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Dictionary answers in ProZ
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 27, 2003

For a long time now I have had a major gripe about 'dictionary' answers, and I really feel furious now, after having researched something to death for a good 10-15 minutes to see a dictionary answer awarded the points.

It's not the question of points, if I wanted points I'd be in there for every question in a number of language combinations with my dictionaries at the ready, now wouldn't I? Especially with all these dictionary.com sites providing really useful synonymns as definitions or translations....

A dictionary answer is a literal translation or a list of quasi-synonyms taken straight from a dictionary. A dictionary answer has its equivalent in word-for-word translation, the true mark of an amateur.

I HATE when I get dictionary answers to my questions, they are a waste of space and time. They are an insult to one´s professionalism as the answerer seems to assume you neither have nor use a dictionary, nor that you even know the literal translation for a word, despite claiming implicitly to be a translator in that language combination. They fail to appreciate that the reason you are posting a question is that you want some insight or another angle on a thorny translation problem.

To allow dictionary answering is just to allow useless clutter, is there anything we can do to QUASH these ridiculously wasteful, useless and insulting answers?


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
English to Tamil
+ ...
There is an easy way to counter this Nov 28, 2003

As an asker you can do one thing. Please indicate the dictionary answers yourself and say that you are not satisfied with them or you want some other answers. In that way, no one will give you dictionary answers- at least the ones you yourself have provided. If they do so just decline those answers giving this reason.
Otherwise people will assume you have not consulted the dictionary either because you don't have one or too lazy to consult it. This happens quite often, as one can conclude from the questions, which have already been answered in the Kudoz.
And what is wrong with a dictionary answer? After all a dictionary is compiled after years of painful research. For example, the Ernst German-English dictionary has not been revised for 20 years and yet its solutions are very relevant.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-01-19 07:31]


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Rowan Morrell  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 14:59
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Dictionary Answers Not The Worst Nov 28, 2003

I don't agree that "dictionary" answers are the worst. Sometimes, an answerer may alert you to a new reference source you didn't know about (especially if the question is fairly specialised), so they can have value in that respect.

The type of answers that irritate me the most are those ones without any explanation at all. They have a rather dismissive quality about them, even more so than "dictionary" answers. A "+","*" or "-" given in the explanation section kind of conveys the message, "It's so obvious I'm not even going to waste my time explaining" or worse, "You're not worth going to any effort for". Well actually, it ISN'T that obvious if you don't explain. I decline answers like that unless they get a good number of "agrees". Frankly, I find them rather disrespectful.

However, there are some things you can do as an asker to give yourself a better chance of getting the sort of answer you want. Explain what exactly the problem is with the word or phrase. If you don't do this, people will tend to assume you don't know the meaning of the word and so give the "dictionary" answers. Or as Narasimhan said, they'll assume you don't have a dictionary or are too lazy to do the research yourself. Remember that people are not mind-readers and won't automatically understand your problem unless you spell it out.

Admittedly, there are some people who don't bother reading the question even when you do spell it out, but the fact remains, the more info (context, specifics of the problem) you give in your question, the more likely you are to get the kind of answer you're looking for.

Finally, there are many people (a certain "Anonymous" being among the most prominent) who ask questions that do merit nothing more than dictionary answers. These types of questions are characterised by a distinct lack of info on the asker's part. Often there's just the word or phrase and nothing else. I've seen questions posed by paid-up members with similar characteristics. So people give "dictionary" answers and usually end up winning the points, because that's what the asker was looking for. If you don't give enough info in your questions, you risk attracting the "dictionary" crowd. Essentially, what you get out of KudoZ (in terms of answer quality) depends on what you're willing to put into it.

To sum up, then: there are things you can do as an asker to improve your chances of getting the right answers. Most importantly, spell out your problem so people will know what your expectations are and adapt their responses accordingly. You can also decline answers you're not happy with.

A final note to answerers (while I'm on my soap box a little): to give askers the best possible help, EXPLAIN yourself. Make a case for your answer. You don't have to write an epic novel or anything, but a paragraph explaining your suggestion, plus a decent reference or two if you can find it, would make an enormous difference. Certainly, it's a considerable improvement on "+", "*" or "-". Even a "dictionary" answer is better than that.

Best Regards

ROWAN MORRELL
(WriteWord Translations)

PS: Wouldn't this discussion be better in the KudoZ/KudoZ.Net forum, as it really concerns the use of KudoZ rather than a site-specific bug?


