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Approaching a question: Do I really know the answer to that?
Thread poster: Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes

Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:11
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jul 25, 2004

I’m always surprised to see how often people rush to give an answer/suggestion just for the sake of it. I feel that if someone has a question, say, a professional translator used to translating in that particular field, he/she obviously wants something more than a dictionary entry or a mere guess. My position is, if you think you can’t help, and I mean really help, stay away from that question.
I’ve seen so many wrong answers suggested lately, with clear evidence that the person suggesting didn’t understand that expression/term in the source language at all.
We recently had a question in my language pair asking how to say 'woman from Bahia’. Now anyone who speaks Portuguese from Brazil, and with a little sense of geography knows that that is a state in Brazil. You should’ve seen all the suggestions: “it’s a city”, “it's a bay” (because ‘baía’ in PT is bay, not B[capital letter]aHi[no accent]a). It’s clearly a case here that these people don’t know what they’re talking about. So, my point is, why get involved then? Or even worse, ’disagree’ or ‘neutral’ the right answer.
Yes, I’m aware that we do have the levels of confidence function, but I’m not talking about that.
The new trend now is to have people who have nothing to do with the language pair suggesting something - they don’t even translate into or from those languages or don’t even speak the language (even saying so when they apologize, you know, stating why they can’t give their explanation or suggestion in the language in question, but would like to say something anyway...in English). I certainly understand that most of them want to help, to put the person on the right track of where to look, but I’m not even talking about the wrong track. I’m talking about the wrong station here. Don’t you think that the whole point is to get an answer that will fit into your document perfectly enough to make you feel like you've accomplished something, you solved your problem, and now you’re done and confident when you hit that send button to your client?
Comments welcome. Thanks.


[Edited at 2004-07-26 01:18]


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:11
German to English
Approaching a question: Do I really know the answer for that? Jul 25, 2004

Sormane wrote:
I’m always surprised to see how often people rush to give an answer/suggestion just for the sake of it. I feel that if someone has a question, say, a professional translator used to translating in that particular field, he/she obviously wants something more than a dictionary entry or a mere guess. My position is, if you think you can’t help, and I mean really help, stay away from that question.


You've summed up the problem admirably, Sormane. There is the profession of translation to consider. Some participants believe that if you know more than one language, you're a translator. Have you ever looked at the ProZ.com "how to's" under Community? You could write up a short "how to" on providing KudoZ answers and submit it for publication. This might help newcomers (and oldtimers) adhere to some basic standards.

Best wishes, Kim


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:11
Spanish to English
+ ...
Indeed! Jul 25, 2004

Sormane wrote:

I feel that if someone has a question, say, a professional translator used to translating in that particular field, he/she obviously wants something more than a dictionary entry or a mere guess.

(...)

We recently had a question in my language pair asking how to say “woman from Bahia’. Now anyone who speaks Portuguese from Brazil, and with a little sense of geography knows that that is a state in Brazil. You should’ve seen all the suggestions: “it’s a city”, “its a bay” (because ‘baía’ in PT is bay, not B[capital letter]aHi[no accent]a). It’s clearly a case here that these people don’t know what they’re talking about.

(...)

I certainly understand that most of them want to help, to put the person on the right track of where to look, but I’m not even talking about the wrong track. I’m talking about the wrong station here. Don’t you think that the whole point is to get an answer that will fit into your document perfectly enough to make you feel like you've accomplished something, you solved your problem, and now you’re done and confident when you hit that send button to your client?



Totally agree, if I post a Q in Proz it's precisely becuase dictionaries and other resources HAVEN'T helped, and I'm hoping to get the insight or opinion of someone who really KNOWS, and not just any blow-in to the site.

I have often spelled out the fact that I DO HAPPEN to have dictionaries (the best mono and bilingual dictionaries available for my language pairs), and I even provide dictionary definitions, but it's still way over the head of some people. They just don't listen to what one is saying. And teh same happens when you spell out the fact that you don't want a literal translation of a phrase, becuase you know what each of the words mean and becuase you have assessed a literal translation and found it totally wanting, and no evidence that it exists in teh WWW.

What beats me about your second point above re. Bahia is that the answerers don't even do a little bit of checking out on the WWW first! All right, so it's their credibility at stake - you begin to recognise the ones who speak off their dandruff - and just ignore their off-the-wall, irrelevant and often silly answers. But it amounts to clutter, dross, and is irritating to see (and even ends up in the glossary sometimes - the blind leading the blind).

