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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between translation and interpreting?

A translator deals with the written word, taking a text in a foreign language and translating it into their mother tongue. An interpreter deals with the spoken word, translating what a speaker is saying into another language for the benefit of those people present (at a meeting or conference etc.) who do not speak the same language as the speaker.

What is simultaneous translation? Is it interpreting?

It is, but interpretation is not always simultaneous. There are two kinds of interpreting: simultaneous and consecutive. The former is used at conferences and other events. The speakers does not care what the translator is doing, he just speaks as he pleases. Special equipment is used such as a booth and headset for translators, earpieces for listeners. It is a very hard state-of-art job. Translators work in pairs and take over every fifteen to thirty minutes. I have little if any experience in simultaneous interpreting, so I do not offer it. But when I interpret, I can often talk simultaneously with you if you do not talk too fast.

Consecutive translation means that the speaker must wait for the translator to deliver each phrase or sentence to listeners before he goes on speaking. It is the most common type of translation suitable for all other cases. Even if your translator is capable of simultaneous translation, it will hardly be possible when you talk to someone sitting at the table, etc. By default, I provide consecutive interpretation, so you should keep it in mind that you have to stop sometimes to let me translate.

It is very important to let the translator finish and listen to the translation before you start talking rather than say something as soon as the other person (not the translator) finished talking. “When you talk to someone, try to listen to them, not just to yourself.”

How do you count your work hours when you interpret? Do you use a stopwatch?

No, of course not. You simply pay for the time I spent with you (starting from the moment I joined you and to the moment we part), even if I was silent most of the time. Coffee breaks are not taken into account either. Time is money!

There is a minimal order, so even if you need interpretation for 15 minutes, you will have to pay for an hour.

Am I supposed to pay for your dinner when you interpret for me?

Yes. If I have to pay for myself I am not sure I will always be in the black, so I am not interested in having to spend half of my fee for a dinner which I would not bother ordering on my own. If you do not feel like treating me to some food, you will have to put up with my lunch breaks which can take a few hours if I have to go home. In some cases when I am far from home it does not make any sense.

I am not keen on getting free dinners but if I have to eat this should be understandable, and if I cannot eat at home where my wife can cook a cheap meal, I do not have to pay expensive restaurant bills which include tips and service. I promise I am not going to order the most expensive dishes; since I do not eat meat and avoid alcohol, I am basically cheap to feed. All I need is some basic food.

Besides food, you also have to cover all other expenses related to the job. If I have to accompany you to another town you pay all the fares, simply because I would not go there on my own. Ditto about accommodation. Again, I am always practical and not a freeloader, and when I work for you, I usually try to save your money as if it were mine, but if we cannot do without some expenses, it is life, so just accept it.

ˆ150 a day is a lot of money!!! I hear its buying power is equal to $500 in the US! Why do you charge so much?

First of all, very few of my clients have to pay ˆ150 a day. Most of them hire me for a week or longer and are therefore entitled to discounts and end up paying as low as ˆ80 a day. ˆ150 is what you pay if you only hire me for a single day. Each next day is ˆ10 cheaper than the previous one; so if you hire me for a week, the daily rate will average at ˆ120, and two consecutive weeks will allow you to pay as low as just ˆ80 a day! (However, it cannot be less than ˆ80 a day). So, it is not as expensive as it seems, I just have to charge more for short jobs because I am not interested in staying idle between such jobs.

Second, I am a professional, and professional services tend to cost a lot anywhere. How much would you have to pay a good lawyer per day? I bet more than ˆ100 (or $150).

Third, I am able to charge the higher prices is because my service reflects it. It is typical of any business. Check into a cheap hotel with little service, older accomodations, poor location, and you pay little. Check into a Marriott on the beach, with top end service and new rooms, and you pay top dollar.

Fourth, it is not just interpreting that I charge for. In fact, I am your ultimate guide and troubleshooter in addition to being your interpreter. You can rely on me in every respect. So I basically charge for all the various things you might need. Not every interpreter will do it for you, usually you have to hire someone else. For example, I can be your driver, etc, but I do not charge for it extra. You pay for a day and I am at your full disposal, except unreasonable requests (but I will tell you if your request is unreasonable, so do not hesitate to ask me — let me judge).

