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Poll: Do you understand what you translate?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 15:51
SITE STAFF
Jun 24, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you understand what you translate?".

This poll was originally submitted by nico95

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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PB Trans

Local time: 23:51
French to English
+ ...
Actually, I'm not sure I understand this question... Jun 24, 2006

If it means to understand the subject matter of the document, then yes I always understand what I am translating. I would not accept to translate a subject that I am not comfortable with... such as heavy legal, medical, rocket science

Sometimes parts of the text stump me or don't make sense... that's why Kudoz is such a useful tool. However, that's not enough to make me vote "usually".


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:51
English to French
+ ...
Always Jun 24, 2006

There are so many jobs out there that I don't even need to take on a job I don't completely understand. If a day had 48 hours, I still would be working half of it translating stuff that I fully understand - and even lots of stuff most commoners would understand. Of course, there are errors in the source text sometimes, as not all technical translation was written by a technical writer, but hey - that's what KudoZ is for!

Interesting to see that, so far, almost half of those who voted said usually. This means almost half of us takes on jobs that we don't necessarily understand to the fullest.

Don't you just love anonymous polls?


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:51
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Would the person who answered "never" care to explain? Jun 24, 2006

Out of 56 repondents so far, two (3.6%) answred that they understand what they translate "sometimes", and one "never"... could any of you explain how can you translate something that you usually (or even always) don't understand?

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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 19:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
How can you... Jun 24, 2006

possibly translate anything if you don't understand it?

Or if you do translate it...

how could any customer come back after that?


Or maybe there ¡s something else I don't get here...


Cheers

Andrés

[Edited at 2006-06-24 04:09]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:51
English to French
+ ...
Please don't intervene Jun 24, 2006

I hear you, Riccardo and Lettytb. I also am wondering. But let's not scare them away for now, I really would like to see the result here.

I'm just guessing, but those who sometimes or never understand what they translate may be people who don't have enough work to be able to afford to pick their contracts, for various reasons.

By the way, I don't think that those who don't always understand what they translate will comment here. I wouldn't if I were them...

[Edited at 2006-06-24 05:02]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good Question Jun 24, 2006

This is even a better question for each translator to ask him or herself.

The results may not be seen here, but we may be sure they are seen in the work produced.

We will never understand everything, but we can learn to understand more as we go along, and also realize that what we cannot understand, we should leave alone until we do.


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Walter Landesman  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
What kind of question Jun 24, 2006

What kind of question is this? What kind of poll is this?
How can you translate anything if you don`t understand what you are translating?

Beats me!



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Branka Stankovic McCarthy  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 00:51
English to Serbian
+ ...
Absolutely Jun 24, 2006

If I'm not familiar with the subject I won't accept the job or will research it until I'm 100% positive that I know what it's all about. For example, I can now sit an exam in histology and pass with flying grades.))

Walter Landesman wrote:

What kind of question is this? What kind of poll is this?
How can you translate anything if you don`t understand what you are translating?

Beats me!




[Edited at 2006-06-24 06:40]


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:51
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
"don't worry, there is a TM and a glossary available" Jun 24, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:

t we can learn to understand more as we go along, and also realize that what we cannot understand, we should leave alone until we do.

[/quote]

I agree, Henry.

I do a lot of revision, and most of the errors I find are not due to poor language, style or translating skills, but to lack of understanding of the subject matter.
So my personal statistics lead me to believe the number of translators who do not understand what they translate is actually higher than what comes out of this poll.
(But if you translate what you don't understand, you might not even be aware of it... so what would you answer in this poll?)

The difficult thing seems to be to realize one's own limits.

More than once clients themselves have tried to convince me to take on jobs about something I have no knowledge of, with arguments such as "don't worry, there is a TM and a glossary available".

But a glossary alone that translates a term into your language will not fill the gap and if you do not understand the concept that links single words, by faithfully following a glossary and stringing together a series of correctly translated words, you will not produce a correct translation.

I remember what a colleague once told me, as I started out in localization: "don't worry if you don't understand what this means: the user knows about this stuff and he will understand"....

(What I later learned was that the "users" are in fact a great source of knowledge, better than any amout of glossaries, and - in my field - most of what I learned to understand was in fact thanks to users)

Roberta


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Afterthought Jun 24, 2006

The sum total of human knowledge and expression is quite a package, I would think. Yet it is something that you and I are called upon to express any day of the week.

This question brings up more than what was asked, because it is also a challenge to those who would denigrate us and pay us peanuts for our work.

Granted, we are not all capable of translating the sum total of human knowledge and expression on any given day, but we are constantly confronted with difficult challenges at any time, and we have to meet them.

So are we worth so little? Ask yourself that, and don't accept a negative answer. Let's stand up for what we are, and for what no one else can do.


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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:51
English to Polish
Always Jun 24, 2006

Even today I got in a text something I was not familiar with (regarding golf course) -> google and I am smarter a little

I can't imagine translating something I do not understand.

I would also like to hear from those, who replied "Never". How does it work for them o_O

Anni


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Monika Jakacka Márquez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:51
Member (2006)
Polish to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Of course I do! Jun 24, 2006

I really don't understand how you can consider yourself a translator if you never understand what you're translating. Or you understand it only "sometimes". Or if you just say that "it doesn't matter". So what matters? That you'll get some easy money from a deficient translation. What a nightmare!

Actually, I wouldn't accept a translation that I don't feel comfortable with.
Once I got a text written in English by some terrific "translator", a Spanish speaking person, and I was supposed to translate this "thing" (I wouldn't even call it a source TEXT) into Polish. It was the worst experience of my life. The text was full of Spanish constructions translated word-by-word into English. And I don't even mention some Spanish words used as if they would be perfectly understandable in English...

So all I'm trying to explain is that sometimes the understanding of a source text is really linked to its poor o very poor linguistic level.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:51
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't get it either Jun 24, 2006

I have two further readings for this question:

- Do you understand what the information is going to be used for (i.e., are you willing to live with the consequences)

- Do you understand when you do not understand enough to admit it (are you aware of your blind spots)

In the first case, an answer could be "it's none of my business" (weapons, pornography, etc.), which might fall under "never";

And in the second case, if I didn't understand that I didn't understand enough, how would I be aware?

Just a caveat. I didn't answer the poll for this reason.


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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 00:51
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Simple: you just post what you don't understand on Kudoz Jun 24, 2006

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

Out of 56 repondents so far, two (3.6%) answred that they understand what they translate "sometimes", and one "never"... could any of you explain how can you translate something that you usually (or even always) don't understand?


Although the basic idea of Kudoz is (or rather, was) to help pro translators who run into trouble or need help with a term or part of a phrase, it is now generally a site where you post everything you can't do, don't understand etc and let others do your job for you. Look at the 15 question a day posters. Or people translating into a foreign language (or even between 2 foreign languages) who stumble on easy terms that anyone who does understand the text and the language could do with no problem. I am convinced that a certain number of people accept jobs they know that they can't do just because they do know that they can get through them with help from Proz colleagues eager to earn points. So I am not surprised at the number of 'usually' answers and am surprised there are not more 'sometimes'.


[Edited at 2006-06-24 13:20]


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