Thriving or Surviving

Motivation, Satisfaction, and Existential Sustainability in the Translation Profession


  • Joseph Lambert Cardiff University
  • Callum Walker University of Leeds



motivation, satisfaction, sustainability, professional translation, translation industry


Despite the health of the language industry in general, the translation profession(al) faces a range of sustainability challenges. Against a backdrop of key disruptors that are transforming workflows and working conditions, and ongoing concerns over status, pay, and wellbeing, industry reports flag an intensifying ‘talent crunch’, making it increasingly difficult to retain vital human capital. And yet, despite a range of rather bleak industry and academic data, many translators are still happy. In this paper, we use Maslow’s influential theory of motivation to draw together key concerns and to analyse this motivation-satisfaction paradox. We identify worrying deficits in all and even the most basic needs and contend that translators’ self-actualisation – in this case, their sense of fulfilment through translation itself – acts as a ‘pull’ factor that can compensate for these unfulfilled needs, to a degree. Ultimately, however, these deficits are clearly taking an increasing toll, and, in the interests of long-term professional conservation, we must focus further on the lived experience of the individual translator to build towards a thriving professional environment.


Bancroft, Marjory A. 2017. The Voice of Compassion: Exploring Trauma-Informed Interpreting. In: Valero-Garcés, Carmen & Rebecca Tipton (eds) Ideology, Ethics and Policy Development in Public Service Interpreting and Translation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 195–215.

Barabé, Donald 2021. Translation Status – A Professional Approach. The Journal of Specialised Translation 36, 165–183.

Carreira, Oliver 2023. Market Concentration in the Language Services Industry and Working Conditions for Translators. Perspectives.

Ciobanu, Dragoș 2022. Rule-based, Statistical and Neural Machine Translation: What Now? In: Directorate-General for Translation (European Parliament) (ed) The Many Faces of Translation: Machine Translation – Driven by Humans, Powered by Technology. European Parliament, 8–36.

CIOL 2020. BEIS Call for Evidence: The Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulation of Professions: October 2020. Available at: [accessed 2 August 2021].

Courtney, Jennifer & Mary Phelan 2019. Translators’ Experiences of Occupational Stress and Job Satisfaction. The International Journal of Translation and Interpreting Research 11:1, 100–113.

Cronin, Michael 2017. Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cukur, Leandra 2023. Towards an Ethical Framework for Evaluating Paid Translation Crowdsourcing and Its Consequences. The Translator.

Dam, Helle V. & Karen Korning Zethsen 2008. Who Said Low Status? A Study on Factors Affecting the Perception of Translator Status. The Journal of Specialised Translation 12, 2–36.

Deckers, Lambert 2018. Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental. New York and London: Routledge.

Diefendorff, James M, Megan E. Kenworthy, Faith C. Lee & Linh K. Nguyen 2022. Work Motivation. In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology [Online].

do Carmo, Félix 2020. ‘Time is Money’ and the Value of Translation. Translation Spaces 9:1, 35–57.

Doherty, Stephen 2016. The Impact of Translation Technologies on the Process and Product of Translation. International Journal of Communication 10, 947–969.

ELIS 2020. European Language Industry Survey 2020: Before and After Covid-19. Report.

ELIS 2023. European Language Industry Survey 2023: Trends, Expectations and Concerns of the European Language Industry. Report.

Elkington, John 1997. Cannibals With Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. Oxford: Capstone.

Fırat, Gökhan 2021. Uberization of Translation: Impacts on Working Conditions. The Journal of Internationalization and Localization 8:1, 48–75.

Gambier, Yves & Ramunė Kasperė 2021. Changing Translation Practices and Moving Boundaries in Translation Studies. Babel 67:1, 36–53.

Herzberg, Frederik 1987 [1967]. One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? Harvard Business Review Reprint 87507.

Hubscher-Davidson, Séverine 2018. Translation and Emotion: A Psychological Perspective. Abingdon: Routledge.

Inbox Translation 2020. Freelance Translator Survey 2020. Available at: [accessed 2 July 2021].

Inbox Translation 2023. Freelance Translator Survey 2023. Available at: [accessed 9 January 2024].

Jiménez-Crespo, Miguel A. 2017. Crowdsourcing and Online Collaborative Translations. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kenrick, Douglas T., Vladas Griskevicius, Steven L. Neuberg, et al. 2010. Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5:3, 292–314.

