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Poll: Do you find reading translation theory useful for your professional practice?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Jan 15, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you find reading translation theory useful for your professional practice?".

This poll was originally submitted by emoreda

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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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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:10
Spanish to English
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If you are a practicing professional Jan 15, 2008

- who has time to read translation theory? I for one am usually far too busy to read more than the local rag or an online newspaper...

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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Psst! Theory can be useful!" Jan 15, 2008

Hi emoreda,

I am not sure if with this poll you mean that we should read translation theory everyday, every month, once a year or once in your lifetime.

I assumed that you mean that we should read translation theory at some point of our training/education as translators and if that is useful for our professional practice.

In my case, I chose "extremely useful". To me, translation theory is a broad subject, which, as far as I remember from my translation college classes, includes other branches/sub-topics such as linguistics in general, semantics, etymology, semiotics, etc.

For example, although obviously some of these sub-topics will not necessarily or directly affect your daily practice as a translator, they will certainly give you a better basis in linguistic knowledge (both of your source and target languages), which in turn will make your daily practice easier and even assure a certain higher level of quality.

As commented in the following article from the European Union
( "Psst! Theory can be useful!", http://ec.europa.eu/translation/reading/articles/pdf/2000_tp_chesterman.pdf ),
some translation-theory-related tools can make you a lot more aware of how to treat language in general:


A well-known related tool is that of deverbalization. This is a key term in the training used at the ESIT school of interpretation and translation in Paris (see eg. Lederer 1994). It means simply that a translator or interpreter has to get away from the surface structure of the source text, to arrive at the intended meaning, and then express this intended meaning in the target language.


If you have ever worked as an editor and even as a proofreader, it is not rare to find cases where translators are not applying "deverbalization" and the target version they have produced sounds very much like a "calque" of the source syntax structure. Sure, any reader will still be able to understand such a translation, but in this case you might as well use a machine translation tool, which makes no analysis of things such as deverbalization.

Maybe some people have a natural talent (which many times can be the result of, for example, being an excellent reader of both the source and target language) to know how to apply deverbalization without having ever learned the translation theory behind this, but I tend to think (obviously without any statistical/scientific proof of this) that those with such natural talent are a minority.

In short, I certainly (a subjective opinion!) consider that any translator who takes the time to learn or read at least a bit about translation theory will always be better prepared to carry out their craft.

Saludos,

Ivette


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Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 21:10
English to Spanish
Of course, theory IS useful Jan 15, 2008

[

I fully agree with Ivette, and I want to point out that at least at the begining of your translator career, it is essential. Someone might have been born bilingual and have plenty of education and learning in both languages, but this makes him not a translator. It takes much reading and learning on the specific subject, and also a lot of watching around to learn the uses and practices of the trade.

Sorry, I have made a mess while editing

Saludos
Raul


[Edited at 2008-01-15 14:38]


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Deschant
Local time: 00:10
Reply Jan 15, 2008

ICL wrote:

Hi emoreda,

I am not sure if with this poll you mean that we should read translation theory everyday, every month, once a year or once in your lifetime.

I assumed that you mean that we should read translation theory at some point of our training/education as translators and if that is useful for our professional practice.



Hi Yvette,

I didn't intend to suggest that translators SHOULD read translation theory, or that it should be confined to a certain stage of their careers. Indeed, although theory can be specially useful at the beginning, as pointed out by Raúl, I believe that theory and practice are in close relation to each other, and so the more practical experience we have, the more useful elements will we find in theory.

And I agree about your remark about "natural talent". However, I tend to believe that those people have a natural tendency for reflecting and thinking about language and translation- and this, in a way, is theorizing in itself.

[Editado a las 2008-01-15 16:34]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:10
English to Arabic
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Maybe somewhere in the dark distant corners of my brain! Jan 15, 2008

I'm sure I studied translation - my graduation certificate confirms that - but I'm pretty sure I can't remember a single thing I've learned about the theory of translation. I may be applying the learned stuff unconsciously, but my gut feeling is that translation theory doesn't add too much to translators with natural talent and thorough knowledge of the languages they're dealing with.

