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Interview with Alejandro Moreno-Ramos (Mox)

Ricard Sierra // 01/06/2012 // The translation profession

If you are a translator you surely must have heard of Mox and laugh with his ironic view of the world of translation, freelancers, agencies and clients. Alejandro, a technical translator, is the author of this hilarious comic strip.

When did you decide to start publishing your strip and why?

It was in 2009, during a short “famine period” in which I was not getting any translation work. I was able to occupy myself during the first two days in a row without work, but by the third one I was desperately trying to distract myself, so I decided to start a blog. Since I had recently switched to full-time translation, my main objective at that moment was to gain some visibility and find new clients.

Back then, there were already several thousand translation blogs, and I thought that a “different” blog would receive more visits. The truth is that I would have never imagined that Mox would become so popular.

By the way, as of today, there are even more translation blogs, but I still think that there is a lack of specialized translation blogs.

How do you get the ideas for Mox and how do you manage to make humor out of a profession which doesn’t seem prone to it?

I find my work as a freelance translator to be surreal, and there is not a single day without some event that could be used for a Mox’s cartoon. Also, about one third of Mox’s cartoons are based on ideas suggested by readers. I appreciate these especially because they are often ideas that I would not have thought about on my own.

Freelance translation can be easily parodied because it is a profession largely unknown by the public and also because there are not entry barriers. As a consequence, in the industry you will find excellent professionals and also kitchen-table amateurs.

Do you think the translation industry needs more humor?

The humor is already there, I only depict it in cartoons. Have you ever received a translation offer for 0.01 USD per source word for a weekend job? Have you ever been asked what do you really do for a living? That’s pure humor, isn’t it?

You recently published Mox’s Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation. Are you working on other Mox’s projects?

The book has been quite a success, and I am already working hard on the second one, due for Christmas and which will be full of surprises.

Mox must have lots and lots of fans, but are you aware of any critics?

None that I can think of. I guess that I must be lucky, given that I have made fun of translators, translation agencies, CAT developers, end clients, translator’s spouses, Native Americans, translation portals, and even translators’ pets, to name a few.

Do you know what translation agencies think of it?

Generally speaking, I have received very positive from agencies, but they all agree in one thing: there should be an additional character, a “nice” Project Manager who has to deal with unskilled and lousy translators. To this, I always answer that it would be just not credible, since there is no such a person as “a nice Project Manager”.

Are all the situations based on your own experience or do you get your inspiration in other people’s lives?

At the beginning they were mostly based on my own experience, but very soon Mox and the rest of the characters became alive and developed their own personality. In fact, I often face the situation where I have a good story to tell but I cannot because the characters would not accept it.

Out of all your comic strips, which is your favorite one?

What a difficult question! Right away I am thinking about the one where Mox tells his girlfriend Lena that he dreams about translating extraterrestrial languages.

What are your references? Who do you follow?

Dilbert is my absolute favorite in the cartoon industry. It helped me not to kill myself when I had an in-house job, with fixed working hours, a suit and tie dress code, and, above all, a boss.


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