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Off topic: how do you explain to your friend what the translation is about?
Thread poster: Veronika Hansova

Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 11:26
Member (2006)
English to Czech
+ ...
Sep 12, 2007

Dear ProZians,

Many of my friends think that translating is so easy that they can do it as well. This attitude just drives me crazy!!!!! And I am sure you all have this experience.
I keep explaining that ordinary knowledge of a foreign language is certainly not enough! Some of them believe - usual case - that working half a year as an au-pair somewhere abroad simply qualifies them to become a good translator...

When I try to explain to them all the requirements of the business (certificates, experience, feeling for both languages, willingness to learn new things and continuous study etc. etc. etc.), they either think I am over-exeggerating or that I am simply showing off.

However, this can be easily explained to a stranger but what if it is a good friend of yours?
Currently a friend of mine asked me to get a test translation for her in her languages so that she could try it. She has got PhD in chemistry (in her native language) and she shows certain interest in Spanish. As far as I know, she spent 6 months studying at a Spanish university and since then she has not spoken a word in Spanish (this was 4 years ago). She does not know any principles of translations, does not know the theory, nothing.
Since I was not able to persuade her of my opinion (I admit I was very polite and perhaps not as frank as I should have been), I asked one of my Spanish colleagues to select short test translations and do the proof-reading.

I have not got the results yet, but I am pretty sure, she could not pass these tests. But what if this will not be the proper proof for her? How would you explain to your good friend that our profession is not any kind of moonlighting or somewhat minor job? Do you have any convincing evidence, eternal truths, whatever that could be used here without losing the friends?

I would be grateful for any advice...

Veronika


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:26
German to English
+ ...
One possibility Sep 12, 2007

I have an article on what it takes to be a translator on my website, entitled "Beware of the translator".
http://www.dewsbery.de/translator.html
The other "Beware" articles may be interesting, too.

You could also look at the websites of various professional associations in the languages that your friend understands - you will probably find articles or even books that are far more systematic and thorough than my attempts.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:26
English to Spanish
+ ...
Let them try it Sep 12, 2007

As soon as they get bogged down in the first sentence they will start to realize how hard it is to do. That's all it will take, the first sentence.

Otherwise it's not worth losing friends. Who cares whether they understand what you do or not?


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Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:26
Member (2007)
English to Italian
One of my best friend Sep 12, 2007

just phoned me up asking me to translate a 38 pages/8000 words manual he just can't find in italian. Of course for free (but he offered me a meal @ his house). How can I refuse such a great offer?

[Edited at 2007-09-12 16:04]

[Edited at 2007-09-12 16:05]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't sweat it Sep 12, 2007

The proverb, “DON'T JUDGE A MAN UNTIL YOU HAVE WALKED A MILE IN HIS BOOTS” came to mind as I was reading your post Veronika. I think it’s universal human nature to judge others. (In this case, your friend judging your work to be easy or something nearly anyone could do). It's a fact that if someone hasn't lived a certain experience they're going to have a harder time truly understanding someone who has lived it.

I agree with Henry. Let your friend try the test, see how difficult it really is and she’ll have gained a greater understanding of what your life and work are like. If she persists in thinking your job is a breeze and it annoys you, I’d find someone else to talk about my work with and talk about other things with her.


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Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 11:26
Member (2006)
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I do care... Sep 12, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

As soon as they get bogged down in the first sentence they will start to realize how hard it is to do. That's all it will take, the first sentence.


I like this and I am actually thinking about it. She has already asked me for help in getting the first job. Well, I will not certainly lay my goodwill on the line so that I would recommend her to any of my clients. Not that I would not like to help her. I only believe she is able to get an excellent reputation in other fields (let's say the chemistry, for instance, in which he got her PhD).
But I might show her some sources and - as you said very aptly - I think she gets stuck sooner or later.
The other problem is that the quality (as it was may a times mentioned) does not often mean much and some clients may not even noticed the translation is screwed up. I only hope she sill realize it soon before she gets into serious trouble.

Henry Hinds wrote:
Otherwise it's not worth losing friends. Who cares whether they understand what you do or not?


I do. I feel like an idiot and I keep defending my work. Some of the friends think that I am earning a lot of money for nothing - sort of an envy. That I can take holiday whenever I want. Some of them even wonder that I have some working hours!... A nurse of the local doctor asked me about my profession. And when I said that I am a freelancer, she said: "Well, at least your husband has some fixed job!"


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Italian to English
+ ...
Someone on this site... Sep 12, 2007

(I think it was Angela Arnone, but I may be wrong) once said that we should tell people we own a small translation business, not that we are freelance translators. Well, it's essentially true!

[Edited at 2007-09-12 17:51]


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
guilty as charged, milud Sep 12, 2007

Yeah, I just started to tell people I have a "Linguistic Communications and Logistics Studio". generally shuts most folks up nicely, but if they insist, I embroider further with lots of technical jargon about CAT tools, spellchecking, websearching, invoicing, customer satisfaction.

The nearest analogies that come to mind are that I can knock up a mean chilli con carne, but I won't be opening a Tex-Mex takeaway anytime soon. I also hem jeans and make curtains, but I'm not calling Giorgio Armani to ask if he can pass on my name to his clients ... over the top I suppose, as examples, but respect is respect.

