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A digital divide has developed, not only between haves and have-nots, but also between knows and know-nots.
“I’m not a technical person”, explains our colleague on the phone. “I use my computer only for some specific tasks, but can’t troubleshoot it to save my life. Can you help me?”
And there we go, remotely advising our colleague on how to untie a software or hardware knot, so to speak--how to install an application, or even how to use it; how to bring back to life a malfunctioning device. An all too familiar situation for many of us, I’m sure!
The problem is, there are often other tasks waiting to be completed, and I may not be available every time that my friend needs me. What will he or she do then? Probably, s/he will have to turn to a paid PC technician who will make her/him wait a lot, then charge her/him a lot of money for a trip to his/her home, and finally “solve” the problem (in the case of a hardware failure) without giving any further explanations, i.e., w/o telling him/her what to do to his/her computer the next time that the same thing happens.
If s/he just opens the phone directory and calls a technician s/he doesn’t know, s/he’s opening the door to trouble: months ago one of those randomly chosen technicians took away my data “for a backup” and then proceded to lose every single bit of it, and with it many years of efforts on my part.
There are of course help files, Web information accessible via search engines, and courses on this and that. But many people learn best when they have someone at their side, sitting in front of their very own computer, rather than by reading or attending a course for which they don’t have the time or energy. And above all, they need help *now*!
The solution is: I’m not the only one with the know-how, and we both belong to a local Translators Association.
Our Association has a Web-based list of its members, including phone and email data; therefore, it would be easy to add another list, this time specifying which of those members are willing to share their technical expertise with other members, on an one-on-one basis, either on the phone, a We-based chat, in person, or in any other form.
There are many of us, especially among technical translators, who’ve been into computers for decades and, as they became more and more necessary to our profession, have specialized accordingly on how to handle a word processing application, convert files among applications, use CATs, etc. Perhaps this sort of specialization could also be reflected in such a list.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our colleague could turn not to a stranger but to a peer, someone with whom s/he has a lot in common and with whom a closer relationship could only be advantageous for both parties.
The exchange could, as many non-contractual exchanges among people, be rewarded as its participants see fit, depending on the circumstances. Maybe a small fee for each advising session on the phone, maybe a higher fee for a visit, or maybe only a nice cup of tea and a slice of pie, and the promise to repay the favor as soon as possible when the occasion arises.
If there is no Translator Association or Guild at your local level, then perhaps another possibility would be for you to start a local translator mailing list of your own by inviting the colleagues of whom you’re aware, or to propose the idea in an already existing one or during the next PowWow. In time, probably many other forms of association will be spawned from such a start.
And don’t fear that all responsibilities will come to rest on your shoulders only; once they’ll see the opportunity, people will take advantage of it, be it as providers and clients for these services, list maintainers, and so on.
You don’t even have to be a “provider” yourself; you just need to come forward and make your voice heard. It’s a really simple idea and it will strengthen and empower your professional and social network in a much, much needed way.