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ProZ.com: pros...or dangerous amateurs?
Thread poster: xxxFranH
xxxFranH
French to English
+ ...
Apr 17, 2002

Yesterday, under the humourous entry \"They should have called a translator\", Rita Heller pointed out that there was an agency sending in multiple French/English questions about industrial equipment and that they, too, should have called a translator.



After I\'d finished laughing at the Forum entry I went to have a look at the posts Rita had mentioned - and the answers.



This made me laugh even more. At first. And then I realised that the postings were about the manufacturing of industrial equipment involving electrical components. This is not my area but I could appreciate broadly what kind of subject was being translated and what the implications might be.



I wondered where this equipment was going to end up. The poster is in Manchester, UK, not so far from our famous Sellafied nuclear power station. Or they could be used in a hospital of course, or in air traffic control. But hey, who cares, as long as we got the job? After all, the client doesn\'t speak French, obviously, so they won\'t know until machinery fails or someone has an accident.



I posted a polite comment to the effect that surely such translation should only be entrusted to someone with the relevant technical knowledge, given that health and safety issues must be involved.



The posts continued. This morning, the poster has sent in a paragraph which explains that the equipment can be dangerous and gives instructions relating to accident risk. The poster asks for the translation of two phrases/words in the given paragraph, which aren\'t even technical phrases. They\'re just basic French.



Lots of people, including some who are obviously good translators, and one person who displays very high standards and a very impressive range of knowledge, have helped our poster out by sending regular answers. Other people have sent in guesses.



Why are they doing this? Competent people can see clearly here that they are helping someone who should not be doing this translation. The answerers cannot see the rest of the text, but it is a fair guess that there are going to be mistakes in it. If they are members of any professional translators\' bodies, they have undertaken not to collaborate with work they know does not meet professional standards.



Does one gain kudos by putting human health and safety at risk? This entirely degrades the idea of KudoZ and makes it, in practice, absurd.



There was a Forum posting on, I think, April 4, about a highly critical review of ProZ in Translator\'s Journal. I think the above example is exactly what the TJ authors were talking about.



ProZ.com is a super idea, and it is lamentable to see the site, along with the reputation of what we apparently claim is our profession, being wholly undermined.


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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Fully agree with Fran, yet ProZ Glossary is not worse than other dictionaries Apr 17, 2002

It is hard to beat that medical example in terms of the translator\'s responsibility (which ultimately rests with the outsourcer/publisher, though, not even with the agency, as Mats says), yet what comes to my mind is the phenomenon of so-called sworn or certified legal translations which, very often, are used in court proceedings and may be of critical significance. Let us remember that they are certified \"to the best of the translator\'s knowledge.\" While there is no sworn translator who can be an expert in all the possible fields, sworn translators are free to \"certify\" any documents. The results of such practice may also be disastrous.



Thus, just as ProZ is not an exception to the irresponsibility of people, so is ProZ Glossary not an exception to the lack of perfection of any dictionary you find on the market. On the contrary, the hope is that KudoZ bloopers would be eliminated by peers, and clinical cases of translationmania would be ostracized. Other than that, Internet as such is not foolproof and you, as a client, have to use your judgement. The ultimate responsibility rests with you.







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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 22:03
SITE FOUNDER
both Apr 17, 2002

Welcome to ProZ.com, Fran.



The answer to your question is \'both\'. That is, there are both pros and amateurs at ProZ.com.



And yes, some KudoZ answers are \'absurd\'. However, the KudoZ system as a whole is not.



You seem inclined to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I would invite you, instead, to join us in trying to boost the overall level of discourse here on the site. (You are off to a good start.)



By the way, the Translation Journal article was inaccurate and unfair. Posted here are the article and the reply I sent to the authors and editor.


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xxxFranH
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The professional is where the buck stops. Apr 17, 2002

Thanks for your comments Jacek. I think though that I have to disagree with you that in the relationship between client and professional, ultimate responsibility rests with the client. My comments below relate to how professionals are regulated in the UK.



If a doctor fails to diagnose a disabling or fatal illness, the doctor is responsible, not the patient. Doctors can only practice if they are members of a professional medical body. If they kill or hurt people, and are found out, they are struck off by the medical governing body. They cannot practice medicine again and the injured parties can sue and obtain compensation.



