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Are we still a translators workplace?
Thread poster: Balasubramaniam L.

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Nov 20, 2006

The reason why this doubt has arisen in my mind is that I am increasingly encountering people from other professions in the forums some of whom openly declare that they are not translators.

Agreed that translation is not a static profession and as translators gain experience they are called upon to do quality control functions such as editing and proof-reading, and some even discover a calling in other related professions like advertising and creative writing.

But when these additional callings become the main activity, these people cease to be translators and become professionals of these professions.

Another set of people are the ones who have never been translators but are professionals of these other professions.

It would be interesting to know the relative numbers of true translators (who are mostly engaged in translation work) and others on this site.

In forums and discussions these people who are not primarily translators bring in viewpoints and ideas, often strongly, that are sometimes at variance and also detrimental to the true interests of the translation profession, at which stage one needs to be slightly concerned.

To what extent should their views prevail over the views of translators?


[Edited at 2006-11-20 07:15]


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:00
Italian to English
Other points of view are not to be feared Nov 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

In forums and discussions these people who are not primarily translators bring in viewpoints and ideas, often strongly, that are sometimes at variance and also detrimental to the true interests of the translation profession, at which stage one needs to be slightly concerned.



Hi Balasubramaniam,

What "true interests of the translation profession" have been threatened on ProZ? Assuming it were possible to identify a set of interests to which all translators - however defined - could subscribe, I fail to see what threat could be posed to them by "viewpoints and ideas".

Even the most professionally pernicious of theses, if expressed in a civil manner and context, deserves to be refuted with equal civility - it's good intellectual exercise - and not censored out of hand (by whom?).



To what extent should their views prevail over the views of translators?



[Edited at 2006-11-20 07:15]


To the extent that they persuade the community.

Was there some specific forum comment recently that provoked this posting?

Cheers,

Giles


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Piotr Wargan  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:00
English to Polish
+ ...
Would be or else Nov 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:



It would be interesting to know the relative numbers of true translators (who are mostly engaged in translation work) and others on this site.



Hello,
Some time ago I proposed a quick poll that has never been published. To put it short: I wanted to ask people whether they are only translating as freelancers for a living or are also part-time employees in companies where they have other duties or maybe they are full-time in-house translators.

It seemed interesting to me...

Have a nice day!
Piotr


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:00
Dutch to English
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Meaning? Nov 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

In forums and discussions these people who are not primarily translators bring in viewpoints and ideas, often strongly, that are sometimes at variance and also detrimental to the true interests of the translation profession, at which stage one needs to be slightly concerned.



[Edited at 2006-11-20 07:15]


Can you back this up with a few concrete examples? It's not very clear what you could be referring to, although you're obviously concerned.

Thanks


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:30
German to English
Specialists from other professions should be welcomed...... Nov 20, 2006

......as long as they also work part-time as translators, or have an interest in translation and interpreting.

I think having specialists from other professions as registered users and active participants of ProZ.com can be very helpful when asking KudoZ questions and in forum discussions concerning their areas of specialisation.


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Jalapeno
Local time: 03:00
English to German
... Nov 20, 2006

Piotr Wargan wrote:

Hello,
Some time ago I proposed a quick poll that has never been published. To put it short: I wanted to ask people whether they are only translating as freelancers for a living or are also part-time employees in companies where they have other duties or maybe they are full-time in-house translators.

It seemed interesting to me...

Have a nice day!
Piotr


There have been similar polls in the past:

http://www.proz.com/?sp=polls&poll_id=1474&action=results&sp_mode=past

http://www.proz.com/?sp=polls&poll_id=892&action=results&sp_mode=past

I only went through the first of 6 pages of polls, you might be able to find others in a similar vein here:

http://www.proz.com/forum/109

I realize these aren't *exactly* what you had in mind, but at least they're related ...




[Edited at 2006-11-20 10:04]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some examples Nov 20, 2006

Dear Giles and Lawyer-Linguist,

I realize that the original post is a bit vague. I do hope that the examples here will clarify things a bit. Thank you for your patience.

Consider an editor's and a translator's perspectives.

An editor looks at a finished translation and is mainly concerned at giving the translated text a look and feel that will be in conformity with the standard usage and writing practices of the target language.

He will be interested in getting a clean copy to work on that is in a fairly good shape to begin with so that he can give it a final shape with minimum changes.

He will define a good translator as a person who can give him such a good copy.

From his point of view, the qualities to look for in a translator will be good, native-like command of the target language.