Fifth, about the buying power… Yep, you can get a haircut for as low as $5 and a pint of beer for a dollar in Ukraine. Some basic things like food or Chinese-made junk are indeed quite cheap here (although if you go to restaurants you will not see much difference in prices). But, and it is a big but, man does not live by bread alone. In case of a freelance interpreter it means that we have to buy and upgrade computers which are imported and cost at least as much and usually higher than in the USA or Europe. For instance, two years ago I bought a second-hand laptop imported from the USA, for $950. When it was new, it cost about $2,000 and I could not afford it. Now it is worth less than $400 and I have to think about a new one. Ditto about cell phones. Other related costs such as the Internet connection and your cell account can be actually more expensive than in the States although of much poorer quality. Would you like to pay $1.20 per megabyte of a GPRS connection (yes, one dollar and twenty cents for one megabyte!), which, by the way, sucks?! Then, transportation. Car prices are similar to those in Western Europe and the USA except for decrepit Soviet cars which you have to fix more often than ride thus having to pay a lot anyway. Gasoline is more expensive than in America: about $1.00 per liter ($3.80 per gallon) now with prices going up nearly every week; and again, it is of far worse quality. You would not fill a tractor with that stuff!! There is so much lead in it that it seems to weigh more than water! Property prices have been steadily soaring — can you imagine that? A square foot in the downtown of Odessa costs about $150. A house in the beach area of Odessa or in Kiev is more expensive than a similar one on the Caribbean Sea coast. Rental prices are not so fast fortunately but again it depends. Well, you can find an apartment for $150 a month but you would not want to live in it. A normal apartment in the uptown costs $350 a month now. A nice western-style apartment downtown can cost at least $600 a month and up to $1,500 and more. Much cheaper than in Manhattan of course but you have to make at least $1,500 a month to afford it. Enough said?

Yes, some things can be really cheap here, but do not judge by the price of beer or a haircut. Things like cars, gasoline, property are actually more expensive while they are far more important in determining the real value of one’s income. Even if beer or barbers are cheaper here you cannot save enough on them to afford a nice car or an apartment. With property prices reaching millions of dollars (and I really mean it) it is just laughable. So, you cannot really expect very low prices in Ukraine.

Some people claim that the average salary in Ukraine is very low. Although official figures indeed put the average salary in Ukraine at about $200 a month or so, this is not a good reference because we have cash economy here and a lot of money flow unaccounted, such as salaries in envelopes, or fees paid directly to physicians and lawyers (especially physicians: in fact, they are not paid any salaries at all, the government has huge arrears in doctors’ salaries but they seem to do well, riding nice cars — obviously, they do not buy them with their unpaid salaries of $150 a month. In January 2007 I had a bad cut on my hand and had to be operated on to restore the movement of one finger. While the operation was not too complicated, I paid $100 directly to the surgeon let alone medicines and bandages). People do not like to declare their income to the state so the official figures are virtually useless. Also, the official figures mainly come from government jobs which are generally low paid. However, officials make a lot of money in bribes alone. The real average income is much higher. Statisticians claim to know absolutely everything, for example how many hookers there are in a certain city, but you know that it is all rubbish, they can only guess. If you turn on your common sense you will realize that people cannot live if their salary is less than their bills. (In the past a lot of people were not paying their bills. Nowadays it is not possible because the government cracked down on debtors. By the way, with the 2006 increase in accommodation bills it has become even worse). The average monthly survival amount is about $300, which proves the $200 figure to be nonsensical. $200 is what a person needs to spend for food alone every month.

It is true that there are people in Ukraine whose salary is ridiculously low, but in fact, some people here often work for no payment at all. It is not easy to comprehend, but it happens. Have you read news about backlogs in salaries dating many months back? Can you imagine going to work six months after you got your last salary? Yet it happened. People borrow money, they don’t pay their bills, they don’t go to the dentist when they should (and just have bad teeth extracted instead of fixed), they save on basic things like food… Basically, $200 a month is way below the poverty line nowadays. I have been through that too when I had a $200 a month job 7 years ago. Not a pleasant experience, even though $200 had far more buying power back then. I know some people who earn something like this now. All they can afford is some food (just to fill your stomach) and bills. They basically survive. It is horrible to watch, but I guess they are OK with because if they were not, they would do something to change it. But old habits die hard, we were all taught in the Soviet Union that being rich is bad, everyone must be poor. I do not believe I must follow this pattern.

So the average official salary is a very misleading reference, and it is not correct to compare $150 in Ukraine to $500 in America. $150 is $150. It is just than you can get more for the same amount of money in some places if you shop. But this is true for America as well.

Now you have to realize that ˆ150 a day is charged not just for interpretation. I always have to follow my client, and unlike them I am not on vacation — I have to be intent, concentrated and careful. It is tiresome. Usually I get home late (after 9 p.m.). It is very hard to sustain this work for longer than 15 days in succession, and when I work this way I am not able to do other work. I have to take good care of my clients making sure they are all right in all respects, and I have to give up all other jobs I may have such as written translation. If I am often able to make ˆ100 and higher a day without leaving home why bother for smaller money?