If a lawyer gives bad advice, and the client suffers as a result, it is the lawyer\'s fault. The client can complain to the legal disciplinary body and obtain compensation. Lawyers cannot practice without insurance. Also, lawyers cannot claim to be proficient in any old area of law. They are only allowed to advertise expertise in a handful of areas. This regulation was introduced to stop unscrupulous people offering services in areas they knew very little about.



This is the difference between professionals and other business people. The distinction is made because in professional areas, the subject is accepted as too complex for a lay person to understand. So, when a layperson turns to a professional, they are entrusting that person with their reputation, their livelihood, their home or their life.



If translators want to be accepted as professionals, they must subscribe to professional ethics and discipline.



In the UK a professional translator undertakes:



to translate only into their native language, unless they have passed a rigourous test of bilingualism;



never to accept texts they do not understand for translation, but to refer them on to someone who is qualified.



I think it\'s taken for granted that professionals don\'t guess - or at least, that if they are guessing, they say so!



Language services seem to be unique in that there is a two-tier profession. Conference interpreters have to reach very high standards. There is an international body that guards these standards. There is a shortage of native English speaking interpreters. Conference interpreters in general earn much higher salaries.



How can it be that the written word is somehow thought to be less important? How can there be a shortage of interpreters, yet a glut of people who claim to be qualified to translate into English, with agencies trying to cut rates? Is there a need for an international regulatory body for translators?



I wonder if it might be a good idea for ProZ to carry a highly visible statement on every page to the effect that people asking or answering questions may not be qualified to do so. Otherwise, it is misleading. People think that a answer agreed to by several people described as \"ProZ\" will be correct. Sadly it\'s not so.



Sorry this is so long....



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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:03
English to Swedish
+ ...
Whinging does not help, doing does. Apr 17, 2002

Dear Fran,



Whinging does not help, doing does.



Both problems (the quality of the ProZ glossary and the dilemmas of purchasers of translation services) have been addressed in ProZ forums and in emails to ProZ.



I feel confident that Henry will deal most competently with the QC of the glossary (It is my understanding that the process has already started with the English-German section). You should look upon the KudoZ activity as a harvesting process. No sane human being expects to be able to eat what comes out of a combined harvester, but find it quite acceptable that millers and bakers have to be involved before there is cake! Same goes for KudoZ Q&A!



I recently posted a proposal for how to deal with the purchasers’ dilemmas. ProZ members were encouraged to email me if they wanted to participate (Read: Help their customers!). 4 out of the 30,000+ ProZ members have written to me and said “YES”, 18 have written and said “NO”. See “Jacek Krankowski, “Dumping in e-commerce in services*?”, April 11! Conclusion?



May we benefit from your constructive suggestions, Fran?



Best regards,



Sven.



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-17 13:44 ]

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-18 08:06 ]


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 22:03
SITE FOUNDER
use the KudoZ confidence bar Apr 17, 2002

Fran said:

I think it\'s taken for granted that professionals don\'t guess - or at least, that if they are guessing, they say so!



Yes. That is the purpose of the KudoZ confidence bar...it gives you a way to express your degree of confidence. Using high confidence sparingly is a good way to establish credibility.



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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 22:03
German to English
+ ...
Spot on! Apr 17, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-04-17 13:23, FranH wrote:



If a doctor fails to diagnose a disabling or fatal illness, the doctor is responsible, not the patient. Doctors can only practice if they are members of a professional medical body. If they kill or hurt people, and are found out, they are struck off by the medical governing body. They cannot practice medicine again and the injured parties can sue and obtain compensation.



If a lawyer gives bad advice, and the client suffers as a result, it is the lawyer\'s fault. The client can complain to the legal disciplinary body and obtain compensation. Lawyers cannot practice without insurance. Also, lawyers cannot claim to be proficient in any old area of law. They are only allowed to advertise expertise in a handful of areas. This regulation was introduced to stop unscrupulous people offering services in areas they knew very little about.



This is the difference between professionals and other business people.



If translators want to be accepted as professionals, they must subscribe to professional ethics and discipline.



In the UK a professional translator undertakes:



to translate only into their native language, unless they have passed a rigourous test of bilingualism;



never to accept texts they do not understand for translation, but to refer them on to someone who is qualified.





Do you have any idea, Fran, how many times I have raised this issue (\"professionalization\" of translators), only to be attacked by those that find \"professional ethics\" offensive (yes, there are many who think that way!)?



The problem is, Fran, that we have a large number of \"translators\" out here who are very afraid of regulations and rules - because they would not be allowed to practise anymore (I am talking about non-credentialed translators) if such a system were to be set up.