On the other hand, some people will just never understand, and life's too short.

As far as business is concerned, I don't pass on names anymore, unless I am 300% sure of what the quality is. Been bitten too many times. If the friend is a real friend, they will understand. If not, as I said, life is too short ...

Angela


Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

(I think it was Angela Arnone, but I may be wrong) once said that we should tell people we are the director of a small translation business, not that we are freelance translators. Well, it's esssentially true!


[Edited at 2007-09-12 17:11]


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 12:26
Member
English to Latvian
you are right Sep 12, 2007

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

(I think it was Angela Arnone, but I may be wrong) once said that we should tell people we are the director of a small translation business, not that we are freelance translators. Well, it's esssentially true!


...because I am getting tired of explaining people that my job is at least as hard as theirs, yet most of them do not perceive my job seriously (especially when it comes to banking issues and loans) or when they think I can visit them whenever I want and they can do the same. It freaks me out sometimes!

Cheers, Evija


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:26
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Simple test Sep 12, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

As soon as they get bogged down in the first sentence they will start to realize how hard it is to do. That's all it will take, the first sentence.

Otherwise it's not worth losing friends. Who cares whether they understand what you do or not?


Not an answer to your specific problem, but my litmus test for my friends - they all speak English, of course - is asking them to explain the difference between deleting, erasing and removing in Windows.

Regards,
Gerard


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NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:26
French to English
The answer is in the question! Sep 12, 2007

You tell them what your translation is about i.e. you are medical, legal, government, modern french literature translator etc.. Sounds a bit better than just "translator" and specialist knowledge and skills are now 80 % of translation. After all who says that they are just a manager.

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Lucyna Wiatr  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:26
Member (2008)
German to Polish
+ ...
my friends always ask the same question Sep 12, 2007

I have a similar problem with my friends and even with members of my family. I do translations in technical area - mostly - but they always ask me: you are not a sworn translator, why? They don't even know what it means, it's just, that's the term they are familiar with. I did try to answer this question many times, but it's no use, they ask it again and again. Sometimes it does drive me crazy, but I can't change it
And of course they always mention the cousin, who studied in Germany for 6 months and can also translate everything and she's even better, because she also learned something (marketing for example) else (not only a language).

[Zmieniono 2007-09-12 18:30]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 04:26
English to Russian
+ ...
I don't understand... or Birds of the feather Sep 12, 2007

Why do you guys keep mentioning "friends"? Do you live in one dimension and study and work in the other? All my friends are intelligent enough to understand what I do and how hard I work.

I had a problem with a hair stylist once, and not even mine, my hair stylist reads more than some PhDs I know:-) That lady (also Russian) said that she won't translate only because she can't sit down for the whole day, otherwise... I replied that I am with her all the way and do not do haircuts only because I absolutely can not stand up for the whole day.

Granted, second language in the US is such a rare bird that I also have no problem receiving and savoring looks of admiration from neighbours and clients' personel:-)

Why do you get upset or waste your breath?


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Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:26
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
A rhetorical response Sep 12, 2007

When asked what a translator does, I respond with a rhetorical question: "In the English sentence 'You sure do know your presidents', what does the word 'your' mean?"

The answer, of course, is that "your" is not playing its usual role as a possessive pronoun. Rather, it means "you specifically", "you in particular", "you especially", "you more than most people". In a real-life translating situation, the word "your" would need a creative linguistic solution, coming across as something totally different in the target language.

I then explain that this sort of brainteaser is exactly what a translator does hundreds of times each day, unraveling the linguistic codes of one language and making a series of calculated, informed choices to reproduce concepts accurately and naturally in another language.

Not an easy task. This specialized problem-solving ability is exactly what we get paid for. And the whole process is so subjective that ten good translators will likely come up with ten different solutions for any given problem.

That usually gets the idea across.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
Theory not required. Sep 12, 2007

Veronika Hansova wrote:

Currently a friend of mine asked me to get a test translation for her in her languages so that she could try it. She has got PhD in chemistry (in her native language) and she shows certain interest in Spanish. As far as I know, she spent 6 months studying at a Spanish university and since then she has not spoken a word in Spanish (this was 4 years ago). She does not know any principles of translations, does not know the theory, nothing.


If that university was the Universidad de Salamanca and she lived in that city for 6 months, she may have attained a high level of Spanish.
I remember that at that university, you could attend very intensive courses. The evenings were always filled with one or the other cultural activity organized by the University, where you came into contact with Spanish only to "discuss" about that activity in the bars of Salamanca. All in Spanish.
--
I went back to Valladolid and Salamanca last year. Before that it was 18 years ago since I had been in Spain pero si quieres que continúa en castellano, no tengo ningún problema, (English: if you want me to continue in Spanish, no problem). Different persons have different memories.
How many on this site do know about linguistic theory? Some will defend your friend's approach-specialise first, translate and learn by doing-to translation as an ideal one.
To what extend is translation theory and "tricks"such as transposition, gleaning the meaning etc. useful for translating chemical texts?How many on this website followed the linguistic path ?
--
I have the impression that translators value their linguistic skills too high, whereas the "normal" population looks down upon such skills (unless you are in more rare combinations like Japanese/Chinese-Czech).

---
When you focus the managerial aspect of the translation business, the appreciation goes up.


[Edited at 2007-09-12 20:25]


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