Confession Time: I have been translating for decades, but have never done a single translation “project” and have never “collaborated” with a client.

The reason for this apparent paradox is that my clients order translation, not translation “projects” and they wouldn’t think of using the term “collaboration” to make me feel equal to them or them to me. We are not equal, and neither of us pretends otherwise. They are clients, and I am a vendor selling them end-to-end professional translation. They issue a purchase order and I deliver the ordered translation, accompanied by an invoice for the translation I have sold them.

Countless times I have heard translators say that they collaborate with such-and-such an agency (broker). This is almost always utter nonsense.

The terms project and collaboration are from the world of translation brokering, populated by translation brokers and the freelance translators who are dependent on those brokers. Because the brokers have “project managers,” they might be forgiven to a slight extent for using the term project, but the term collaboration is pure nonsense. Brokers purchase translations from freelancers and resell those translations to their clients. There is no “collaboration” in sight.

It serves no purpose for a translator to buy into and mimic the vocabulary of translation brokers. For translators sensitive to words (and shouldn’t all translators be sensitive to words?), the use of these terms indirectly announces the tier on which a translator is operating in the translation business (or, more to the point, that they are not actually in the translation business), meaning that they are perched on a tier that is receiving fewer and fewer orders for translation lately.

I recommend that translators stop using these two brokerese terms, both among themselves and, perhaps more importantly, when interacting with translation brokers. It is not helpful to admit to admit to brokers and others that you have accepted the broker spin on what you and they do. Translators who successfully move away from brokers will of course not have to worry, because they will no longer hear about translation projects and collaboration.