[Edited at 2003-11-28 08:48]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Nothing wrong with dictionaries, except... Nov 28, 2003

And what is wrong with a dictionary answer?

My point is that Proz is used/should be used precisely when and only when one has exhausted the possibilities of dictionaries.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
In reply to Rowan Nov 28, 2003

HI ROWAN, EXCUSE MY ANSWER IN CAPITALS, I DONT KNOW HOW TO USE THIS QUOTE OPYION.
Rowan Morrell wrote:

I don't agree that "dictionary" answers are the worst. Sometimes, an answerer may alert you to a new reference source you didn't know about (especially if the question is fairly specialised), so they can have value in that respect. THIS IS NOT THE POINT I AM MAKING. I AM NOT CRITICISING DICTIONARIES, I AM CRITICISING PEOPLE WHO OFFER ANSWERS THAT ARE AN INSULT TO THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE QUESTIONER AND THAT DOWNGRADE THE SITE. WHEN I SAY 'DICTIONARY ANSWER' IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT HAS TO COME FROM A DICTIONARY. IT'S A TERM USED IN TRANSLATION THEORY TO REFER TO THE LITERAL ANSWER (e.g. medicamento = medicament, when drug or medicine might be more suitable), THE OFFER OF SYNONYNMS (rico = rich, wealthy, not poor), OR THE LACK OF CONTEXT/SUPPORTING EVIDENCE TYPICAL OF DICTUIONARIES. ALL OF THESE SOLUTIONS TO A TRANSLATION DIFFICULTY ARE AVAILABLER TO ME, YET I SEE A PROBLEM, WHICH IS WHY I GO TO PROZ, TO GET THE SAME OBVIOUS ANSWERS, BUT NO SOLUTION.

The type of answers that irritate me the most are those ones without any explanation at all. They have a rather dismissive quality about them, even more so than "dictionary" answers. A "+","*" or "-" given in the explanation section kind of conveys the message, "It's so obvious I'm not even going to waste my time explaining" or worse, "You're not worth going to any effort for". Well actually, it ISN'T that obvious if you don't explain. I decline answers like that unless they get a good number of "agrees". Frankly, I find them rather disrespectful. I AGREE, BUT I PERSONALLY FIND THE DIRECT QUOTES OF LITERAL TRANSLATIONS/SYNONYMS FROM DICTIONARIES FAR MORE IRRITATING.

However, there are some things you can do as an asker to give yourself a better chance of getting the sort of answer you want. Explain what exactly the problem is with the word or phrase. If you don't do this, people will tend to assume you don't know the meaning of the word and so give the "dictionary" answers. Or as Narasimhan said, they'll assume you don't have a dictionary or are too lazy to do the research yourself. Remember that people are not mind-readers and won't automatically understand your problem unless you spell it out. THE POINT I'M TRYING TO MAKE IS THAT PROZ 'PRO' IS NOT THE PLACE FOR DICTIONARY ANSWERS IN THE SENSE THAT ONE GOES TO PROZ PRECISELY BECUASE THE DICTIONARY HAS FAILED ONE. PROZ IS NOT A DICTIONARY SUBSTTITUTE, IT'S A DICTIONARY SUPPLEMENT. EXAMPLE, I WANT A TRANSLATION FOR 'SEÑAL' IN A HIGHLY SPECIFIC CONTEXT AND I GET 'SIGN, INDICATION' AS AN ANSWER. NOW PLEASE EXPLIAN WHY I BOTHER TO POST A QUESTION TO GET THIS KIND OF ANSWER? I KNOW THAT AREADY, OTHERWISE I WOULDN'T BE TRANSLATING, NOW WOULD I?

Admittedly, there are some people who don't bother reading the question even when you do spell it out, but the fact remains, the more info (context, specifics of the problem) you give in your question, the more likely you are to get the kind of answer you're looking for. PRECISELY, YESTERDAY (the situation that has just proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel´s back) SOMEONE POSTED A QUESTION AND EVEN SUPPLIED THE ANSWERS BUT EXPRESSED DOUBTS AS TO WHICH TO CHOOSE, SO OFF I GO TO FIND EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT HER CHOICE OF ONE OR ANOTHER SOLUTION. I LATER FIND THAT THE LITERAL DICTIONARY ANSWER GETS THE POINTS WHEREAS I WHO HAD INVESTED SUBSTANTIAL TIME AND PRODUCED SOLID EVIDENCE IN THE FORM OF CONTEXT TO JUSTIFY THE CHOICE OF ONE WORD OVER THE OTHER WAS COMPLETELY IGNORED. THIS LACK OF DISCERNMENT IS BAD FOR THE SITE AND SIMPLY ENCOURAGES AMATEURS.