Funny when you think about it: no one complains about the rules for lawyers. No one wakes up one morning and says, \"As of today, I am a lawyer!\" But when it comes to translation, everyone thinks they have the right to just \"barge in\". And this has to stop: put a stop to all those interlopers! This would also put an end to low rates and low quality.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-17 13:49 ]

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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:03
English to Swedish
+ ...
Apr 17, 2002

Dear Werner,



May we benefit from your constructive suggestions?



Best regards,



Sven.


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 22:03
German to English
+ ...
Time for change Apr 17, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-04-17 13:51, sven wrote:

Dear Werner,



May we benefit from your constructive suggestions?



Best regards,



Sven.





This is going to \"hurt\" some of you, but that\'s the way it is:



If you want to be a professional translator, a) get proper training and b) join a professional body and obtain accreditation. This should be the norm and an absolute requirement. If all translators met these requirements, we would not have all these problems (low rates, unprofessional conduct, people \"translating\" into 3 or 4 foreign languages, etc.).



Face it now: all the problems in our profession are caused by interlopers, not by the true professionals.



No one, with a bit of brain left, would question the legal profession\'s right to restrict admission. And the same should go for our profession!



But, as I said, those that oppose these regulations are the ones that would be left out in the cold, and that\'s why they\'re going to scream bloody murder. Just watch this space



The bottom-line is this: if you want to be recognized as professionals, you will have to act and organize like lawyers and other professionals. Period!

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-17 14:14 ]

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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Werner is right re professionalism Apr 17, 2002

I agree 100% with Werner. Look, Werner, who cares if it hurts? I have spent 20 years in this profession, have the right diplomas and clients, and still must constantly prove myself. Unlike other professionals, there is no shining star that I have stamped on my forehead that proclaims to the world that I am a professional. I believe there are several ways to professionalize the profession [a whole other discussion] and those who can\'t make it should \"get on another tram\" as they say in Brazilian Portuguese. Not everybody gets to be a doctor, a lawyer or other profession. Why should everybody get to be a translator without going through the hurdles? As we sometimes say in the US, no pain no gain. And I believe that the translator is ultimately responsible. Didn\'t anybody see that recent case in the US where poorly interpreted Spanish gave rise to a mistrial?

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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:03
English to Swedish
+ ...
Be constructive! Apr 17, 2002

Dear Werner,



Your contribution under the heading ”Time for change” is neither realistic nor constructive. It’s a mixture between wishful daydreaming and prime whinging. It is also extremely insulting to those who succeeded in learning more languages than you managed to.



What do you mean with “proper training”? In what way does membership in “a professional body” improve translation quality? Which “professional bodies” would be acceptable to you? Which accreditations would meet your approval?



Who is going to organize the translators of the world ”like lawyers and other professionals”? You? When? How?



Have you found the time to read my suggestion (referred to above)? Did you understand it? Can you propose some constructive improvements to it or proffer a better, but still realistic, solution of your own?



Face it: We are not living in Utopia, but in the Real World! The solution is not to be found in dated union style restrictions, but in quality!



Please do try to be constructive!



Best regards,



Sven.



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-18 08:08 ]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 22:03
German to English
+ ...
My sentiments exactly! Apr 17, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-04-17 15:21, nonogogo wrote:



I believe there are several ways to professionalize the profession [a whole other discussion] and those who can\'t make it should \"get on another tram\" as they say in Brazilian Portuguese. Not everybody gets to be a doctor, a lawyer or other profession. Why should everybody get to be a translator without going through the hurdles? As we sometimes say in the US, no pain no gain.





And that is the very core of the problem: even right here in the forums, several \"translators\" have attacked me and others, saying that they have this right to intrude on our profession without any training or qualifications.



I have been saying this for years: we all have dreams, but not all of them can be realized. Not everyone can become a lawyer or doctor or commercial pilot. By the same token, not everyone can become a translator - no matter how much they may want to. If you don\'t have 20/20 vision, for example, you\'ll never steer a jumbo. Sadly, an overwhelming number of \"translators\" out there don\'t have \"20/20 vision\" when it comes to languages and translation.



To follow up on your example of the tram: if you wish to take a ride on the \"translation tram\", buy a ticket! Otherwise, walk!

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Constructive--yes, but utopian? Apr 17, 2002

The proposal for the translators of all the countries to unite was discussed earlier and, as far as I remember, conclusions were somewhat pessimistic.