If you can provide me with clients 5 days a week, no gaps except for weekends, perhaps I could charge less. (In fact, I do charge ˆ80 a day for jobs which last 15 days alnd longer in succession). In real life it varies a lot and there are always some failures. For example in July, 2005 I was basically loafing despite the high season because I was on vacation the first part of the month and told everyone about it, and since I was booked from the 20th by one of my clients, I also told so everybody who asked if I was available. Now this guy says his plans changed, he cannot come this time, and I am left in a limbo, the month is virtually lost…

But even if I had this miraculous opportunity to ensure a job every day, I am not sure I would really like it… Well how to explain… Yes, I would love to have stable work and income, I do need more work and money but every day is too hard, believe me. When I work with somebody I often do not have time for anything but work because it usually takes all day long, I get home too late (because people who come here to have a good time usually do — they go to restaurants, night clubs, events). It takes days to make up for the gaps and recover because it is really tiring to follow a person all day long, translate everything he says, not to be distracted and not to think about your stuff, travel where the clients travels, all day long. Even though we are in the same boat, there is a huge difference: he is on vacation having a good time doing what he pleases, and I am at work doing what he wants me to, no possibility to relax. I do not want to claim it is like a nurse job but similar (to have an idea what it is like), and it is in no way a 5 days a week 8 hours a day standard job. Sometimes I work for ten days running and then it takes me as long to just catch up with what I normally do when I am not so busy, and the first two days I just sleep and do nothing.

The problem is I do not work at home or in a fixed office, and the hours vary a lot. The work of a freelance interpreter is way different from that of an office worker who spends eight fixed hours in an office and gets home by 6 p.m. If I could interpret without leaving my desk I might be able to charge less. What some people do not understand is that on the surface, yes one does make more than the normal person on a per hour basis… but, it is not always steady work. The self-employed mantra is always ‘Feast or Famine’. When work is found, there's much to do and plenty of money rolling in, but when work is hard to find one hopes to have budgeted wisely to get them through the lean times. The higher price reflects what the market will bear and also the specialty service that I provide for your clients.

Your fees are more than double what I have been paying for translator services… and I have been to the Ukraine numerous times and to many different areas!

I am aware that my fees are higher than what most ‘dating’ interpreters would charge. However, there is an explanation. I am a professional while most of the interpreters in the dating business are not. They are hired by dating agencies who want to make the most of it, and even if the interpreters are freelancers, they do not need to be pros. Interpreting for dating is easy, clients are not demanding, responsibility is low if any. Plus, the majority of clients are cheap and do not understand the difference between someone who just knows some English and a professional interpreter, so their only criterion is price.

I could not survive if I only relied on dating. This is only part of my work. I am often involved in large translation projects for different companies when mistakes and bad English are not an option at all, and you have to be an expert in technical fields. Many of the interpreters that I have seen in the dating business are not even worth $1 an hour in my opinion, and they do not even try their hand in high-profile translation because they know that it will be a disaster.

However, when it comes to professionals, all good interpreters I know of charge about as much as I do and oftentimes more. I just do not think I should have special rates for this kind of job. This probably makes sense but many years ago I decided that I should charge everyone the same regardless of the nature of the job and who the client was, and I still basically stick to this principle wherever I work and whatever I do. This is probably silly because some clients are poor/cheap, while others simply do not care how much I charge, but I believe it is fair.

Now, if we look at the real figures, you will see that most interpreters in Odessa at the moment charge $20 while I charge ˆ25. But, and it is a big but, I only charge ˆ25 for a couple of hours. If you want me for a whole day, you will be paying less than that already, and if you hire me for at least a week, I may end up getting as much as those ‘cheap’ interpreters: just see how many hours I will actually work total. The bottom line is you only pay much for short jobs.

At that you should realize that dating agency interpreters are mainly college girls who know some English and don’t mind some additional income for cosmetics while their parents or husbands take care of all of their needs. If they made a living by interpreting I guess they would charge more.

