How I Survive Being a Facebook Translator

If someone asked me ten or more years ago where did I see myself in 2018, I wouldn’t have a clue what to answer. Back then, I was trying my best to kick-start my freelance career. I surely didn’t even imagine becoming the official Facebook translator for Macedonian. However, here I am, and I want to talk about my experiences.

Being a Facebook translator has lots of benefits. I get to brag to my grandchildren in 2068 and bore them with stories how their grandpa was working for this corporation back in the old days. A corporation which by then is probably controlling the world with Mr. Zuckerberg as the first android President of the World (that would make a really grim sci-fi movie).

How I Survive Being a Facebook Translator

But, it can be really relaxing too, as the deadlines are flexible. As contrary to many other projects I’ve done, here you get almost total freedom. You get to choose the best linguistic solutions yourself. There is none to interrupt your creative process with silly conventions.

I got this gig back in 2017 through the agencies I work with. My daughter was barely 1 year old. They chose me and two other translators. We did tests that were sent by the client, mine had the best score, thus I got admitted as the leading linguist.

Now, I get to choose what happens with every term and every sentence on Facebook. However, since many key terms were translated before me, many of them we had keep. However, we still have total freedom to improve on them or even change them if we find a fitter solution.

It’s for the better, because if I get started on all the bad translations I found leftover from previous translators, I will have to ruing my good karma. Luckily, I’ve improved many weak translations, but there is a ton more that needs improving.

Translation Tools

Usually, I do localization projects such as this one in Trados. It’s the best program out there. It is appropriate for translating apps or websites, but for various other files too. Other frequently used translation aid programs clients ask are MemoQ and Smartling. I’ve worked in a dozen other programs, but they are less frequently requested. But, none of these are used for translating Facebook.

As you may know, Facebook has its own machine translation algorithm, its own platform, and just like Google and Microsoft, Facebook is the leading company in the development of Artificial Intelligence. This includes AI translation as well. You’ve probably noticed all of those automatic translations under Facebook posts. Well, that is the AI at work, trying to learn to be human.

By translating Facebook, we actually feed Facebook’s AI with countless different linguistic variations, phrases, terms and what not. The AI learns, and someday, it will take us out of work. Oh, the irony…

How I Survive Being a Facebook Translator 1
I think our jobs are safe for the next decade

What we do (we as in all the translators working from different languages of the world) is log into our personal Facebook accounts every day, and we get access to a secret Facebook section, where we can do our work. This section is called the Admin Panel.

There, we can see all the tasks posted for the day or for the next days. Through the Admin Panel, we can alter every textual bit and piece on Facebook. All the buttons, tabs, features, apps and everything Facebook is made of is put at disposal to us, the translators. We have 24/7 access to the Admin Panel, which is terrific. That way I can log in every time I’ve noticed a mistranslated word or phrase or an entire sentence, and make the improvement within moments after logging in.

As we do our work, we also have to filter voluntary translations by approving or discarding them. These are contributions or “donated translations” as I like to call them, and are made by the Facebook community. Facebook is constantly adding features, and many sections don’t get their turn to be translated by us. So, contributors have the possibility to contribute, and we have the responsibility to filter stuff before they get approved and made official.

Social Implications

This is the heaviest weight a Facebook translator carries. The social implications our work has are monumental and can be monstrous if not taken seriously.

Facebook is used by billions of people across the world. Can you imagine how much we as translators influence people’s lingo? Moreover, can you imagine the satisfaction I get when I hear people on the street using the terms and phrases they learned on Facebook, which I created or translated? It’s overwhelming.

Until some years ago, Macedonians were not accustomed to using internet-services and websites in their own language. Of course, was not a problem for the those that spoke English. But, for the elder or younger population that was struggling with English, this was a big problem.

As a result, young people’s everyday language was heavily influenced and weighed down by English terms, which they used in transliterated form. Some of these still are used, words such as “like“, “page“, “tab“, “chat“, “submit” and other. The bigger consequence was the loss of Macedonian equivalent words, and creeping in of English or international words, which have destroyed the uniqueness of many languages across the world.

However, thanks to globalization, now people in my country they get to use websites and apps in their native language. Moreover, they have less resistance to the Macedonian terminology used, which we as translators are trying to establish through our work and contribute towards the improvement of our native languages.

This has been my life everyday for the last year and a half. Wake up, enjoy the morning, do my daily Facebook tasks, fiddle with some old translations, get to know new Facebook features beforehand (ha!), and try to have a nice day.

Finally, I want to end this post with a message to all of you: Respect translators, because our work helps you understand the world!

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