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Survey on Translator鈥檚 Practices and Ethics from MSc student
Thread poster: Natalia Millman

Natalia Millman
Local time: 10:53
English to Russian
+ ...
May 29, 2003

Hi,

I am an MSc student in Translation at Imperial College and I am writing a dissertation on Translator鈥檚 Ethics.

Much has been told lately about Ethics in theory, therefore I would like to focus on its practical application by translators.

As a part of my research, I would like to ask you few questions about the most important issues every translator faces.

I would appreciate if you help me in my research and share your own ideas about this issue.

Natalia.

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?
2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?
3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?
4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?
5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?
6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?
7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?
8. Do you honour agreements you make路 Always路 Sometimes路 Never
9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?
10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?
12. What is your bad client experience, if any?
13. How happy are you to work with translation software( translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Questions and Answers May 29, 2003

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?
Change that to certification exam, and I'm all for it.

2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?
More trashlators... er... translators.

3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?
Unreasonable deadlines; unacceptable business practices from the client; requests to lower my rates; subjects I don't like (i.e. religion, politics, pseudoscience, etc.)

4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?
No.

5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?
Yes, absolutely.

6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?
I don't let things get to that point. (I've been trained in sales and client support techniques). Difficult clients can be dealt with. Impossible clients are to be politely dismissed.

7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?
If a non-disclosure agreement has been signed, secrecy and confidenciality are a must.

8. Do you honour agreements you make路 Always路 Sometimes路 Never
Always.

9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?
Among several, being a problem solver.

10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?
Not too easily. I only share with those I consider my peers.

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?
If that's the case, it's not the fault of the forums but of those who choose to shoot themselves in the foot.

12. What is your bad client experience, if any?
My pet peeves are: clients/users who have no idea about the translation process, slow/non-payers, and "experts" with high-school or one-summer-abroad level language skills.

13. How happy are you to work with translation software( translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?
Any and all tools can be useful, but they cannot (as yet) replace humans who really know their trade.

[Edited at 2003-05-29 20:44]


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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:53
English to Swedish
+ ...
Sven's answer May 29, 2003

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?
- No.

2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?
- Yes.

3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?
- When I have any doubt, no matter how small, about my ability to communicate the principal鈥檚 message to the intended target group.

4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?
- Yes.

5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?
- Yes.

6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?
- Cease to service them.

7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?
- Yes.

8. Do you honour agreements you make路 Always路 Sometimes路 Never
- Always!

9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?
- Honesty!

10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?
- No problems!

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?
- No experience, thus no opinion.

12. What is your bad client experience, if any?
- I have experienced two insolvent agencies that never paid.

13. How happy are you to work with translation software( translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?
- Not happy at all! Handmade silk carpets will always be more beautiful than machine made Wilton carpets!


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:53
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
Survey May 29, 2003

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?
Yes

2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?
More translators.

3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?
When I think I cannot do it properly. Sometimes I also refuse job which are too stressful and might have a negative impact on my mother duties (I have 3 small kids).

4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?
No.

5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?
It's a must. You also need to work on your writing skills all the time.


6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?
I discontinue the collaboration.

7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?
Sometimes.

8. Do you honour agreements you make路 Always路 Sometimes路 Never
Always.

9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?
A combination of different strategies. My experience tells me there is no "perfect strategy".

10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?
I have no problem at sharing but sometimes it can be dangerous.

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?
No, I don't.

12. What is your bad client experience, if any?
A few non-payers.


13. How happy are you to work with translation software( translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?
I work with Trados and I am very happy about it. It has boosted my productivity and I am less tired at the end of the day.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:53
German to English
May I make a few suggestions? May 30, 2003

Dear Natalia,
Thank you for posting this interesting survey here. I want to respond too, but first I'd like to make a few suggestions about the wording of your survey. I think some of the questions are a little ambiguous and have rewritten the questions that confused me. These are just my ideas. Others may think they're fine and still others may not like my rephrasing. But I think your survey will get better results if the questions are crystal clear. I don't know how to handle no. 11. Could you clarify?

1. Do you think obligatory accreditation/certification exams are a good idea?

2. Which group is larger: translators or professional translators?

7. Do you think that if a translator is required to maintain confidentiality about a particular project then he/she must adhere to these requirements?

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much? - I don鈥檛 understand this question. What do you mean by 鈥渁buse translator鈥檚 knowledge?鈥 Does this have to do with confidentiality?

