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Human resources in translation: a question directed to Project Managers
Thread poster: Fabio Descalzi

Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:08
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
May 23, 2008

Suppose you are given a long and complex text, 100,000 words containing a wide diversity of topics that require sharing the translation among very different specialists. And at the same time, you are given the best human resources available in the language industry. So, you must assign the most suitable persons for every task.

- Translation proper: do you prefer it done by persons with a University degree in translation, or rather by professionals from other specialities (say, engineers, lawyers, artists, etc.)?

- Revision/editing: same question

- Review/proofreading: do you prefer a translator, or rather a monolingual specialist in the target language?

This topic pretends to be a sort of counterpoint with the already on-going discussion about "what is proofreading", http://www.proz.com/topic/6741 and "Proofreading: monolingual or bilingual" http://www.proz.com/topic/85819 . But this time: good PMs have the word!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My opinion May 23, 2008

Fabio,

I've never been a project manager other than managing myself in large projects involving text translation, DTP, video translation, dubbing, subtitling, video editing, DVD authoring. Yes, I'm a kind of Swiss-army knife. When I "outsource", it means I give the client names and phone numbers of people I know that can do "it" - whatever is needed - well.

On the other hand, I once was a human resources manager, still am a HRD/OD consultant, and my main translation specialty is traning programs. So I'd be likely to know something about HR management.

Here is my input:

Translation: Get a translator specialized in the subject area involved. S/he will best understand what is said in the source language, and say it in a way that target-language practitioners in that area will immediately relate to.

Revision/editing: Get a practitioner of the area involved living for, say, at least a decade, in a country where the target language is the national language. This will provide you with the current way of saying things. It doesn't have to be a translator, not even a native, maybe not even bilingual, but someone who reads similar materials in the target language all the time.

Review/proofreading: Get a dependable translator in this pair, not necessarily specialized in the subject area. The purpose is to provide flawless grammar and ensure that every phrase makes sense.


Just one example. I don't translate medical stuff. Years ago, I had to translate two videos on CPR procedures for non-medical personnel. Okay, it should have no medical jargon that laypeople would not understand. Nevertheless, my next-door neighbor was a thoroughly monolingual MD, a GP who often worked in emergency. So I asked him to check it. He only found one gross mistake...

CPR stands for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. So I had translated it into PT as "ressucitação". He told me that "ressucitação" (actually "resurrection" in EN) was Jesus Christ stuff (his wife was an ardent Catholic), and the correct word for "resuscitation" would be "reanimação", which hadn't occurred to me.

This is to show that a monolingual specialist can often help. An English-speaking doctor might step over "ressucitação" if his/her brain thought "in English" for a split second.

HTH.


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:08
Member (2008)
French to English
agree May 23, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Translation: Get a translator specialized in the subject area involved. S/he will best understand what is said in the source language, and say it in a way that target-language practitioners in that area will immediately relate to.

Revision/editing: Get a practitioner of the area involved living for, say, at least a decade, in a country where the target language is the national language. This will provide you with the current way of saying things. It doesn't have to be a translator, not even a native, maybe not even bilingual, but someone who reads similar materials in the target language all the time.

Review/proofreading: Get a dependable translator in this pair, not necessarily specialized in the subject area. The purpose is to provide flawless grammar and ensure that every phrase makes sense.


HTH.

I was a project manager for a few years, and this was pretty much our ideal if we could get it - and get the client to pay for it.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
My contribution May 23, 2008

I project managed a few years back just for a couple of months for an agency based in Spain. IMO, in an ideal world the translator would have a degree in both translation and the subject area, and so would the proofreader, but the chances of you finding that combination are low, and finding it twice, close to zero. In my experience monolinguals can't really add much. Then of course there is the issue of price...

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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:08
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
One small "disagree" May 23, 2008

Tatty wrote:
...and so would the proofreader, but the chances of you finding that combination are low, and finding it twice, close to zero. In my experience monolinguals can't really add much.

Thanks Tatty for your contribution.

Maybe, when you state that monolinguals don't add much, you are speaking about the task of "editing" (i.e. comparing source and target texts); or those cases in which one same person makes both tasks of editing and proofreading in one.
But you are forgetting the fact that proofreaders ("real" proofreaders) are given the target text in order to provide what José states:
José Henrique Lamensdorff wrote:
The purpose is to provide flawless grammar and ensure that every phrase makes sense.

