Saturday, December 3, 2011

Terp Bounty Money

I break silence to respond to a Comment. It was made by a New York attorney in connection with my post of November 21, which bore the title 'The Go-Betweens' and which quoted Michael Griffin's book The Broken Road: America's War in Afghanistan. (To find it, enter attorney in the Search box on the right.) He complains:
"This past weekend I reviewed a translation contract for a friend. She is a retired teacher, U.S. citizen, immigrant from Afghanistan, who is a native speaker of Pashto, also speaks Dari and Arabic and holds degrees from Kabul and graduate degrees from 2 U.S. universities which she attended on a Rhodes scholarship. She is an expert teacher and translator. When she sent my comments to Worldwide they terminated her offer and security clearance. They said that having their contracts (which are incredibly one-sided) questioned is unacceptable. It shows their priorities."
Here's my response.

Your friend seems to have fallen on a hard-nosed and perhaps unscrupulous agency. It's not surprising that there are some when you see the money involved. There are internet ads offering up to $300,000 a year (yes, three hundred thousand) plus benefits. Those, however, are some of the most dangerous jobs that exist in Afghanistan and potential applicants are warned that living conditions may be rough. But there are also positions at $100,000 without putting a foot outside the United States. Provided you're a US citizen and have or can get security clearance. For one agency, a Green Card will do instead of citizenship, but the pay will be slightly lower.

A few ads state that translating/interpreting experience is desirable. Most ask only for bilingual fluency plus acquaintance with local culture:
"Must be familiar with the local culture, conduct oneself in accordance with local customs, and deal unobtrusively with the populace,"
And even the citizenship and security requirements are relaxed for telephone interpreting (see References). Alone the US Army offers training (see References).

Most surprising of all, though, is that there are several offers like this one:
"In addition, we do have a referral bonus of $6,000, if you refer a person of interest who will meet with the requirements we have in place."
And the advertiser adds:
"If you think you need brush-up or practice for that matter, I am gladly [sic] to provide my service to you."
So the level of recruits sought ranges generally from Natural Translators to Advanced Native Translators. Perhaps your friend is over-qualified for many of these jobs.

Nevertheless, since competition for the few available American Pashto and Dari translators and interpreters seems so fierce, your friend should look elsewhere and insist on $100,000 a year in comfortable working conditions, and of course with an equitable contract.

I've avoided naming employers, agencies and recruiters; but if you're interested, Google for interpreters pashto or translators dari. And remember that the US military still uses linguist in the sense of translator: see

For Pashto telephone interpreting:

No comments:

Post a Comment