Use of other languages when answering Kudoz questions
Thread poster: Tim Drayton

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 23:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
May 4, 2007

Shouldn't it be a basic rule that all answers, peer comments and replies to such comments be posted in either the target or source language in question? Recently I have noticed comments entered in German and Farsi among questions in the Turkish to English pair. Surely everybody working in the particular language pair being discussed should be able to follow the arguments. Isn't it simple politeness for everybody to post their comments in either the source or target language so that everyone can understand?

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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:50
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Fully seconded May 4, 2007

Hi Tim,

I fully support your opinion. I've just checked the KudoZ rules at http://www.proz.com/kudozrules but they do not state anything to that effect. I'd recommend adding this requirement as a rule.

Best,
Steffen


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xxxFrancis Lee
Local time: 22:50
German to English
+ ...
Discussion in target language, surely? May 4, 2007

I absolutely agree - but would add the proviso that the Asker should be required to ask their question (and add any supplementary remarks) in the target language. Even if they're not a native-speaker, their mastery of this second language should surely be of a standard where they're perfectly comfortable expressing themselves in it.
To be honest, this would for me serve as an important qualifying factor to judge whether said colleague is at all in a position to translate into a foreign language.
Every day in the German-English pair, we see non-natives posting questions in German. In practically all cases, their serious limitations are exposed once they make a comment in English. (a certain Herr Walter is one of the few exceptions)
Any arguments against?

I must stress that simply being a native-speaker should not be seen as a carte blanche. Likewise, every day we see questions from English native-speakers who are quite clearly out of their depth. But that's another issue - although a related one. I'd also like to see a mandatory requirement for Askers to at least give their thoughts on the problem at hand.

For me it's all about quality improvement.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:50
Italian to English
+ ...
Sounds reasonable! May 4, 2007

Francis Lee wrote:

I absolutely agree - but would add the proviso that the Asker should be required to ask their question (and add any supplementary remarks) in the target language.


I think this is a fair request - if they're translating into it, they should be able to ask their question in it! A possible exception could be for questions flagged as homework/translation test.


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 13:50
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
I agree with Francis....mostly May 4, 2007

Yes, I absolutely agree that answers (well, answer explanations, of course) should be solely in the source/target language. Actually....forget that. I agree with Francis that the discussion should be carried out in the target language. And never mind people not qualified to translate into a certain lanaguage; I've seen the much weirder case of people offering translations that are obviously machine translations and who cannot speak the target language at all (which is obvious once one sees the explanations or the abundant spelling/grammatical mistakes in the answer).

As for the askers giving their own thoughts....well, maybe. As a suggestion, definitely. I think we've all been completely stumped regarding a term at least once in our lives, and it would be rough to ask someone in the same spot for their own suggestions when they simply don't have any idea. (Then again, it would be a good way to eliminate the people that underbid for projects and then ask for all the tough terms in such projects in KudoZ...certainly not a rare occurrence in the Spanish-English pair!)


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 23:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Let's not go too far May 4, 2007

Thanks for the support.
However, I wouldn't want to go as far as banning the source language. There is a mini community of people asking and answering kudoz questions in each language pair, and each of these probably has its own character. The vast majority of people involved in answering Turkish into English questions are native Turkish speakers, they are accustomed to communicating with one another in Turkish and I do not see why a group of people should be prohibited from addressing one another in their native language. My only plea is that the language should either be the target or source language so that all of the discussion is available to people with a professional interest in the language pair, who should clearly be capable of reading both languages.
Look at things from a more practical angle. Imagine a rule is imposed that answerers must use the target language. Then, let us say that I am looking for the equivalent of an obscure piece of Turkish legal terminology. There is a Turkish law expert out there able to help me, but this person is not confident about their written English, so they decide not to answer. Who is the loser? I think I am.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:50
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Language you are most comfortable in May 4, 2007

Francis Lee wrote:

I absolutely agree - but would add the proviso that the Asker should be required to ask their question (and add any supplementary remarks) in the target language. Even if they're not a native-speaker, their mastery of this second language should surely be of a standard where they're perfectly comfortable expressing themselves in it.
To be honest, this would for me serve as an important qualifying factor to judge whether said colleague is at all in a position to translate into a foreign language.


