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Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
Poll: How often do you accept projects in unfamiliar fields?
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 17:32
SITE STAFF
Dec 12, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How often do you accept projects in unfamiliar fields?".

This poll was originally submitted by zhangxiaowan. View the poll results »



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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:32
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
It doesn't depend on the field but on the level of specialisation Dec 12, 2011

To be honest I simply don't believe those who have answered "rarely" to this poll! There are always going to be things that are new to us, we just have to judge whether we are capable of learning whatever needs learning in order to translate the text.

This morning I translated a short test piece which was a newspaper article about the effects of smoking on the mouth. I'm not a doctor or dentist and the field is "unfamiliar" to me but any professional translator would have been able to translate the text because it was not aimed at a specialised readership. The concepts expressed were therefore easy enough to understand.

I translate hundreds of short newspaper and magazine articles every month which can touch on many different fields. Though some of them are "unfamiliar" to me, the texts are quite accessible to the non-versed in the subject. Rarely do concepts come up that can't be understood through research.

The same thing happens with business texts which might address an area of business operations that I am unfamiliar with, but that I am capable of "learning" with a bit of donkey work. The business world evolves quickly alongside the technology it uses and "new" fields are emerging all the time.


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neilmac
Spain
Local time: 02:32
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Dec 12, 2011

It depends on what you call "unfamiliar". I usually prefer to look at a text and decide for myself if I can handle it or not. I sometimes translate texts in areas that I previously knew little or nothing about, but I don't consider expertise in the subject matter a prerequisite for every text translated. For example, I have translated published texts about fuzzy logic and learning algorithms which at first sight might as well have been Martian to me. However, the authors understand the scientific/technical parts and can usually explain any doubts or queries that might crop up.

I recently decided to stop translating texts about economics, as some clients in that area can be very picky and insist on one term rather than others, and I prefer not to have to argue my case every time I want to use a synonym.

"A change is as good as rest."


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neilmac
Spain
Local time: 02:32
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Me too Dec 12, 2011


Simon Bruni wrote:
I translate hundreds of short newspaper and magazine articles every month which can touch on many different fields. Though some of them are "unfamiliar" to me, the texts are quite accessible to the non-versed in the subject. Rarely do concepts come up that can't be understood through research.

The same thing happens with business texts which might address an area of business operations that I am unfamiliar with, but that I am capable of "learning" with a bit of donkey work. The business world evolves quickly alongside the technology it uses and "new" fields are emerging all the time.



This is sort of what I was trying to get at in my rather rambling post. Nicely put, Simon


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Teresa Borges
Belgium
Local time: 02:32
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Dec 12, 2011

It varies from "never" (nuclear energy, for instance) to "all the time", depending on the meaning of "unfamiliar", as said already by Neilmac and Simon...

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Dec 12, 2011

I agree with Simon about level of specialization - well put.

Also, there are some fields that I just wouldn't dream of getting into, regardless of the level of specialization--too much work, and too much room for error.

On the other hand, I think it's healthy to stretch and learn. Lately I have been building some expertise in the water supply and sanitation field because the research is not too intense and the texts have not been too technical. And my client makes it worth my while. The same has happened for me in other areas in the past.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 02:32
English to French
+ ...
Other Dec 12, 2011

I still have to receive a source text containing not one single line of an "unfamiliar" field.

Years ago, I was asked to translate the annual report of an electrical company (electricity was one of my "fields")... I had to go deeper in the financial aspect than what my own company requires.
The same happened with a legal text about the "manure decree"... and many more.

Are annual reports financial or other speciality fields? Is a "manure decree" legal, biological, chemical, agricultural, environmental?

Most (of my) texts involve more than one field, don't yours?


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JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 02:32
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Agree Dec 12, 2011

As previous posters have said, there is always something new in any translation project. I am completely familiar with the museums field, for example, but museums have exhibitions of all kinds, and I rarely translate an exhibition guide for a subject that I know thoroughly. Translation isn't just about language, it's about research too.

I think in the "old days" before the Internet, it must have been much more difficult to be anything other than a specialist, but now we have so much access to research materials that given a standard-level text I find it relatively easy to get under the skin of the subject.

Though like Neil, I avoid financial texts, simply on the basis that I am so uninterested in the subject that I can't keep the concepts straight in my head from one sentence to the next.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:32
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other ... Dec 12, 2011

Most texts I work with have something 'new' in, even texts in the fields I've previously studied in and worked in, otherwise I'd probably be doing a different job by now.

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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
The strange fields into which our specialisations take us... Dec 12, 2011

Currently translating an artistic text (in which I specialise) on dance, that delves into metaphysics, Euclidian geometry and microbiology... a steep learning curve!

[Edited at 2011-12-12 13:54 GMT]


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:32
Member (2006)
German to English
Never Dec 12, 2011

I have tried the one or two fields and have noticed that there are others that could have done a better job probably in half the time. Vice-versa, I frequently get proofreading jobs where the translator should have done something better with their time.

I only stick to the things I can do and do them right than venture somewhere ese and mess everything up


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Rarely Dec 12, 2011

Well, Simon, you'll just have to believe me. Since most of the work I do is for the same clients I have had for years, the subjects I deal with tend to be familiar ones. But can new things come up? Of course they can, and I have to research them. Then every now and then I can get a job that is outside my normal areas which can mean more research.

But the subjects I deal with tend to be the familiar ones nearly all the time. Of course after more that 40 years of practice, the subjects I am familiar with include a wide variety.


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 18:32
English to Dutch
+ ...
rarely Dec 13, 2011

I mostly translate investment stuff and EU-legislation.
Even though EU legislation is a very broad concept, I only accept assignments in fields that I am comfortable with.
And yes, there's always things to be researched, even in texts on subjects that you know well. But I don't think that's the point of this poll.

Only when a really good customer insists because he can't find another translator and is facing a strict deadline, I accept if I have the time for it. But that happens only very rarely and then I let the customer know that I'm doing him a big favor and that I might have an extensive list of questions for the end customer.



Michael Harris wrote:

I have tried the one or two fields and have noticed that there are others that could have done a better job probably in half the time. Vice-versa, I frequently get proofreading jobs where the translator should have done something better with their time.



I couldn't agree more.
Even so-called general texts on specific subjects may be a lot more difficult than the translator realizes. Even thorough research can't keep us from making mistakes, unfortunately. The biggest risk is not the parts that we're not sure of whether we interpreted them correctly, but the parts that we think we interpreted correctly but actually had completely wrong! If you're not familiar with a specialized matter, the risk of making big mistakes is just too big, if you ask me.
Besides, how can it be profitable to regularly accept translations in unfamiliar fields that require extensive research? I like my job and I love learning about new things, but I also have to make a living...

I'd rather stick to stuff that I know. In that way, my rate is justified and I know I can deliver excellent quality that keeps my customers happy.

[Edited at 2011-12-13 00:02 GMT]


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Poll: How often do you accept projects in unfamiliar fields?






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