Also, when you hire me you can also save a lot of money because as your aide I will aim at that. In fact, I am interested in saving your money because it means that you will be able to spend more on my services and will be eventually happy with me and would use me again and/or recommend to others. Although you are supposed to cover my costs, I will do my best to minimize them; for example, I do not demand a separate apartment if I travel with you and can either sleep on a couch in the living room if you rent a one-bedroom apartment or even in my car if you want to stay on your own. I will not demand that you pay for my dinners except when we are together, and even then I will only order the cheapest food. I am an experienced traveler and know how to travel cheap, and I am not going to use the opportunity to have a good time at your expense and will do the same as when I travel alone. I do not promise you miracles and do not guarantee anything but you should know that I will try to save your money when I can.

I can give an example. I had this client who was by no means cheap but kind of laidback and did not plan anything, just did what was actual for the moment. I met him in Kiev and took to a small town where he stayed for a week and the agency took good care of him, and he let me go. By good care I mean, for example, a ridiculously expensive apartment that was at least three times what it would cost normally, and I could have found something 1/4 of the rate (I also stayed one night in that town and paid 1/7). Note that this was not a nice apartment you would expect for this kind of money, and Internet connection was another $5 a day while in Odessa my landlady can provide it for no additional charge. However, real fun was yet to happen when he arrived in Odessa and was charged UAH300.00 for a cab ride from the bus station to the train station while it is normally 1/10 of it, that is about 30. At the end of the day I feel he spent more money on his own than he would have spent had I been around not to mention all the time wasted and trouble. Some people really like it the hard way. Of course, this is up to them and I do not blame anyone but the bottom line is: I am not that expensive at the end of the day.

I had an interpreter who asked me to repeat all the time. Are you going to bother me too?

An interpreter who never asks you to repeat something is either a very good interpreter or a very bad one. The danger is that an impostor interpreter will say something which is not necessarily what you said, just to keep the ball rolling, and nobody will notice it. On the other hand, if your interpreter is not quite familiar with the subject of your conversation, he will have to ask you for clarification from time to time. But in fact, even when two people talk in the same language, they sometimes say ‘Pardon?’… So if an interpreter does this, it is a good sign: he is trying to do his best.

Can you recommend an interpreter in another town? I assume you cannot interpret outside of Odessa…

I can in both cases. Yes, I know some interpreters in other towns, but most important is I can work anywhere you need. My rate is the same wherever you want me to work,and note that you do not have to pay my fares when I travel to meet you plus I take care of my accommodation so there is really no difference if I live where you need me or not. Consider me a local anywhere in Ukraine. Your only costs might be dinners that I have with you but it is up to you and fares if I travel together with you (but this does not have anything to do with my location). Of course, if you are generous and cover my meals and accommodation I will appreciate it a lot. This is what most of my clients do. But if you are cheap I am OK with that too and can handle that. Or, if I cannot, I will tell you upfront and we will work out a solution.

Also, do not worry about taking me away from my family and breaking my schedule: I am a freelancer and this is the essence of my work, nothing extraordinary. It is my way of life and I am happy with that as well as my wife (as long as it is profitable of course). I spend a lot of time with her anyway because I work from home.

I would rather hire a cute young female interpreter to impress my would-be client… / I prefer female interpreters

Are you sure she will be able to help you impress him with your offer? Isn’t it better to get an experienced translator who understands something about engineering and business?

Also, you need to be aware that a cute young professional interpreter is an oxymoron actually. Most of so-called interpreters are just students who look for part time jobs, and they are far from being professional. As a result, the quality of translation is low. I have seen them to translate ‘construction’ as ‘design’ or ‘structure’ rather than ‘building’, ‘miss you’ as ‘bored with you’ etc.

If you are on a romantic trip, a female interpreter is not something you really want either. First, most ladies will feel uncomfortable if there is any competition (and when there are two women and one man it is competition), especially if your interpreter is young and pretty (“a beautiful woman delights a man, an ugly one delights a woman”). You do not want to put them through this, at least if you are serious in finding a wife. Second, when your employee is female and you are trying to be a gentleman, it is not always easy to be the boss. After all, did you come over to court an interpreter or have them help you court someone else? Please think about your intentions and what interpreter suits them better. I am sure that a female interpreter has more shortcomings in this view. Even if she is young and cute.

Another problem is dating agencies often impose their interpreters on the clients claiming that their women are more comfortable with female interpreters or interpreters they know personally (and, for some reason, female anyway). You may accept it but I do not believe you should buy it. First of all, you should be aware that it is a classic scheme of scamming foreigners when two girls ‘work together’ as a duo of pro-daters, one posing as a marriage-minded girl looking for a husband and the other as her interpreter. If the client has his own interpreter they may not be interested at all. Next, even if the girls are sincere…If you hire me we men can understand each other and I can tell you much more than a woman will. I can tell if the girl you are dating is really interested in you or is a professional dater who is using you to have a good time.