Finally, there are many people (a certain "Anonymous" being among the most prominent) who ask questions that do merit nothing more than dictionary answers. These types of questions are characterised by a distinct lack of info on the asker's part. Often there's just the word or phrase and nothing else. I've seen questions posed by paid-up members with similar characteristics. So people give "dictionary" answers and usually end up winning the points, because that's what the asker was looking for. If you don't give enough info in your questions, you risk attracting the "dictionary" crowd. Essentially, what you get out of KudoZ (in terms of answer quality) depends on what you're willing to put into it. RIGHT, SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT???? aAND WHAT ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT TRANSLATORS BECUASE THEY SEEM TO BE ON STANDBY IN A NUMBER OF LANGUAGE COMBINATIONS WITH THEIR DICTIONARIES TO HAND.



To sum up, then: there are things you can do as an asker to improve your chances of getting the right answers. Most importantly, spell out your problem so people will know what your expectations are and adapt their responses accordingly. You can also decline answers you're not happy with.
A final note to answerers (while I'm on my soap box a little): to give askers the best possible help, EXPLAIN yourself. Make a case for your answer. You don't have to write an epic novel or anything, but a paragraph explaining your suggestion, plus a decent reference or two if you can find it, would make an enormous difference. Certainly, it's a considerable improvement on "+", "*" or "-". Even a "dictionary" answer is better than that.

Best Regards

ROWAN MORRELL
(WriteWord Translations)

PS: Wouldn't this discussion be better in the KudoZ/KudoZ.Net forum, as it really concerns the use of KudoZ rather than a site-specific bug?


[Edited at 2003-11-28 08:48]


THANSK FOR YOUR INTEREST ROWAN, GOTTA GO NOW, MAYBE U ARE RIGHT ABOUT TEH POSTING ELSEWHERE. AS FOR ME, I JUST WANT TO TRY AND GET PEOPLE TO SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OFFERING AS ANSWERS WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO ANY PROFESSIONAL, AND OFFERING ANSWERS THAT PROVIDE REAL INPUT - SHARING PERSONALLY ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE, PROVIDING INDIVIDUAL INSIGHTS, HELPING PROVIDE OTHER PERSPÈCTIVES, RESEARCHING IN THEIR OWN PERSONAL/CREATIVE WAY, ABOVE ALL PROVIDING WHAT DICTIONARIES ARE UNABLE TO PROVIDE - CONTEXT.

IT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE A BOARD FOR ESPECIALLY INTERESTING Q&A COMBINATIONS AS A TRAINING/LEARNING RESOURCE, WHERE WE COULD DRAW ATTENTION TO PARTICULARLY WELL-ANSWERED QUESTIONS. TRANSLATION IS NOT ABOUT TRANSLATING WORDS, IT'S AS MUCH ABOUT BEING ABLE TO RESEARCH AND OBTAIN SUPPORTING EVIDENCE FOR CHOICES AS ANYTHING ELSE.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 22:59
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Absolutely agree with Rowan Nov 28, 2003

Whenever I need an answer out of the translator's hat, I specify what I've already found, not only to have an answer that fits my demand, but also by respect for the time answerers will spend on it.
I think that it's impossible to have all the available dictionaries. I even had the case in which my dictionary didn't have the same info than someone else's one because mine was too old.
I've also been in trouble to translate a word (A WORD, yes), and it's impossible to find it in any glossary or dictionary, and there are translators who say "I often translate it like that" and there's no proof of it being used in that context, it doesn't help me. It's not because somebody has already done it that it's right.

At the beginning in ProZ I used to answer "dictionary questions", for example "moon in Thai". During that period I learned how to look for information in the Net, where to find the dictionaries on line...There are people expecting for dictionary answers.

I really appreciate that Rowan has taken the time to put it clearly, agree with all the points.

I'm moving this to KudoZ/KudoZ.Net.

[Edited at 2003-11-28 10:22]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
Absolutely agree with Rowan too Nov 28, 2003

Although Ailish Maher does have a point. I always assume the person asking is stuck in some way and requires pointers. I much rather have references to websites that use the terminology than anything else. This will aid me in my research for the right term.

