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How do you know that you are an excellent translator?
Thread poster: Dinny

Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 04:35
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Nov 22, 2005

This morning over coffee I was pondering on how difficult it is to establish whether you are an excellent or an average translator, not to mention a mediocre translator, although the latter would probably not be too hard to find out. When clients are never returning, it’s possible you’re just not good enough.

Working alone you hardly ever get valuable feedback on your work, the type you would have if working in an office together with other people. Like the boss coming into your office, slamming your latest translation on your desk and exclaiming: This is junk!

I have been doing translations for 15 years. My clients keep coming back with new jobs, I’m happy about my income, I have enough clients not to worry when some of them don’t have anything for me for weeks in a row. But I never get any feedback. My project managers, none of them Danish, are not able to tell whether my work is well done, but I hardly ever get any remarks when my translations are proofread by other Danes. So I guess I do my job well.

But I would like to be an EXCELLENT translator.
Maybe I am.
But how would I know?

How do YOU know whether you’re excellent or average?

Looking forward to reading your comments.
Dinny


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Daniele Martoglio  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
Polish to Italian
+ ...
try this.. Nov 22, 2005

Dinny wrote:

How do YOU know whether you’re excellent or average?



Did you never opened files with old translation to look for a hint for a new one? HOW WAS YOUR REACTION?
Did you found errors? Did you feel that was not so good transated?

I've the impression that a very good way is to look at our OLD translation. Fresh tranlation sounds super.. But after a certain amount of time you can look at your work with other eyes..

And the effect may be very astonishig..

Daniele


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Excellent question!!! Nov 22, 2005

I have been wondering myself. And like you I do not know the answer. I have days when anything I type into computer is utter rubbish. But I know it. Whereas when I have normal days, there is no way of comparing my work to anybody's else.
I sometimes get a kick out of reading other supposedly good translations and noticing things I would have said differently. I suppose that is as far I will ever get on this subject, unless, of course, I get a horrid report from a proofreader.


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Italian to English
+ ...
How do you know that you are an excellent translator? Nov 22, 2005

Hmm. Great question. The more translating I do, the more I realise just how much there is to learn and the more I have to accept the fact that I will never be able to know all of it.

Translating can be such a personal process (choice of terms, level of faithfulness to the source, etc.) that in the end what determines an "excellent translator" comes down to the client.

All you can do is give of your very best and use all the resources available to you.


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 04:35
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
No way :) Nov 22, 2005

Dinny wrote:
But I would like to be an EXCELLENT translator.


Everyone would like to feel it.

Maybe I am.


No, you are not. Nobody is.


But how would I know?


Why do you want to know? What changes if you know for sure? I mean, really?


How do YOU know whether you’re excellent or average?


Just don't think about it. Do what you do. Translate. In many cases you'll get a feedback, and you don't have to share with the feedback. Just don't be over-confident, that's all. Even if you did a great - a really great! - job.

As one of good friends of mine said, `There are perfect translations, but a perfect translator doesn't exist'. Please think about it. Everyone.

[Edited at 2005-11-22 12:40]


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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 04:35
Italian to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It makes a difference! Nov 22, 2005

[quote]Kirill Semenov wrote:


Why do you want to know? What changes if you know for sure? I mean, really?

[unquote]

Dear Kirill,
It's like wondering whether your husband/wife loves you...
Trust me! You would like to know.


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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:35
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Listening to any form of feedback Nov 22, 2005

Dinny wrote:
How do YOU know whether you’re excellent or average?



1. Studying carefully any comment received from reviewers.

2. Lisening to the occasional feedback from customers (no comments often equals good news). Repeated business is also the most important feedback.

3. Interacting with excellent colleagues, but in general listening to any person with whom I happen to cooperate, whether it is my choice or the customer's request.

4. Looking hard and long, if time allows, at my own output, and keeping awake my own self-criticism.

5. Studying, literally studying other translator's work, in particular if I know they are very good.

6. Customers are eager to pay for my work without complaints about its quality.


From all the above, I think I have a fairly good idea about my capabilities.


bye
Gianfranco



[Edited at 2005-11-22 13:15]


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hecdan
Local time: 22:35
English to Spanish
but you'll never know for sure Nov 22, 2005

[quote]Dinny wrote:

Kirill Semenov wrote:


Why do you want to know? What changes if you know for sure? I mean, really?

[unquote]

Dear Kirill,
It's like wondering whether your husband/wife loves you...
Trust me! You would like to know.



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hecdan
Local time: 22:35
English to Spanish
Kirill, you are a verrrrry clever boy! Nov 22, 2005

Kirill Semenov wrote:

Dinny wrote:
But I would like to be an EXCELLENT translator.


Everyone would like to feel it.

Maybe I am.


No, you are not. Nobody is.


But how would I know?