12. What bad client experiences have you had, if any?

13. How comfortable are you working with translation software (translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?

Just trying to be helpful. Best wishes, Kim


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 05:53
German to English
Q&A May 30, 2003

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?

It's one of those things that sounds good in theory. I think there should be some sort of sensible barrier to entry, however.

2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?

There are a lot of amateurs / unskilled translators who make it harder for professionals to be taken seriously.

3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?

If it's out of my field, or if the deadline is too tight.

4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?

For that reason I don't do translations related to the nuclear power industry. I've done lots of translations where I've disagreed with almost every premise in the text, but it didn't affect how I did my job.

5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?

VERY important. Even more important than computer skills.

6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?

I've been very fortunate in this regard. There has been only one instance when I've felt that a client was totally unreasonable. Usually disagreements can be worked out.

7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?

I do a lot of financial reports. You just can't share this information.

8. Do you honour agreements you make路 Always路 Sometimes路 Never

Acts of God notwithstanding, ALWAYS!! This is one of the basic ethical premises of a professional. There have been a few times (only 3 that I can remember) in the past 30 years when power failures, serious illness, etc. have prevented me from meeting a deadline.

9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?

I'm a very poor marketer. I have no strategy. My business telephone number isn't even in the phone book. If someone manages to contact me, he/she REALLY wants a translation.

10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?

It depends on the experience and the translator. Sometimes my experiences are unique and someone else isn't likely to benefit from hearing about them. I don't like to bore people.

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?

The problem isn't that useful knowledge is shared. Newsgroups and forums frequently contain opinions and wild guesses presented as facts.

12. What is your bad client experience, if any?

I once had to use a collection agency for a slow payer.

13. How happy are you to work with translation software( translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?

I use a translation memory program, DejaVu. It helps me keep my terminology consistent. Sometimes it helps me work faster, but it's not useful for all projects.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:53
German to English
+ ...
Questions and answers May 30, 2003

1. Would you like to have an obligatory accreditation exam?

Given the ease with which translations can be delivered across national borders and the fact that accreditation can be made obligatory only at national level (at the moment), this is simply impractical. I favour voluntary "accreditation", e.g. through membership of a professional body which can not only set standards, but also monitor and uphold them.

2. Do you think that nowadays there are more translators or professional translators?

This is impossible to answer as there is no clear definition of "professional translator".

3. Under which conditions do you refuse to do a translation job?

Any conditions which jeopardize professional standards. Unrealistic deadlines and unfamiliar subject matter are the two most common.

4. If a job clashes with your personal beliefs, would you do it?

Although it is conceivable, I have never been offered a job which was so objectionable that I would refuse to do it on principle. I have encountered jobs which I found so difficult to relate to that I found myself unable to express the ideas convincingly, and so declined to do them. The most extreme case was a radically feministic text.

5. Do you think it is important for a translator to have writing experience?

Target language writing skill is absolutely crucial. Experience, not necessarily so.

6. How do you respond when clients treat you badly?

I don't work for them again. However, I find it hardly ever happens. If a new client behaves respectably during negotiations, I presume they will continue to do so. So far I have generally found this to be the case. If they don't make a respectable impression, I simply don't work for them. In particular, any potential customer that gives the impression that I should be grateful for any work, for example by asking me to fill out a form for their database, or aggressively trying to drive my prices down, will have to look elsewhere.

7. Do you think that a job of a translator is that if a secret agent when he/she must keep the information about the job in secret?

Confidentiality is a hallmark of any profession, not just translation. How far it goes in practice is a matter of judgement.

8. Do you honour agreements you make

I take all reasonable measures to honour agreements and, equally importantly, not to enter into agreements that I know I may not be able to honour.

9. What strategy do you use to approach clients?

I have never had time to develop a proper strategy. I have won some customers by various marekting measures, but the majority have come to me by word of mouth.

10. How easily do you share your experience with other translators?

Fairly well, I presume, if you're still reading this!

11. Do you think that translator鈥檚 newsgroups and forums abuse translator鈥檚 knowledge because you share too much?

No. A far bigger problem is that inexperienced translators are over-represented in online groups and under-represented in professional bodies.

12. What is your bad client experience, if any?

One customer bankrupt, owing me 1,000 Deutschmarks, in 10 years. No other cases of non-payment. Plenty of "bad text experiences".

13. How happy are you to work with translation software (translation memories, machine translation software, glossary databases)?

Very happy. The technology has its uses and is here to stay.

Marc Prior


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