Koskinen, Kaisa 2010. Agency and Causality: Towards Explaining by Mechanisms in Translation Studies. In: Kinnunen, Tuija & Kaisa Koskinen (eds) Translators’ Agency. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 165–187.

Lambert, Joseph & Callum Walker 2022. Because We’re Worth It: Disentangling Freelance Translation, Status, and Rate-Setting in the United Kingdom. Translation Spaces, 11:2, 277–302.

Maslow, Abraham H. 1943. A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review 50, 370–396.

Maslow, Abraham H. 1954. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.

Maslow, Abraham H. 1967. A Theory of Metamotivation: The Biological Rooting of the Value-Life. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 7:2, 93–199.

McDonough Dolmaya, Julie 2012. Analyzing the Crowdsourcing Model and Its Impact on Public Perceptions of Translation. The Translator 18:2, 167–191.

Moorkens, Joss 2017. Under Pressure: Translation in Times of Austerity. Perspectives 25:3, 464–477.

Moorkens, Joss 2020. “A Tiny Cog in a Large Machine”: Digital Taylorism in the Translation Industry. Translation Spaces 9:1, 12–34.

Moorkens, Joss 2022. Ethics and Machine Translation. In: Kenny, Dorothy (ed) Machine Translation for Everyone: Empowering Users in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Berlin: Language Science Press, 121–140.

Moorkens, Joss & Marta Rocchi 2020. Ethics in the Translation Industry. In: Koskinen, Kaisa & Nike Pokorn (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Ethics. Abingdon: Routledge, 320–337.

Nimdzi 2022. The Nimdzi 100. Available at: [accessed 21 June 2023].

Nimdzi 2023. The Nimdzi 100. Available at: [accessed 21 June 2023].

Nunes Vieira, Lucas 2020. Automation anxiety and translators. Translation Studies 13:1, 1–21.

O’Brien, Sharon & Reinhard Schäler (2010) Next Generation Translation and Localization: Users Are Taking Charge. Presentation at Translating and the Computer 32, London, United Kingdom, 18–19 November 2020. Available at: [accessed 4 August 2023].

Olohan, Maeve 2012. Volunteer Translation and Altruism in the Context of a Nineteenth-Century Scientific Journal. The Translator 18:2, 193–215.

Olohan, Maeve 2014. Why Do You Translate? Motivation to Volunteer and TED Translation. Translation Studies 7:1, 17–33.

Pielmeier, Hélène & Paul O’Mara 2020. The State of the Linguist Supply Chain: Translators and Interpreters in 2020. Report: CSA Research.

Purvis, Ben, Yong Mao & Darren Robinson 2019. Three Pillars of Sustainability: In Search of Conceptual Origins. Sustainability Science 14, 681–695.

Pym, Anthony, François Grin, Claudio Sfreddo, et al. 2012. The Status of the Translation Profession in the European Union. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Robinson, Douglas 2020. Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rodríguez-Castro, Mónica 2015. Conceptual Construct and Empirical Validation of a Multifaceted Instrument for Translator Satisfaction. The International Journal of Translation and Interpreting Research 7:2, 30–50.

Ruokonen, Minna & Jukka Mäkisalo 2018. Middling-status Profession, High-status Work: Finnish Translators’ Status Perceptions in the Light of Their Backgrounds, Working Conditions and Job Satisfaction. Translation & Interpreting 10:1, 1–17.

RWS 2023. Translation Technology Insights 2023. Available at:

Sakamoto, Akiko & Sarah Bawa Mason 2024. In Search of a Fair MTPE Pricing Model: LSPs’ Reflections and the Implications for Translators. Perspectives.

Sandrini, Peter 2022. “It’s the Economy, Stupid”: Discussing the Translator’s Business Against the Background of a Changing Techno-Economic Landscape. Translation Matters 4:2, 49–62.

SFT 2022. Rapport de l’enquête 2022 sur les pratiques professionnelles en traduction. Available at:

Tay, Louis & Ed Diener 2011. Needs and Subjective Well-Being Around the World. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101:2, 354–365.

Walker, Callum & Joseph Lambert (forthcoming) 2024. Show me the money: Bringing pay, rate-setting, and financial sustainability into the translation classroom. In: Ward, Martin, Carlo Eugeni & Callum Walker (eds) Teaching Translation: Contexts, Modes and Technologies. Abingdon: Routledge.






Vertaisarvioidut artikkelit