Don't get mad everybody but I hate the answers that add 'experience' to their answers without any explanation from where the experience came from. I usually do not know the asker from Adam and for all I know his/her experience may be completely irrelevant to my situation.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:59
Spanish to English
Sometimes consulting these forums is very discouraging Nov 28, 2003

For months I've been reading complaints in the forums about answers that quote google hits, now there is a complaint about using dictionaries, and another about not explaining why your answer is good. So how are we supposed to explain where we got the answer and how it is good.
1) Other people don't necessarily have the dictionaries I have, or know about the on-sites I know.
2)Google hits can a very good way of checking and proving your point, if you are discriminating.
3) If you are really familiar with a term, you know the answer, but what can you cite to back it up, you just know the answer.
4) Whether the answer is good or insulting, someone has taken the time to answer out of the kindness of their heart, or because they are mad in the "game", and the quality of the answers reflects on the answerer.
What is a nuisance is when people don't read the context properly, but I've done that myself occasionally.


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mbc
Spain
Local time: 04:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
depends Nov 28, 2003

There are definitely times when posting a dictionary answer is unhelpful and almost insulting. I got such an answer today, but a few minutes later other ProZ came to the rescue with thoughtful, useful comments. I think the best way to avoid the problem is by
a. giving a lot of context, and
b. explaining that you have already consulted dictionaries X Y and Z and that you need help from a human, not more references

There is no easy solution because sometimes a dictionary answer helps and sometimes it frustrates...I think that the majority of us try our best to help our peers though.


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xxx00000000
English to French
+ ...
Very demanding Nov 28, 2003

Rowan Morrell wrote:
he type of answers that irritate me the most are those ones without any explanation at all. They have a rather dismissive quality about them, even more so than "dictionary" answers. A "+","*" or "-" given in the explanation section kind of conveys the message, "It's so obvious I'm not even going to waste my time explaining" or worse, "You're not worth going to any effort for". Well actually, it ISN'T that obvious if you don't explain. I decline answers like that unless they get a good number of "agrees". Frankly, I find them rather disrespectful.
[...]
To sum up, then: there are things you can do as an asker to improve your chances of getting the right answers. Most importantly, spell out your problem so people will know what your expectations are and adapt their responses accordingly. You can also decline answers you're not happy with.

A final note to answerers (while I'm on my soap box a little): to give askers the best possible help, EXPLAIN yourself. Make a case for your answer. You don't have to write an epic novel or anything, but a paragraph explaining your suggestion, plus a decent reference or two if you can find it, would make an enormous difference. Certainly, it's a considerable improvement on "+", "*" or "-". Even a "dictionary" answer is better than that.
[...]
[Edited at 2003-11-28 08:48][/quote]

Hi Rowan --
A few things:
1. If you're really allergic to answers without an explanation, you can specify in your query that they will be automatically declined.
2. Some people don't mind them. When I'm stuck, I'm quite happy if someone offers a line of research I hadn't thought of.
3. As an asker, I find most "explanations" condescending. I know the field I'm translating in and if I ask for a certain term it doesn't mean I need an explanation, it means I want the term. Then I can check it out myself, which I would do whether or not an explanation is provided.
4. There's no need to interpret an unexplained answer as disrespectful. The answerer might know the field very well and offer you the common term that's used without necessarily feeling like offering the whole paragraph and a couple of sources as you demand. In my opinion, it's your loss if you just won't consider it.

In short, Rowan, people are different, they have different motivations and different reactions. Keeping this in mind should make your KudoZ experience more enjoyable.

Esther, from a totally different perspective


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:59
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
If you don't get the answers you want, do not use them, but do not curse! Nov 28, 2003

Have you ever thought of how scarce time is or can be. One often does not have the time to make an academic research, but instead of leaving the answerer unhelped one gives the best answer that one could find quickly.
E.g. I often select and give answers from Ernst and they are often rewarded, simply because many translators haven't got Ernst.

Lesley Clarke wrote:

1) Other people don't necessarily have the dictionaries I have, or know about the on-sites I know.
2)Google hits can a very good way of checking and proving your point, if you are discriminating.
3) If you are really familiar with a term, you know the answer, but what can you cite to back it up, you just know the answer.
4) Whether the answer is good or insulting, someone has taken the time to answer out of the kindness of their heart, or because they are mad in the "game", and the quality of the answers reflects on the answerer.
What is a nuisance is when people don't read the context properly, but I've done that myself occasionally.


I fully agree with this.

Often you reward the answer "which has helped you most" which might not be a perfect answer but very helpful.

