4 things that are not my job, why, and what I can do instead

December 18, 2018


Every now and then, a customer will get in touch with a request that doesn’t fall within my job description. I don't believe these requests are mean-spirited. They’re probably made because I’m seen as a reliable and knowledgeable professional, which is great.


However, another reason this happens is that people don't understand what translators and interpreters do. This leads them to making requests that put professional translators and interpreters in an awkward place where they have to decline a request and explain themselves.


If I don't explain carefully why I will not take the task on, I run the risk of being labelled as difficult. In reality, when you approach me in my professional capacity with a request I'm not comfortable fulfilling because it is not my job, this isn't a matter of can/can’t do attitude. It is a matter of should/shouldn’t do. If you approach me as a friend, that is a very different situation.


To show you what I mean, here are some examples of requests I have declined in the past, why and what I can do instead.

1. Will you call the Greek Embassy for me?


No, because...

That’s something you can do yourself. Bit harsh, but it's true, right? The Embassy has a website and all the information and contact details can be found in the public domain in both Greek and English. Besides, imagine I call the Embassy for you, then they ask me a question to which I don't have the answer. Plus, I’d have to transfer all the info to you. Sounds like Chinese whispers to me.


What I can do instead

I can interpret during a phone call or face-to-face meeting between you and the Embassy employee. Or I can provide you with certified translations of any documents you have that might need to be presented to the Embassy.




2. Will you fill in my application for tax relief?


No, because...

Even if I may know how to do it, because perhaps I did it for myself, it is impossible to know everyone’s circumstances to do it correctly. Most importantly, I am not a tax advisor, representative or accountant.


What I can do instead

I can provide you with certified translations of any documents you have that need translation in support of your tax relief application.  




3. Will you advise me on the type of documents I need for British Citizenship?


No, because...

Just like above, but most importantly, because I am not an immigration adviser, lawyer or solicitor. Moreover, did you know it is a criminal offence to give immigration advice while not being registered with OISC or a member of an approved professional body, for example, the Law Society?


What I can do instead

I can provide you with certified translations of any documents you have that need translation in support of your British citizenship application.  




4. Will you accept the delivery of our trade show merch at your address and then bring it to the trade show the following morning?


No, because...

Where to start...This request has left me speechless a couple of times. How am I supposed to carry your merch to the venue? What if I lose or damage something on the way? What if I have an accident on the way? 


What I can do instead

I can interpret at your stand or during your presentation at a trade show between you and the trade show visitors or other exhibitors.

And to summarise, all of the above tasks fall under the job description of other professionals: personal assistants, lawyers, solicitors, immigration advisers, accountants.


In addition, just like any other business, I have business insurance which covers me for translation services. Imagine how confused they’d be if I tell them a customer is suing me for filling in their tax relief application wrong. 


But another translator didn’t have a problem filling in my tax relief application for me”. That’s out of my control. Being a translator is an unregulated profession. However, professional bodies, such as CIOL or ITI, have Codes of Conduct who clearly advise against all of the above. If the translator you chose is happy to put themselves and their business at risk, how serious are they about what they do? 


Of course, nobody can guarantee that all translators hold themselves to the same high professional standards. But you as the client should be thinking whether you’re pushing a professional to go against their professional code, standards and sometimes against the law, and for what reason.

Vasiliki is a professional translator and

interpreter working with English and Greek. She runs Greek to Me Translations from Oxford, UK. She is a Member of the CIoL and the ITI and she is registered with the Greek Embassy. She specialises in legal, marketing, and psychometrics. Her mission is to help you reach your goals through the power of words. You can contact her at vp@grtome.com and you can follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.






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