sky.
From: Michele Davis [mailto:michele -at- krautgrrl -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 11:48 AM
Subject: This from the NWU
The NWU sent this out:
37 Professions to be Offshored
According to UC Berkeley research, the following 37 professions are at
risk of being offshored. These professions can be telecommuted, which
means these professions are expected to be offshored. If US workers in
these professions manage to survive offshoring, they will face either
lower salaries (due to lower pay for these jobs in Southeast Asia) or
stagnating salaries (i.e., no raises or bonus, ever) for the rest of
their lives in that profession. If you are in these fields, consider
moving into a job that can not be telecommuted. Research paper at The
New Wave of Outsourcing
* Computer and mathematical occupations (including technical writing)
* Paralegals and legal assistants
* Radiological technologists and technicians
* Medical transcriptionists
* Business and finance support
Just a little tidbit to think about everyone. "In the year 3535, ain't
gonna need to tell the truth, ain't gonna need to lie..."
I got out of Babylon, but there was no Zion. No Promised Land.
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