BR

Mats J C Wiman
Übersetzer/Translator/Traducteur/Traductor > swe
http://www.MatsWiman.com
http://www.Deutsch-Schwedisch.com
http://www.proz.com/Pro/1749
(Proz.com moderator (deu>swe))
Träsk 201
SE-872 97 Skog
Schweden/Sweden/Suède/Suecia
Tel:+46-612-54112 Fax:+46-612-54181 Mobile:+46-70-5769797


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 04:59
English to French
+ ...
Er... Nov 28, 2003

Ailish Maher wrote:
To allow dictionary answering is just to allow useless clutter, is there anything we can do to QUASH these ridiculously wasteful, useless and insulting answers?


The world does not revolve around you. Some people want the dictionnary answer, for a lots of reasons I do not know of and I do not want to investigate, it is not my problem.

Ask a question with all the do's and the don't you want. But live and let live.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:59
German to English
Dictionary answers for KudoZ Nov 28, 2003

Hi Ailish,
You've raised some very important issues, and I'm just as concerned as you are about "People who offer answers that are an insult to the intelligence of the questioner and that downgrade the site."

Ailish wrote: Example, I want a translation for 'SEÑAL' in a highly specific context and I get 'sign, indication' as an answer. Now please explain why I bother to post a question to get this kind of answer? I know that already, otherwise I wouldn't be translating now would I?

This is clearly a case where a dico answer is unsatisfactory. I have Ernst and Langenscheidt Technik for German to English with all sorts of excellent technical terms that can be very helpful to a non-technical translator stuck with a passage in the middle of a business text containing highly specific technical terminology. This person will be grateful for dictionary answers from someone who doesn't know any more about the subject than the person asking the question does. And it is to be hoped that the answerer will also let the asker know that he is only providing a dictionary answer.

But when you need to understand how a term is translated in a specific context and have clearly announced that this is what you're looking for and get 'sign, indication' straight out of a dictionary, you have been let down.

The ideal answer will come from a translator with professional experience in the subject area or who has already done considerable research in that field. But as Mats says these folks aren't always around when they're needed. I have tried to help Rowan with some of his dental terminology even though I have extremely little experience with that subject. I always let him know that I don't know much about the subject and that my response is based on the online research I did. Sometimes the proposal is based on parallel texts – source text and target text, where the proposal is based on deduction. But in all cases, I try to provide the logic behind my proposal, to show him how I arrived at my proposal.

As Rowan says: "A final note to answerers (while I'm on my soap box a little): to give askers the best possible help, EXPLAIN yourself. Make a case for your answer. You don't have to write an epic novel or anything, but a paragraph explaining your suggestion, plus a decent reference or two if you can find it, would make an enormous difference."

But here's another point to consider. I have seen an 'anti-dictionary' crowd beginning to flourish. They are so against dictionary translations and what they refer to as 'machine translations' that they go to the other extreme. They are what I call imaginative or interpretive translators. Since they eschew dictionaries, they don't bother to provide a literal translation even as a starting point for what they consider more idiomatic or natural wording. In some cases, their anti-dictionary attitude is merely a cover for the fact that they don't have dictionaries or don't want to go to the trouble to consult them for the purpose of at least making sure they really do know what the word means. In other cases, when they actually know the literal meaning, they offer translations that do not do justice to the source text because they are so 'imaginative'. Dictionaries surely have considerable limitations and have to be used with caution, but the best ones offer a good starting point for a faithful translation.

Kim


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Atenea Acevedo  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
All things considered... Nov 29, 2003

Esther Pfeffer wrote:

In short, Rowan, people are different, they have different motivations and different reactions. Keeping this in mind should make your KudoZ experience more enjoyable.

Esther, from a totally different perspective


I can see Ailish's point, and actually agree with a lot of what Kim has stated. All in all, I love Esther's input, because this is mostly about "different motivations" and "different reactions"... As everyone at ProZ, I've been on both ends: asker and answerer. And I've gotten all kinds of stuff: someone once politely made me feel like a snob because I, in anwering a question, insisted in pointing out the difference between "wage" and "salary," and it was not a general question, but one in the context of finance. And, as an asker, I've been frowned at for granting points without specifically thanking all answerers, even though none of the replies after the first one provided a different option for my actual question.

Oh, well...


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't respond to askers who habitually show poor judgment Nov 29, 2003

A very simple solution to one of the problems Ailish poses--that of having one's considered, time-consuming answer rejected in favor of a response of seemingly inferior quality--is simply to avoid replying to those who habitually do this.

Thus, it is possible to avoid feeling that one's time has been wasted.

Best to all,

Bob


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