Finally, an important quality that all translators should have is a sensitivity to what they DON'T know (or what they don't know how to obtain information on), and act accordingly, whether in answering ProZ Qs or in taking jobs or in terms of language knowledge.

Well said, Sormane:-)


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Hate to say this again Jul 25, 2004

... but people are in this for the points. Get rid of Kudoz points and I'd be willing to bet that the problem disappears.
People seem to think that if they garner enough points they'll win the pot at the end of the rainbow.
The same thing happens in my SC (Italian-English): we've ranted, we've raved, we've begged and we've pleaded. Nothing seems to work.
So a fellow Prozian and I have gotten around this by posting queries to each other by e-mail. We know and trust each other. She knows that I'll be honest enough to say I don't have a good suggestion, and I know the reverse is true.
We've found it to be a very effective system, and we only post questions here on Proz if absolutely necessary. Both of us answer questions posted by other translators -- it's important to help our colleagues -- but we no longer rely on the Kudoz system.
It's unfortunate, but both of us got tired of answers akin to "it's a bay" because the answerer failed to understand the question. You either post a comment along the lines of "are you illiterate?" or "did you bother to read the question?" (risking a tut-tut from a moderator), or you seek an alternative. We went with the latter.
Catherine


[Edited at 2004-07-25 17:06]


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Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:11
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
sad but true Jul 25, 2004

cbolton wrote:
...So a fellow Prozian and I have gotten around this by posting queries to each other by e-mail. We know and trust each other. She knows that I'll be honest enough to say I don't have a good suggestion, and I know the reverse is true.
We've found it to be a very effective system, and we only post questions here on Proz if absolutely necessary. Both of us answer questions posted by other translators -- it's important to help our colleagues -- but we no longer rely on the Kudoz system...
Catherine

[Edited at 2004-07-25 17:06]


I've done the same thing.


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 03:11
Spanish to English
+ ...
well put, Sormane! Jul 25, 2004

I wholeheartedly agree with you. It irritates me no end when I see haphazard, slapdash answers to questions that are really quite tricky--answers that are often just random texts copied and pasted from a Google search page, or translations copied and pasted from a dictionary without ever taking the context into consideration (maximum confidence level, of course). As Ailish said, you get to know which people use this as their standard modus operandi (and as Catherine said, they are usually grubbing for points), and ignore their "contributions," but it's still very annoying.

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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
ethics of answering Jul 26, 2004

I agree that people give slapdash answers. Many people are giving answers in the target when they don't work INTO the target. Many are giving answers when they don't work FROM a particular source language.

As for grubbing for points: if people just throw up answers in the expectations of points, they don't know much about translation do they? Hit and miss, is usually miss in my experience. I don't think it's point grubbing as much as
a) giving answers on proz to test a source or target knowledge
Proz can be used an a language improvement vehicle. By putting up an answer, you can "test" whether you are in the ballpark at all.
b) giving answers on proz to boost the ego. In this variation, people are seeking to "prove" something. I know that answer, I speak X. Again, it goes to naiveté...about translation.


I think the main problem is one that PLAGUES the field.
- Would you ask a medical student in his or her first year to operate on a patient?
- Would you have a paralegal try a murder case?
- Would an accounting student be asked to draw up the financial statements for a multinational?
- Would an architectural student be asked to design/build a science museum?
- Would a 25-year-old with an MBA be asked to manage the European Airbus Consortium?

I think it is sad the extent to which some individuals don't realize they haven't got a clue. Their language skills are just not good enough.

I see nothing wrong with points per se. This system has in my case provided visibility. I have also provided help to a lot of people. I mostly avoid providing answers in languages that are not my native language. If I didn't think I would get some visibility from proz, why would I bother? I like to help people but feel that the return for all the help is the visibility I get from providing it. And I think the benefit to others is as great as the benefit to me.

Much more could be said about all this. One final point: as an antediluvian translator, I don't go into much detail when I know the answer off the bat through experience and knowledge of the languages. Recently, someone gave me 3 points for not giving a huge explanation. When questions are easy and one has a lot of experience, and has in-depth knowledge of both languages, there is no need to justify at length. However, I try to provide a reasoned argument for "difficult'' questions. I also try to OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGE my mistakes. I see very few others doing this. There is much hubris.