Now consider the translator. He will get a document in source language, which he must understand first and then render it as closely to the original as possible in the target language. The skills he will require are good knowledge of the source language, and good knowledge of the target language, plus translation skills.

The editor may discount source language skills and translation skills, and over stress target language skills, while a translator may give equal importance to all three.

So there is a difference in perspective between how an editor will look at things and how a translator would.

Of course this is a very simplified example and in most cases, the translator would also be the editor and so the editor's perspective would also contribute to his own perspective.

To sharpen the difference let me take a fictitious example of a translation job from a relatively rare language like Tulu (spoken in hilly areas of Karnataka, India) into English. Let it be taken that it is a near impossibility to get a person with native-like skills in English who also knows Tulu. In such a case if we take the editor's view, the translation cannot be done.

But from a translator's point view it can be. While it may not be possible to get a person with native-like skills in English and also Tulu, it is possible to get a person with a fairly good, but not native-level knowledge of English and Tulu. You can get this person to translate it into English as best as he could, and then get a person with good skills in English to edit it. It can then be sent to the original translator to see that editing has not distorted meaning. This back and forth process can be repeated till a fairly good translation is arrived at.

So essentially we have obtained a good translation without having a translator with good knowledge of the target language, something that the editor would say is impossible. We all know this routinely happens where translators with average skills in the target language, of necessity have to translate into that language, but subsequent stages of the translation process involving a good editor of the target language produce fairly satisfactory translations.

Another example. Of a technical translation this time. An engineer-translator would take the view that only a person like him who has engineering background is qualified to translate engineering material. But we know this is not true; even without specific knowledge of the subject, we can use our knowledge of the meaning of words to understand what is written in the engineering document and translate it in another language. If required it can always be vetted by an engineering expert.

A third example is of a person who is an excellent writer pontificating that good writing skills are mandatory for all translators. But we know that writing and translating are not exactly coterminous activities and each require different frames of mind, skills and temperaments. In fact good writing skills (with concomitant characteristics like vivid imagination, strong moral or ethical points of view, etc.,) can interfere with his producing a good translation for he might intentionally or subconsciously try to bring in his ideas into the translation, especially if the source is in a style that he dislikes or he feels is inferior to his own writing capabilities.

The point I am trying to make is that translation as a profession has its own set of values, requirements, skills and objectives which if left to a person of another profession to define will get defined in a manner that is inimical to the interests of the translation profession.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:00
English to German
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Must be the comment I made in another forum post Nov 20, 2006

I stated that I am originally a copywriter (I studied advertising and marketing more than 20 years ago and have been working in advertising agencies as a senior art director turned copywriter).

Since I moved to the US I am working as a translator - specializing in, guess what, translating advertising copy. How a second university degree or profession makes colleagues "lesser translators" will remain a mystery to me.

Peace.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:00
Italian to English
Don't worry about it Nov 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

Dear Giles and Lawyer-Linguist,

I realize that the original post is a bit vague. I do hope that the examples here will clarify things a bit. Thank you for your patience.



Hi again Balasubramaniam.

I wouldn't worry too much.

In each of your examples, there is nothing that a free market can't sort out.

Outsourcers often make poor choices and are left with a less than optimal translation. The ones that stay in business learn from the experience and make sure it doesn't happen again

Cheers,

Giles


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
More questions Nov 20, 2006

First of all I would also be interested in such a poll. Why did they refuse to put it?
Then I think there is here a missunderstanding regarding the term "real translator". Some aspects:
1. Who would be a real translator: one who only studied languages/ translation education?
Are people with other profesions but with certificates or additional degrees translators too?
2. Are only freelance translators real translators? Are people working translations outside job, or in-house, translators too?
Why is a person who wants to change her working field and become a translator/freelance translator not a real translator?
3. Are proof-editors translators too?
aso.
Regarding this site: it should be visited by people like:
1. looking for a translator (outsourcers)
2. translators
3. editors, autors
4. people who love languages and are learning them and need help
...and all people who are related in a way or another to languages and/or translation field.
But I have the feeling your problem is more related to the profesionality of people coming here and that is another delicate discusion.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I share your sentiment... Nov 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:
In forums and discussions these people who are not primarily translators bring in viewpoints and ideas, often strongly, that are sometimes at variance and also detrimental to the true interests of the translation profession, at which stage one needs to be slightly concerned.