Personally, I believe that the one who pays orders the music, so you have the right to choose what interpreter to have rather than succumb to the one an agency would be trying to thrust upon you.

But of course, you choose. Frankly speaking, there are both advantages and disadvantages of interpreters of both sex. You can choose what matters to you more. Actually, if there is a professional involved, their sex does not matter at all. But you have most likely come to his web site for some reason. It could be my former client who gave you the link (this is how most of my clients find me). And here I am capable of helping you professionally at the highest level possible, so why look further just based on my sex? I believe it is not me who you are after but someone else? Then let’s focus on them. Consider me neuter :)

Or, if you like, I can take my wife with you, she is really cute :)

I am meeting someone who speaks English…

This is great; but do not forget that I am much more than just interpreter. If you come to Ukraine, I am your ultimate guide and troubleshooter in addition to being your interpreter. You can rely on me in every respect. You may need many more things besides interpreting, and you can be sure that I will always be there to help you out. Even if you are meeting someone who speaks English it is best if you have your personal aide with you.

For example, because you can be sure you are not going to be scammed or attacked (provided that you listen to me). If you are on a romantic tour, you have to be careful as you will attract scammers. If the girl you are going to meet claims to speak good English and says you can do without interpreting, this is good but on the other hand, watch your back. I have seen such cases when the man was taken for a ride, literally: the professional dater works together with a dishonest taxi driver who charges the unsuspecting foreigner ridiculous money and he has to stump out. Had I been with him I would confront the driver because I know local rates and can tell a scam but when you are on your own in a strange country where you do not know the language, do not know how to call the police and cannot be sure that they will help you and will not stand by the scammers who might be giving them a cut, it is not easy to defend yourself on your own. But would you love paying $150 for a ride across the town while it can be $20 at best? This is what you call a rip-off and what actually happened to my client who went on a date with a scammer who spoke English and wanted to get rid of me. He should not have bought it, but he ended up making them rich. Don’t let it happen to you — hire me and I will save you more than you pay me. What’s more, most scammers would not even try their hand at you if I am always by your side because they will see that it is a total waste of time. Unlike you, I am a local citizen and can call the police or report the scammers to the respective bodies. So if she insists on having no interpreter on the first date, see if you can smell a rat. It is OK to do on your own from a certain point but the first date is not the case.

On a lighter side, it is a long-standing observation that people who think that they can speak English can only talk about simple things and are lost when it comes to something serious. So if you are going to have a good time it is OK, but if you are going to discuss business proposals or talk about possible marriage it is best to have a professional even though your partner knows some words in English. It is details that matter.

Finally, many people who speak some English in fact do not understand many words and just pretend to. It easy to nod.

The girl I am meeting has her own interpreter…

Make sure you are not going to get scammed. See if having her own interpreter is more important for her than meeting you. If it is, then forget about her as it is obvious that she is a pro-dater working together with an interpreter (a taxi driver outlined above might be around as well). If she is a genuine woman interested in finding a husband, she would be more concerned if you are a possible match for her than if she can bring her interpreter.

Many scammers claim they are scared to go out alone in a company of strange men. This is a common pretext but it is far from being reasonable as dates usually take place in crowded places, and if we men are really bad we certainly are not going to be put off by another girl. Don’t buy this rubbish, the interpreter is not a male guard and does not add much to the girl’s safety.

Actually, in most cases like this it is very simple: you pay the interepreter $15, she gets $5 and gives the agency $5, and the last $5 goes to the girl. Are you happy dating someone who does it for money? Perhaps it is easier to find a hooker, at least this would be sincere and fair.

At any event, the one who pays orders the music and you have the right to choose which interpreter to have.

However, most agencies try to impose their interpreters on you. To avoid that, use agencies where you can buy the girl’s direct contact information or simply use free online dating agencies. Finally, I can assist you in locating the girl of your dreams for a small fee (and you will not have to use me as the translator/interpreter as long as you have paid me my location/introduction fee).

What about correspondence and other translation?

It is also possible to translate letters, documents (without certifying them though) and other texts. Please read the details in my other web site: RussianTranslator.IgorKalinin.Com.

Can you arrange accommodation and transportation? Can you introduce me to nice ladies? What else can you do for me?

I can do that all: book a flat, provide a car, etc. It is my job, you have come to the right place — don’t get misled by the word Interpreter, I am more than that. Basically, I can do anything you may want here. Just ask. I am flexible and while I call myself interpreter, interpreting takes probably half of my work time. Check out the list of my services and you will see what I can do besides translation.

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