If there were some classification, such as:
expert
senior
junior
intermediate
beginner...we would have many fewer problems.

I know proz has worked on this issue and has so far not found a way to implement it. This is not an easy issue. One of the reasons is that in the US, there is no such system as there is for other regulated professions: doctors, lawyers, CPAs, architects, builders etc. Since there is no formal, federally recognized certification [except for Spanish and Navajo] - though there is some good stuff in some states - it follows that a great site like proz would be hard pressed to provide a grid hierarchy regarding translators. It might be interesting to try to let the translators classify themselves...How many will say they are expert or senior translators if they are not? That might help...

Just a few thoughts....


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 20:11
English to Russian
+ ...
Yes and no Jul 27, 2004

With all the understanding and experienced share of irritation caused by hasty and ungrounded answers, I would prefer not to be hasty in return. Here is my reason:

We shall not be writing-off things like translators' intuition or even wild guesses. Didn't they help you in your own work more than once? Followed by proper research, of course, but this is an asker's task. Such hints can be incredibly interesting and helpful, a lot of fun, I mean real, creative fun, and can serve as excellent road signs to the point of destination. We are creators. We have plenty of such exapmles in Russian-English pair. By all means, we will continue to see anything from hysterical to mind-boiling, but by building some stringent boundaries in a strictly volunteer environment we are more than likely to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Just generalizing... I can hardly imagine a position such as "OK, I demand you better give me a correct answer, with all the homework done for me, oh, and don't forget to make sure your references are not idiotic, or step out of my way". Excuse me? Nobody ties me to the computer with the link to Proz. I'm perfectly OK with the way things are.

When I feel like it or have time, I fight for my truth, when I don't - well, I simply I don't. Or listen to smart disagreeers (is this a word?). Or did I invent one with 3 Es is a row in English? See, here goes the fun:-)

It is my choice, no obligations.

Best,
Irina


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:11
Well stated, Irina! Jul 27, 2004

IreneN wrote:

With all the understanding and experienced share of irritation caused by hasty and ungrounded answers, I would prefer not to be hasty in return. Here is my reason:

We shall not be writing-off things like translators' intuition or even wild guesses. Didn't they help you in your own work more than once? Followed by proper research, of course, but this is an asker's task. Such hints can be incredibly interesting and helpful, a lot of fun, I mean real, creative fun, and can serve as excellent road signs to the point of destination. We are creators. We have plenty of such exapmles in Russian-English pair. By all means, we will continue to see anything from hysterical to mind-boiling, but by building some stringent boundaries in a strictly volunteer environment we are more than likely to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Just generalizing... I can hardly imagine a position such as "OK, I demand you better give me a correct answer, with all the homework done for me, oh, and don't forget to make sure your references are not idiotic, or step out of my way". Excuse me? Nobody ties me to the computer with the link to Proz. I'm perfectly OK with the way things are.

When I feel like it or have time, I fight for my truth, when I don't - well, I simply I don't. Or listen to smart disagreeers (is this a word?). Or did I invent one with 3 Es is a row in English? See, here goes the fun:-)

It is my choice, no obligations.

Best,
Irina


In my opinion, Kudoz should be a place to help others and, if possible, learn and have fun at the same time... It is not a place to show off your qualifications, or bash others for being less experienced... take what you like and leave what you dislike!


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Christian
Local time: 03:11
English to German
+ ...
Interesting point Jul 29, 2004

cbolton wrote:

... but people are in this for the points. Get rid of Kudoz points and I'd be willing to bet that the problem disappears.



What do you (all of you) think? Should KudoZ points be done away with? I think it would be a good idea for the following reasons:

(1) People would take their time before posting an answer.
I would like to get detailed answers to my questions. However, it takes some time to write a detailed answer, so I only get a shorthand answer because the answerer wants to make sure that s/he posts his/her answer first.

(2) People would hit the "KudoZ Search" button more frequently.
Many answers are posted even though they can be found in the KudoZ glossary.

(3) People would be more willing to help. I often get the impression that it is not the chief aim of the answerer to help a colleague; s/he want to get the points, no matter whether whether his/her answer helps to solve a problem or not. Consequence: no points, no competition and more assistance.