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Dan Marasescu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 01:10
Member (2003)
English to Romanian
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Reference Jan 15, 2008

Well, if you define theory as the talk about translation that has nothing in common with practice, it will be of little use.

I recently started to read this book:

http://www.stjerome.co.uk/page.php?id=256&doctype=Translation%20Theories%20Explored§ion=3

It seems to be an intelligent approach. I'll let you know when I'm done.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:10
Flemish to English
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Miseria y esplendor de la traducción. Jan 15, 2008

I still remember the obligatory reading of José Ortega y Gasset's "Miseria y esplendor de la traducción" and the impossibilty to translate... "Traductore traditore" : He illustrates this by attempting to translate the Spanish word "bosque" by the German word"Wald". Both arouse different connotations in the mind of the users of these languages. The translator has to be aware that he/she can not translate a source text 100% correct.

[Edited at 2008-01-15 21:31]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:10
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Extremely useful as well Jan 15, 2008

but to be picked at at one's own convenience and depending on one's stage of growth.

There is a stage at which all that reading can overwhelm you. But as you mature, you find that some ideas acquire a different perspective when you come back to them. In that sense, you don't read as much as recycle, and you do this to both yourself and the ideas. Sometimes even just a few lines will give you a major insight.


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 20:10
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
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On the strictly practical level... Jan 15, 2008

One immediate, practical use of reading theory: It gives me the vocabulary to convince clients that I know what I'm talking about, and to explain to clients, family, friends, students, etc. why translation is so much harder than they think!

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:10
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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It sharpens tools I forget to use Jan 16, 2008

I like reading theory - sometimes.

I don't bother with very abstract writers much. For some reason Noam Chomsky leaves me cold - or I leave him after a couple of pages! There are others.

On the other hand there are some very good practical authors - a couple of them Danish, who really point out some of the traps and how to get around them.
Danes are especially useful to me, and inaccessible to anyone who doesn't read Danish fluently, but there are sure to be equivalents in many other language pairs.

The specific comparisons of two languages - boosting my ego where I have noticed and found the answers myself, and really useful where I haven't - oil and sharpen tools I sometimes forget to use.

And then there are all the other aspects - mentioned by others above. Two of my favourite authors write in very short chapters, and these are ideal for picking up at odd moments, reading on the bus into the city etc.

I like going to lectures as an alternative - and I am lucky enough to live within reach of a university town where some of the real experts give seminars and evening lectures. If all else fails, I meet interesting people in the coffee break, but usually the theory suddenly pops up as useful too.

It puts things in perspective, and perhaps it helps as a check against always using the easy answer and getting into bad habits.

Happy translating!




[Edited at 2008-01-16 08:43]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
Italian to English
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Other Jan 16, 2008

Because I never have read any but would like to. Although as neil says, who has the time?

Anyway, if anyone can recommend any books (in English) on translation theory, I might be spurred to take a look.

[Edited at 2008-01-16 09:00]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:10
Spanish to English
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Question of time Jan 16, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

Because I never have read any but would like to. Although as neil says, who has the time?


I third that.


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Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:10
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
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I must agree Jan 16, 2008

JaneTranslates wrote:

One immediate, practical use of reading theory: It gives me the vocabulary to convince clients that I know what I'm talking about, and to explain to clients, family, friends, students, etc. why translation is so much harder than they think!


Even though I originally voted "Not useful at all", maybe this was just out of spite, as my university classes in translation theory simply bored me to death - even though I must acknowledge that having the terminology ready can be very useful indeed.

On the other hand, most of the theory that I had to read in university simply seemed to state obvious things in a very scientific-sounding way. I'm sure there's other, more engaging material around, but what our curriculum prescribed was truly boring (and I think most of my fellow students agreed on this).


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Sandro C  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:10
English to Georgian
+ ...
Useful Jan 16, 2008

A very interesting discussion. I agree that that theory is useful when read at your own convenience and pace. It might not result in a striking difference all at once. Theory might change the way of thinking and it takes time to be channeled down to the practical level...

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