If it is not \"of all the countries,\" then, I am afraid, we have to go back home, to each of our individual real worlds, fix the problem there (see what the Italians did yesterday?) and only then come back to ProZ to try to hammer out a common standard for the whole globe.



I would very much like to be treated as a lawyer or a doctor. To this end, in my particular geographical region, I joined two national translators organizations and I became a sworn translator. So what? Yes, I am supposed to abide by a certain ethical code and I swore to the judge that I would translate \"to the best of my knowledge,\" but there is no mechanism in place that would prevent me from giving wild answers to KudoZ questions or \"certifying\" translations on brain surgery.



How do you enforce an ethical code? I am not required to carry any professional indemnity insurance and my work is always ancillary to that of lawyers who, based on what I give them, sit at the table and start negotiating, amending, splitting hairs. It is only on that work of theirs that the whole liability hinges.



Similarly, I cannot imagine Lancet or Nature magazines rely on what a translator will submit to them on brain surgery or dwarf stars without having their own expert editor check and double check every word and then lay his head on the line.



Now, some of you will say that in your countries, national associations\' standards are so high that as a result it is you who are laying your head on the line each time you are doing a translation. Good! But, from what we can read on ProZ, you guys seem to represent a tiny fraction of the 30,000...



ProZ should, by all means, carry the banner for high standards in translation. But, as long as thousands out there are ready to work for 2c/w and there is plenty of work for them and for their quality, I am pessimistic also this time around. (Just, Sven, please, do not count me among whiners!)


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 22:03
German to English
+ ...
It is REALISTIC Apr 17, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-04-17 15:34, sven wrote:

Dear Werner,



Your contribution under the heading ”Time for change” is neither realistic nor constructive. It’s a mixture between wishful daydreaming and prime winging. It is also extremely insulting to those who succeeded in learning more languages than you managed to.



What do you mean with “proper training”? In what way does membership in “a professional body” improve translation quality? Which “professional bodies” would be acceptable to you? Which accreditations would meet your approval?



Who is going to organize the translators of the world ”like lawyers and other professionals”? You? When? How?



Have you found the time to read my suggestion (referred to above)? Did you understand it? Can you propose some constructive improvements to it or proffer a better, but still realistic, solution of your own?



Face it: We are not living in Utopia, but in the Real World! The solution is not to be found in dated union style restrictions, but in quality!



Please do try to be constructive!



Best regards,



Sven.







At least in Canada, we have implemented most of these things.



If you want to be recognized as professionals, act, train and organize like lawyers and other professionals.



Since this system works for lawyers and all other professions, it will work for us too.



Sven, you are one of those that would be left in the cold, so I am not surprised at all that you would oppose these ideas. The only daydreamer here is you: waking up one morning ..... GET IT?

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-17 15:51 ]

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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 22:03
German to English
+ ...
Reply Apr 17, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-04-17 15:35, jacek wrote:







How do you enforce an ethical code? I am not required to carry any professional indemnity insurance and my work is always ancillary to that of lawyers who, based on what I give them, sit at the table and start negotiating, amending, splitting hairs. It is only on that work of theirs that the whole liability hinges.



ProZ should, by all means, carry the banner for high standards in translation. But, as long as thousands out there are ready to work for 2c/w and there is plenty of work for them and for their quality, I am pessimistic also this time around. (Just, Sven, please, do not count me among whiners!)





Well, ethical rules could be enforced in the same manner as among lawyers and doctors (remember: even Bill Clinton lost his licence!).



But you are right: even the more effective associations around the world take a rather lax attitude when it comes to enforcing their own rules (e.g., ATA approved an \"unethical\" ad by one of its members, and it was published in the ATA Chronicle for several months!).



As for ProZ, it would be the perfect platform for a global movement (I also said that a long time ago), but, as you point out, as long as we have people willing to work for 2 cents (or even worse: one ProZ member, residing in the US (!), offers her services for $1.50 per page (!!!)), things won\'t change much.



Here\'s some more: a few months ago, The Economist had an article about certain services being outsourced to cheap countries such as India. In particular, they referred to medical transcription services (well, that\'s pretty close to translation). In this article, they said that Western companies, after using the services of Indian companies for over a year, had realized that this was one big mistake: cheap rates, but also very poor quality. So, according to the article, Western companies stopped outsourcing to India and other such countries. The article made it very clear that this trend had been reversed.



Personally, I\'d consider 2 cents an insult even if I lived in the Congo.

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