I have had an excellent Spanish teacher working as proofreader (with almost no foreign language knowledge); my translation was still somehow "English-smelling", and out of it she produced a really pleasant-to-read Spanish text (and a very technical one yet!) that nobody would say "it was translated".

[Edited at 2008-05-23 16:28]


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Clarification May 23, 2008

I meant in relation to terminology.

As far as I am concerned, the translator should delivery a "proper" translation, stylistically, grammatically etc. that's what we go to translating school for. Then you do your specialisation for the purposes of phraseology, terminology and subject knowledge. A proofreader, should only have to read through your work, but if it is lacking, then the same proofreader should be able to improve the strange bits. And editors per se only come into the process if a publisher is involved. But given that I'm based in Spain and that they receive my translation in English, they don't have anything to say about it, not so far anyway.

[Editado a las 2008-05-23 16:53]


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Maya Gorgoshidze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 22:08
Member (2004)
English to Georgian
+ ...
Hi all, May 23, 2008

Thank you, Fabio, for this thread

I am a freelancer only, but I guess finding a good professional, in both linguistic and subject area knowledge viewpoint, is not a very easy task, especially in a new combination of languages unknown by a project manager.

What are the assessment criteria? A test? If so, you should trust the tester. That means you have already found one. A small work? Then you should trust the corrector. Again that means you should have already found a good professional…

I work for some agencies which use following system to ensure a good translation quality. They ask one translator to translate a text. Then another translator corrects it and the first one accepts/rejects changes. After this, the third translator makes a back-translation. The project manager compares differences with the original text and asks the first translator to introduce relevant changes into the translated version or comment the issues. Then the second proofreading stage comes. After this, the firs translator accepts/rejects the proofreader’s changes and the project manager checks formatting of the document. At the final stage one of the translators is asked to make the final formatting review and to give a note if there is any error which should be corrected (e.g. spelling or garbage text).

What do you think - does this method always work blameless?

My humble opinion:

Yes, providing that the first translator and proofreader are good.

No, if the first translator and proofreader provide a very poor service or if the firs translator knows about all these procedures and is very lazy. I will explain what I mean. Once I was asked to have a final look at a one-page survey, in which I did not participate. The translation not only smelt the original English, but I felt I could word-by-word reproduce the source. There were almost no grammar errors, but the text – a tiny questionnaire – looked quite ridiculous, and at this stage no stylistic changes were acceptable…

I think project managers have a very difficult task to find god service providers and sharing their experience is very important indeed.

Regards,
Maya


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:08
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Whatever the process... May 23, 2008

I'd run it through a monolingual specialist or someone who specialises in monolingual editing as a last step.

There's an advantage to be had from distance. A translator or a translation revisor who has no real licence to override the original may not feel sufficiently free to make the text ring true to target. However, the changes this person may impose should be approved by the persons on the production line who are familiar with the original. This may have its difficulties because there will be a tendency to defend translation decisions, but everyone should be objective about the end result and its purpose. (For that matter, the client may be the most knowledgeable party as regards purpose and is not to be overlooked).


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:08
Member (2008)
French to English
monolinguists can make a contribution May 23, 2008

When he is not too busy (which is almost never) I ask my husband to look at things. He is a monolinguist, but with excellent English writing skills, he's even published a couple of short things. He sometimes gives me very good suggestions, particularly for better-sounding synonyms that I just couldn't think of because I was stuck in the dictionary definition of the original words. Certainly in highly-specialized fields I could think of monolinguists being very useful with regard to recognizing non-standard terminology and suggesting a more standard substitution.

[Edited at 2008-05-23 21:05]

[Edited at 2008-05-23 23:36]


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Mariano M. Vitetta  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 15:08
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translations by Translators May 24, 2008

Hi Fabio,

Extremely interesting topic for discussion.

I think that the key for getting good-quality translations is that they be carried out by translators, in a broad sense. If the original text is about very technical issues, the best solution is to hire translators with in-depth knowledge in the relevant areas.

Having a degree in translation is not the only way one can be considered a translator. You know this better than myself. You don't need to be a lawyer to translate a contract, or an architect or an engineer to do a construction report. What you do need is specialized knowledge—among other things, of course. Such knowledge may be acquired through a course of study in the speciality or, more typically, through thorough research.

But we always have to bear in mind that translating a text requires knowledge in translation—it's more important that you know how to translate a contract than to analyze its clauses from the point of view of a lawyer.

Suppose you need to translate a financial report. Would you hire an accounting expert who knows the languages involved or a specialized translator with years of experience in balance sheets, statements of income, and the like?