I share your sentiment, in that I would like to know when an opinion given in the forum is given by a translator or a non-translator. I have on occasion read and replied to posts assuming that the person is a translator, only to find out later that I had been wasting my time on what was actually someone's uninformed opinion.

A suggestion therefore would be to indicate what type of member a person is who is posting in the forum -- translator or non-translator, or similar.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's a sad day when 'specialists' start thinking ... Nov 20, 2006

...that their own viewpoint should not be challenged by those working on the fringe of their specialization. And all the more so when those 'other' specialists are the source of one's income.

I have changed my professional activities several times in the 35 or so years since I left school. I first qualified as an engineer (while in full-time employment as a technician), I moved to in-house translation (better paid, believe it or not, at least in the 1970s), from there I moved on to editing and publishing, from there to market research and engineering consultancy in the media business (first in-house, now independent, and still active) - while at the same time getting involved in several other activities (revenue-earning where possible) involving website and database development, amongst others.

So, 25 years ago, I was working 120% full-time as an in-house technical translator.
Today, I'm spending maybe only 5% of my time doing translation per se.

But I fail to see why I shouldn't:

- profit from the vast pool of knowledge available here to help me in my work;
- contribute to this vast pool of knowledge in the hope that it may make professional life more rewarding for those involved in 'language processing' in all its forms.

Now, based on my experience as both a translator and an editor/publisher, I would take issue with you, Balasubramaniam, regarding the examples in your second post.


He (the editor) will define a good translator as a person who can give him such a good copy.


No - at least that's not my experience and certainly not the way I work(ed). As an editor I am concerned to get from the translator a faithful representation of the author's source text. While I might expect a professional translator to deliver a 'clean' translation, that would only be item 2 or 3 on my QA list.


So there is a difference in perspective between how an editor will look at things and how a translator would.


There is of course a 'difference in perspective', but it is not necessarily derived from the considerations you mention. And that difference is, in my view, a valuable component of the business and professional relationship 'twixt editor and translator.


In such a case if we take the editor's view, the translation cannot be done.


I doubt that any self-respecting editor would tak that view - and if (s)he does, then(s)he should not be pretending to be an editor! An editor knows that [a]anything[/a] can be translated, given an appropriate understanding of the practicalities, a feasible timescale, adequate resources - and unlimited resourcefulness.


An engineer-translator would take the view that only a person like him who has engineering background is qualified to translate engineering material. But we know this is not true; even without specific knowledge of the subject, we can use our knowledge of the meaning of words to understand what is written in the engineering document and translate it in another language. If required it can always be vetted by an engineering expert.


As an engineer-translator myself, I don't recognise myself in that first statement. That said, I'd suggest that if you insist on having your technical translation done by a translator without specific knowledge of the subject, than I might be available (at a cost - and it won't be cheap) to vet the result - but it would probably be more efficient and cheaper to have me do the translation in the first place.


The point I am trying to make is that translation as a profession has its own set of values, requirements, skills and objectives which if left to a person of another profession to define will get defined in a manner that is inimical to the interests of the translation profession.


And the best way to express the values of the translation profession is, precisely, by sharing them with people engaged in related activities. And where better than here on Proz.com?*

MediaMatrix

*It goes somewhat against the grain to be seen here 'plugging' Prox.com - but just for once it seems justified...


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Wasting time? - Surely not! Nov 20, 2006

Samuel Murray wrote:

I have on occasion read and replied to posts assuming that the person is a translator, only to find out later that I had been wasting my time on what was actually someone's uninformed opinion.


And how better to inform others about your own profession than by responding to the ill-founded opinions of those on the fringe of this activity who don't share your own values?

Isn't that what dialogue is all about?

MediaMatrix


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
What happened to dialogue? Nov 20, 2006

I find it somewhat ironic that, in a forum thread concerned basically with the perceived contamination of this website by the views of people who are not translators, a post from Samuel Murray supporting Balasubramaniam and two from myself pointing out the benefits of dialogue between inter-dependent professionals, have been squashed.

MediaMatrix


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:00
Member
English to Dutch
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No postings were squashed Nov 20, 2006

mediamatrix wrote:

I find it somewhat ironic that, in a forum thread concerned basically with the perceived contamination of this website by the views of people who are not translators, a post from Samuel Murray supporting Balasubramaniam and two from myself pointing out the benefits of dialogue between inter-dependent professionals, have been squashed.

MediaMatrix


Sorry, Mediamatrix, but could you let me know which postings were 'squashed'?
All postings related to this topic were vetted whenever needed.


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