Should employees do translation work when it’s not part of their job description?

In many cases employees with foreign language skills find themselves doing translation or interpreting work even when this is not part of their job description.

This has happened to some of my acquaintances. In one case promotional materials have been translated by an intern from the Ukraine and had to be heavily edited to be appropriate for use in Russia. In another one a junior accountant had to set her duties aside to work on product descriptions, and, not surprisingly, was overwhelmed by the terminology.

Although it seemed to the employers that this was the best way to use resources at hand, was this really the case?

Low quality, demotivation and disruption

Dangers of having your employees perform translation or interpreting tasks that are not part of job description: low quality, demotivation, disruption

Dangers of having your employees perform translation or interpreting tasks that are not part of job description: low quality, demotivation, disruption

Turns out that although new hires do not usually have a say on such additional responsibilities, they do feel that in many cases this is not an ideal use of their time and skills.

At the Ask A Manager blog a job seeker wanted to know if it's acceptable to stop listing foreign language skills since she would like to avoid using them at work. This lead to a lively discussion of translation and interpreting duties some of the poster found themselves having to perform.

Many of them shared the poster’s uneasiness about implementing the foreign skills at work, especially for translation. Some of the reasons they mentioned:

  • lack of proficiency in a foreign language (for monolingual employers or hiring specialists any level of knowledge of a foreign language is “fluent”, which is not the case)
  • disruption of primary work responsibilities
  • lack of ability to provide acceptable quality (technical and linguistic expertise)
  • personal preference (turns out, translation work can cause headache and make your employees miserable; fortunately, there are people who love translating, and they are easy to find)

To find out more, visit the Ask A Manager blog here (comments for the fifth question; while the layout is not very reader-friendly, reading through would be worthwhile).

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Ekaterina Howard, English into Russian and German into Russian translations for business, marketing, real estate

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations

English to Russian and German to Russian translator working with business, marketing and real estate materials. ATA and CATI member.