By the way, there is another thing I don't understand. If I agree with an answer, I usually click the "AGREE" button to indicate that this answer seems to be correct in my opinion. Why do some people thank me for my agreement with what they have posted? Do they fear that I won't click the AGREE button any more if they do not say thank you? Are they afraid they might get less "AGREES" (and, as a possible consequence, fewer KudoZ points) in future? IMO, if they have given a correct answer, there is really no need for them to say thank you. Get rid of the KudoZ points and this "overpoliteness" will soon be a thing of the past.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:11
A cultural thing? Jul 29, 2004

Christian wrote:

By the way, there is another thing I don't understand. If I agree with an answer, I usually click the "AGREE" button to indicate that this answer seems to be correct in my opinion. Why do some people thank me for my agreement with what they have posted? Do they fear that I won't click the AGREE button any more if they do not say thank you? Are they afraid they might get less "AGREES" (and, as a possible consequence, fewer KudoZ points) in future? IMO, if they have given a correct answer, there is really no need for them to say thank you. Get rid of the KudoZ points and this "overpoliteness" will soon be a thing of the past.


I believe that thanking for an agree is a cultural trait. At least that is what I see going on in the English/French-Spanish pairs. It looks like most people (a majority of whom are of Latin origin) thank colleagues out of politeness, to send a greeting, or a funny comment.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 20:11
English to Russian
+ ...
It sure must be a cultural thing... Jul 29, 2004

In English/Russian/American:-) pair we thank each other too and not out of fear, that I can guarantee. I don't understand - why would a "thank you" cause any negative reacton? I appreciate reassurance, recognition of my professional knowledge, attention paid to my effort.

I see a good point in no Kudoz points though.


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Andrew Bowden  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rookies Jul 29, 2004

Hi there i am just getting started with ProZ.com, I guess you could say i'm a rookie trying to break into this translation racket. I have to say that i am impresses with ProZ.com but i am a bit worried that because i am relatively inexperienced i wont get many job offers. To increase my chances i've been having a good stab at as many KudoZ i think i can answer. I think it's only fair that rookies, who may not have as much experience but may well have a good instinct for translation, be given the chance to raise their sellability.

Anyway, so what if someone makes a stupid answer? As yet I have not seen a single KudoZ receive more than 7 answers before it was closed. I know that time is money but can it really be so depressing, soul destroying, aggravating to sift through a whole 7 answers? Sure, when it comes to highly technical things clueless people, be they rookies or vet's, should stay away. As for me, rest assured, I have no idea what a bobcock valve is so i wont even touch that question.

Apart from anything else I have a lot of time on my hands so i spend it in KudoZ. Maybe if someone gave me some work it would reduce the chances of me annoying anyone.

Finally, I have very little idea of what level to set my rates at. All translation work that i have done (movie script, brochures etc) has been paid at a flat fee. Where can i find out what a sensible rate would be? Obviously i don't want to undercut the market or price myself out of it. Any hints?

Cheers,
Rookie


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Christian
Local time: 03:11
English to German
+ ...
Who needs KudoZ point? Jul 30, 2004

IreneN wrote:
I see a good point in no Kudoz points though.


So do I. KudoZ is great. There's no doubt about it. Ask a question and you will get lots of answers.

Unfortunately, I often get the impression that KudoZ is some kind of a battlefield. Are people just willing to help or do they go to KudoZ in order to grab as many points as possible? Is it also a cultural thing? Well, I don't know. I'm not interested in the points. I find this an interesting place for two reasons: first, the questions help me to improve my skills as a translator because they are rather challenging in many cases; second, I can help colleagues (and they can help me).

I'm convinced that without such points, KudoZ will soon be a peaceful place for translators who are either willing to help or for those who hope to get detailed answers to their questions. This I-answer-all-questions-in-ten-seconds attitude would soon turn into a we-are-all-in-the-same-boat attitude. Peace.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:11
Agree, but you would still get the thank yous! Jul 30, 2004

Christian wrote:


I'm convinced that without such points, KudoZ will soon be a peaceful place for translators who are either willing to help or for those who hope to get detailed answers to their questions. This I-answer-all-questions-in-ten-seconds attitude would soon turn into a we-are-all-in-the-same-boat attitude. Peace.


At least coming from a good number of Spanish speakers!


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