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Asker as "court of last resort" - is this the way to collect linguistic information?
Thread poster: Nico Rhodionoff

Nico Rhodionoff
Local time: 10:58
Russian to English
+ ...
Apr 2, 2008

Respected colleagues!
Few weeks ago I have found this site in Internet and participate in discussions on drilling-related subjects just to see how it works.
Being second generation interpreter I have changed my horse and am drilling fluids engineer with Halliburton for last 7 years.

I know that it is a very tuff work to translate texts about drilling fluids due to exotic terminology and lack of reliable information. I see that plenty wrong terms have been selected by Askers and due to that these misinterpretations have been accepted as exemplary glossary entries.

If Asker is not expert in a particular field, he/she can not judge about what is right and what is wrong, but decision about glossary entry is in his\her hand.

This is the way the Site multiplies misinterpretations and generates a “dictionary” helping users to make more and more translation mistakes.

My message is posted not to highlight my smartness comparing to other colleagues with less experience in drilling and drilling fluids. I post this message just to ask – is the way the Site accumulates linguistic information really a good one, if the Asker is the court of last resort?

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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
The way I see it Apr 2, 2008

FOH wrote:

I see that plenty wrong terms have been selected by Askers and due to that these misinterpretations have been accepted as exemplary glossary entries.

If Asker is not expert in a particular field, he/she can not judge about what is right and what is wrong, but decision about glossary entry is in his\her hand.

To tell the truth, I've avoided using the KOG for a long time just for the very reason you’ve mentioned. It’s only common sense to think that if the person didn’t know the answer to the question in the first place, what basis do they have for deciding which answer is correct!?

I’ve solved the problem by coming to two conclusions:

1. The answer that is chosen isn’t necessarily the “correct” answer. It was chosen because the person who gave it was the most helpful (or for several other dubious reasons that I won’t go into now).

2. When I look for a term on the KOG now, I purposefully look at the question that was asked and all the answers that were offered. I’ve discovered what I believe was the correct answer more than once mixed in among all the others but sadly (and frustratingly for the answerer) not chosen or added to the glossary.

I don’t think the KOG is meant to be an authoritative source of information and, personally, I take it with a grain of salt and only use it along with other sources I consider to be reliable.

I believe a solution to the problem of the KOG collecting so much chaff would be for the asker to only insert the term in the glossary if he or she is 100% certain it’s correct. I’ve received answers on some of the questions I've asked, which I've chosen as helpful but decidedly opted out when it was time to insert them in the glossary.

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:28
Italian to English
+ ...
Broadly agree with John Apr 2, 2008

I'd add that serious translators should do their own research on any term which is suggested, to make sure it matches their context. I do find KOG a useful reference source, but I know enough about what I'm translating to be able to judge the validity of the answers (or so I believe)

It may also help to think of the KOG as similar to Wikipedia: it's not static, but continuously growing and changing. While you can't edit incorrect entries, you can add your comments - so if you see a term which is clearly incorrect, you can say so. You can also go to the original question, agree/disagree with the answers there and add your own answer, even if the question has been closed - this is obviously purely altruistic on your part, as you have no chance of being awarded any kudoz points, but could be an enormous help to people looking for the term at a later date.

I know there have been a number of proposals to clean up the glossaries in a more radical way, but as far as I know nothing has come of them. Still, we can all do our bit by commenting on the entries in there.

[Edited at 2008-04-02 16:29]

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The Misha
Local time: 01:28
Russian to English
+ ...
Remember GIGO? Apr 2, 2008

I can confirm from my own experience that wrong - and sometimes utterly ugly - answers get selected on a regular basis (А судьи кто?). In particular, answers suggested by non-native speakers (in my experience, there are a few exceptions, but they only prove the general rule) are always suspect. This is precisely the reason I have never bothered using that glossary you mentioned. This is very much like using Multitran - you really have to have a certain level of expertise to be able to tell good translations from bad ones.

MH said it all: do your own research and be skeptical.

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Local time: 07:28
English to Italian
+ ...
KOG vs. Wikipedia Apr 2, 2008

Maybe we totally misunderstand the mechanism, but there seems to be a difference between KOG and Wikipedia. On the latter, if tonight someone sees fit to explain Aspect's experiment on the basis of aromatherapy, tomorrow someone will carefully restore the, ehm, orthodox version of the entry. On KOG, as we figured it, if someone decides that a certain word means a bus, when it really refers to a rest room, I suspect this is it. Or not?

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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:28
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
comment Apr 2, 2008

You can always decide to make a comment (in Kudoz use option: Contribute to this entry) than everyone is able to see not only the original entry but also your comment. Maybe it's not perfect but that's something.

Kind Regards

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:28
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Agree with John's assessment / Contact moderator Apr 3, 2008

I agree with John's assessment. It's crucial to do your own research so that you can judge the answers. Also, after a while, you do develop a sense of who is giving intelligent answers!

On a couple of occasions, I have found blatantly wrong terms in the online glossary, have brought them to the attention of the moderator, and she changed them. It's lucky that the moderator for my pair works in the same specialization, but even if that's not the case, it's worth a try if you can present a good argument for changing the term.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Please contact the moderator if you find errors Apr 4, 2008

We mods are working translators, and there simply is not time to check all the questions and answers. Quite apart from the fact that we are not experts in all fields, naturally. We may know as little as the askers outside our own specialisms.

So if you can point out an error and suggest a convincing improvement, you will probably find the moderator is more than happy to implement it.

There are some useful things in the KOG, and there are some really knowledgeable, helpful people out there ready to help if you ask them... But again, they don't always have time to check their own gut feelings and suggestions, but give the asker something to work on. The best of them send a good guess with a confidence rating of 2 - and these answers are often at least as helpful as people who rush to get in first and rate their confidence at 5!

If anyone has bothered to enter an answer with a rating of 2, I look at it carefully. The discussions in some cases are useful, too.

The KOG gives a fascinating picture of how some translators work - and occasionally an awful warning about traps and pitfalls that should be avoided!

Beware of its flaws and please help us improve it, because it does have great potential and sometimes it is very difficult to find help anywhere else within a tight deadline.

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Asker as "court of last resort" - is this the way to collect linguistic information?

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