I don't agree with you Francis. Whether or not the asker is proficient in the target language is none of our business. I think people should be able to use the language in which they are best able to express the problem. It makes sense to me to ask a question in the source language, especially if you are going to provide context in that language. When agreeing or disagreeing I usually respond in the language that the answerer has used. Ideally we should all be equally proficient in both languages of our pair but it is still possible to have preferences.


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Robert Tucker
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:50
German to English
+ ...
Third language May 4, 2007

Might it not depend on the languages the Asker indicates s/he is capable of? If the Asker can understand a third language (other than the pair concerned in the question) which is the native language of the Answerer, then what's wrong with the Answerer writing in his native language?

Often it is possible to find a translation from one language to another using a third – one may know the English for a German term and it is possible to find the Spanish for the English even though trying to go directly from German to Spanish does not find any dictionary or search engine results. If the Asker understands English, do you really want to disapprove of the Answerer using the language in which s/he is most proficient?


[Edited at 2007-05-04 15:49]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:50
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
The asker can check the required language for answer May 5, 2007

I usually check the target language, but that does not always mean, that this rule is also obeyed.
Cheers
Heinrich


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 23:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sorry, but I object May 5, 2007

Robert Tucker wrote:

Might it not depend on the languages the Asker indicates s/he is capable of? If the Asker can understand a third language (other than the pair concerned in the question) which is the native language of the Answerer, then what's wrong with the Answerer writing in his native language?

Often it is possible to find a translation from one language to another using a third – one may know the English for a German term and it is possible to find the Spanish for the English even though trying to go directly from German to Spanish does not find any dictionary or search engine results. If the Asker understands English, do you really want to disapprove of the Answerer using the language in which s/he is most proficient?


[Edited at 2007-05-04 15:49]


Sorry, Robert, but I more than disapprove, I object to the use of any language other than the source or target language of the question. It boils down to whether you regard the kudoz forum as being a vehicle for a private discussion between the asker and one particular answerer, or a public arena that is open to all professionals who work in that language pair, such that they may follow all comments that are made and add their own contribution if they wish. I believe that it should be the latter - in fact, in my own language pair, the correct translation of a term frequently emerges in the course of such discussion, rather than being immediately suggested by any one respondent. This, in my opinion, is what makes kudoz such a unique resource.
This is not meant to be a personal attack on any individual, just a general observation, but recently I have noticed in the kudoz forum for my own language pair that certain people who, according to their profile, do not work in this pair have entered "agree" beneath an answer, and then have posted a comment in another language and the answerer, who strangely enough also does not claim to work in this pair, has responded to them in that same language. I find this sort of thing objectionable. Anybody who feels that they are knowledgeable enough to agree or disagree with a kudoz question should surely be capable of communicating in at least one of the languages involved in the question. There was some discussion a few months ago about why a lot of serious respondents have stopped posting replies to kudoz questions. Well, sorry if it sounds like an ultimatom, but if I see much more of this kind of thing going on on the Turkish to English forum, I will seriously consider whether I wish to participate any more.


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Robert Tucker
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:50
German to English
+ ...
But I still think an outright ban would be counterproductive May 5, 2007

Tim Drayton wrote:
It boils down to whether you regard the kudoz forum as being a vehicle for a private discussion between the asker and one particular answerer, or a public arena that is open to all professionals who work in that language pair, such that they may follow all comments that are made and add their own contribution if they wish.

Well I thought it was primarily about getting equivalent terms in different languages.

In the case of finding a translation by going through a third (and this might be Latin when searching for botanical, zoological etc equivalents) it is often only necessary to paste out the relevant text from two sites (German/English, English/Spanish for example) with the web reference. I am as good as certain that in some cases this is the only way to find the translation from the information on the web. If someone wants to answer the question from private sources s/he has then, of course, there is nothing to stop him/her.

I know it is frustrating to see a question where you might be able to make a useful contribution to the answer but don't know if that information has already been supplied since someone has made an entry in a language you don't understand. On the other hand, in some cases at least, an Asker might well be glad of any information from whatever source in whichever language (even if it means using Babelfish to get the gist of it).

Would you let someone flounder around trying to explain something to you in your native language when they are not perfectly fluent in that language while you could understand well enough if s/he spoke in her/his native language?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I don't get it May 5, 2007

I see some people here fighting so hard for Kudoz and Browniz that it makes me wonder if there is any place in the world where it's possible to pay utility bills or buy lunch with them.