Regards,
Mariano



[Edited at 2008-05-24 18:20]


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Both are necessary but if I had to choose May 24, 2008

I really do think that a general translation should be done by a translator trained in translating. Odd bits of terminology can be found through research, another process which translators specialise in; they know where to look, have specialised dictionarires etc., maybe even more importantly they have perspective and judgement.

On the other hand if it is a specialised translation, terminology and subject knowledge play an important role. However, you still need the skills of a general translator in order to be able to translate the text successfully. I think that it is important to note that the translation will only be successful if done by a person with both these skill sets, otherwise it will be weak in some aspect. But as a final evaluation, in the context of a specialised text, I would give the aspect of subject knowledge a heavier weighting than the linguistic one. I suspect that the translators who produce the best specialised translations in the area of medicine, for instance, are medical writers, in the area of law, probably legal writers etc.

It probably should be noted that in England for example, just because you have a degree in law, you are not a lawyer, whereas in Spain, if you have a degree in law you are a lawyer.

I have read translations by some of our most highly regarded lawyers and they are brilliant. But I do find that some English lawyers, when translating, tend to either provide literal translations of the Spanish, because they can't really be bothered (after all it's not their area) or just pack it full of English law, regardless of the fact that the English law concept employed in the translation is very far removed from the Spanish concept, very misleading or plainly wrong - their approach to translation is erroneous. Course the problem is that the PM would have to know at least as much as them, if not more, to be in a position to judge, which isn't going to be the case.

While law is not an area of exact equivalents, medicine, architecture and other technical subjects may be, which would strengthen the case for employing a specialist.

The money side of things plays a very important role. I suspect that medical writers charge royally for translations and will not always be available (an agency can't operate effectively on the basis of expensive translators with limited availability). In England, it is highly unlikely that a trained engineer will become a translator - their first interest is presumably engineering and they will make far more money that way. In Spain ,on the other hand, engineers may not be able to find work as engineers so turn to translating as an alternative.

Naturally all these constraints take their toll on the industry, and explains why our profession isn't, by and large, a very professional one compared to law, medicine, dentistry - probably whichever one you care to choose - since it is not backed by a body of uniform knowledge.


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Mohamed Kamel  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 20:08
English to Arabic
+ ...
I agree with you. May 29, 2008

Maya Gorgoshidze wrote:

Thank you, Fabio, for this thread

I am a freelancer only, but I guess finding a good professional, in both linguistic and subject area knowledge viewpoint, is not a very easy task, especially in a new combination of languages unknown by a project manager.

What are the assessment criteria? A test? If so, you should trust the tester. That means you have already found one. A small work? Then you should trust the corrector. Again that means you should have already found a good professional…

I work for some agencies which use following system to ensure a good translation quality. They ask one translator to translate a text. Then another translator corrects it and the first one accepts/rejects changes. After this, the third translator makes a back-translation. The project manager compares differences with the original text and asks the first translator to introduce relevant changes into the translated version or comment the issues. Then the second proofreading stage comes. After this, the firs translator accepts/rejects the proofreader’s changes and the project manager checks formatting of the document. At the final stage one of the translators is asked to make the final formatting review and to give a note if there is any error which should be corrected (e.g. spelling or garbage text).

What do you think - does this method always work blameless?

My humble opinion:

Yes, providing that the first translator and proofreader are good.

No, if the first translator and proofreader provide a very poor service or if the firs translator knows about all these procedures and is very lazy. I will explain what I mean. Once I was asked to have a final look at a one-page survey, in which I did not participate. The translation not only smelt the original English, but I felt I could word-by-word reproduce the source. There were almost no grammar errors, but the text – a tiny questionnaire – looked quite ridiculous, and at this stage no stylistic changes were acceptable…

I think project managers have a very difficult task to find god service providers and sharing their experience is very important indeed.

Regards,
Maya


[Edited at 2008-05-29 13:26]


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 23:38
English to Hindi
+ ...
a question directed to Project Managers Aug 11, 2008

Translation: I always prefer translation from a field expert; no matter how he is pooooor in grammar, coz I can correct his grammar from a University degree holder, but University degree holder’s user enemy translation (consider as antonym for user freeeeendly) can’t get corrected from anyone.
Revision/editing: language expert with correct guidelines to check language flow and grammar.
Review/proofreading: from other subject expert translator (when we call someone translator it means we know him and his expertise in the field).


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