Why do you want to know? What changes if you know for sure? I mean, really?


How do YOU know whether you’re excellent or average?


Just don't think about it. Do what you do. Translate. In many cases you'll get a feedback, and you don't have to share with the feedback. Just don't be over-confident, that's all. Even if you did a great - a really great! - job.

As one of good friends of mine said, `There are perfect translations, but a perfect translator doesn't exist'. Please think about it. Everyone.

[Edited at 2005-11-22 12:40]


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Subhamay Ray  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:05
English to Bengali
+ ...
I don't need to know... Nov 22, 2005

Sorry, but I'd consider pondering over that question a waste of time. It is not for me to answer that question and the decision just isn't in my hand! Isn't it better to utilize that time in improving my skills? By translating, reading, writing, searching...

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:35
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Fish for feedback - it's important. Nov 22, 2005

One agency I work for is very good at passing on feedback. They ask their clients how satisfied they are and try to find out why or why not.

If the client is satisfied, they tell the translator - and send future jobs from that client to the same translator if possible.

If the client is not happy, then maybe a different translator knows more about the business/industry in question. On one occasion I had read up some technical support material, and the client said the translation looked like their competitor's publicity! We discussed it and changed the tone a bit... There are subtle differences sometimes! That client has come back several times for more.

In many of the texts I translate, clients have their own style, and the translation has to fit in with their image. Some want to appear as the sober experts with decades of experience (lawyers, for instance). Others don't want you to think of yesterday - it's dead and gone, and their products are for tomorrow and next year...

It's hard to define what 'excellence' is. I do my best every time, but I don't know everything. You can't define excellence only by examining your own work. You need contact from outside.

The only way is to try and get through to the end clients somehow. They know as a rule what they are looking for - but I admit is is far easier with English as the target language than with Danish, which many PMs have to take on trust!


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Arturo Delgado  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:35
English to Spanish
An idea Nov 22, 2005

Ask someone you consider a very good or excellent translator (a certified translator you know, a translation teacher you had, etc.) to translate something for you, something that you have already translated (and thought you did fairly well), and compare. Do you like his translation better than yours? Do you think they are very much the same, except for some word choices, maybe? Did you learn a few things after reading his translation? This should give you an idea.
One day, I was asked to translate a legal document. They gave me plenty of time to do it, so I took the opportunity to call one of my translation teachers and I paid him for translating this document. I translated the document too and then compare both translations. I couldn't charge more than what I had to paid my teacher. I did not make a dime for this job, but I obtained an answer to the question you have now. I learned then that even though I was very good, I could have done a little better.


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 19:35
French to English
+ ...
Kirill got it right :-) Nov 22, 2005

Kirill said:
`There are perfect translations, but a perfect translator doesn't exist'.

We are not machines. We are not creating a new product. It is difficult to always reproduce the same quality with different raw materials (field, technical difficulty, personal knowledge, quality of original text, etc.).

Things to take into account: our health/mood, the number of personal issues we are dealing with, time availability.

More points of view on perfection:

"Have no fear of perfection-you'll never reach it."
Salvador Dali 1904-1989, Spanish Painter

"The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
Eugène Delacroix 1798-1863, French Artist


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giogi
Local time: 02:35
well Dinny Nov 22, 2005

Dinny wrote:



But I would like to be an EXCELLENT translator.
Maybe I am.
But how would I know?



Albert Einstein used to say that the important thing is not to stop questioning...I think this is the way to excellence.
Giovanna


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 18:35
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Thanks, Dinny! Nov 22, 2005

That's a good philosophical question... I agree with the fact that it is important to know whether you're doing an excellent job not only to create room for improvement, but also to maintain a certain level of confidence (not conceit!). Besides, wanting to know how good you are — or how loved you are, like you pointed out — is only human nature.

But I believe one can hardly become excellent, period!

As one of our colleagues pointed out, there's always so much more to learn that, even though you're excellent in one area, you'll always have to continue trying to excel in another. For example, I feel pretty comfortable with technology & computer translations due to my technical background, but I cannot say I'm excellent, I'm done studying and learning about the field — that would be a lie... Technology is one of those fast-paced areas that are in constant development, so my last assignment may be considered "excellent", but who knows how difficult the next one will be? Then again, I chose this career because of the challenges, not for the easy life...

Also, I acknowledge the fact that I'm only a fairly good business translator and I'm planning to take some more business classes to improve in that area due to the amount of assignments I've been receiving from my current major clients. I know I'll never reach the "excellent" status — nobody can —, but I'll try to get there anyway — and maybe accomplish a few excellent jobs along the way.

I believe the search for excellence is important, 'cause that's what pushes you a little further in learning more and doing a better job. In this case, I would personally say that the means are more important than the results because the development you're granting yourself is more important than any praise you may get for your final work.


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