Quite frankly, I see it as a way of giving something to eventually get something back. When I'm sailing in unfamiliar waters - like I recently did to translate a book that included ethnic food recipes - Proz's Kudoz is one of my research tools. Of course, what's in there is never taken as coming from an authoritative source, but it often leads to useful keywords for search engines. So I help whenever I can, and get help whenever there is some to be found there.

If the asker works in the same language pair I do, it makes no difference which language I use to answer. I often follow suit to the existing answers or comments, when there are any, but I never give this decision a lot of thought.

Sometimes I go into my #1 specialty area, human resources, and I manage to help a colleague understand some concept, even if it's not in a language I work with. Though I don't translate to/from French nor Italian, if the colleague has both feet outside my pair, I can feebly put my ideas across in these languages. Unfortunately, though its native speakers say that I speak Spanish with amazing fluency, I'm illiterate in it, so I won't send a voice recording as an answer. But I have won - in ancient times - a couple of Kudoz from helping someone with a few tough questions from English into Danish (or was it Dutch?), my knowledge of the latter being absolutely zilch - I wouldn't even know how to say "Good morning" in Denmark.

So IMHO the whole Kudoz thing is about helping colleagues in the hope of eventually getting help too. The points are just a hygiene factor (see Herzberg). But when I see people accumulating hundreds, or thousands of points every month it often makes me wonder whether they actually translate anything at all, or how they would have any time left to do it.

Back to the issue, I think the choice of language to answer Kudoz questions is just a matter of courtesy, being attentive to the languages the asker supposedly understands.


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 13:50
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
I don't think this discussion is about points at all. May 6, 2007

I've been privileged enough to see Francis' and Steffen's contributions to KudoZ, and they certainly aren't fighting for points...their suggested translations are never rushed just to cash in before someone else does - they're well-thought-out, useful responses, just like they should be.
Moreover, their suggestions, with which I agree, are not designed to "keep" other people from getting points(or help, for that matter). They're designed to make sure that people who are asking questions get quality help and to keep all our own headaches to a minimum. Furthermore, they're designed to keep time-wasting to a minimum as well. I personally think they make a lot of sense.

BTW. I myself have gotten a hefty amount of points this month, and I'll tell you exactly why/how - when I'm working on a 35,000 word German>English IT project, a 25,000 word English>Spanish electronics engineering project, or something along the lines of that, I need to take tiny breaks every once in a while. Since, for me, reading, working out, playing video games, and practicing on instruments certainly goes beyond "tiny," I sometimes go to KudoZ to help translate something that's different from what I'm doing, in order to both help and clear my mind. Believe it or not, it adds up....maybe not to thousands of points, but definitely to a few hundred. Not everyone who discusses KudoZ and is an active participant thereof is obsessed with virtual points, believe it or not.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:50
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Absolutely agree in principle, but don't make it too rigid. May 7, 2007

I think it is only good manners to use a language that speakers of both the source and target languages understand easily, and in practice this will normally be either the source or the target language.

Some cultural and contextual matters are much easier to explain in the source language, and if the asker cannot understand these explanations, then he/she should not be translating from that language.

Often it is precisely these that are at issue in KudoZ questions - so insisting on answers in the target language could be very counter-productive.

I sometimes find myself using both source and target language in the same question or anwer. Explaining synonyms, near-synonyms, collocations etc. comes naturally in one and is hard work in the other, depending on which way you are translating.

Another situation I often see in the Scandinavian languages Danish, Norwegian and Swedish is that speakers of one can make very useful comments on another language to point out subtle differences, false friends, finer technical details, etc.

Most speakers of those three languages, and especially trained translators, can read each other's languages without a lot of effort, but they are only able to write fluently and correctly in their own. It is no problem if a question from English to Danish is explained in good Swedish, but the best answerer might not be able to explain nearly as well in Danish.

These are small language communities, so it does happen with medical terminology, for instance, or other highly specialised fields.
The answer is often the same in both languages, or easy to check with a slight spelling variation.

It does not worry Scandinavians, who are used to reading each other's languages, and there are probably other groups where the same applies.

So any rule should be formulated to make allowances, and answerers who cannot make useful contributions should be discouraged by other means if possible.

Finding the correct terminology does not always depend on being able to fit it into a grammatically correct sentence!

Just my two penn'orth!


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