How to ask questions (to get the best answers) in 13 easy steps (Part 1)
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At first glance, it seems such an easy matter: you enter your terms, define the field et voilà! Answers will just pour in and you will find the words to complete your work.
That’s the theory. The practice is very different as many of you found out, particularly now that the number of questions per day has been reduced (5 or 15 if you are platinum), you don’t want to “spend” one of them and not get useful answers. I get many emails from askers, asking for clarification and how to do this or that.
So I decided to write this “how to” to make it easier, particularly for beginners, but the tips can also help others. Be free to add to this as you see fit. To simplify this article, I choose English and French as the language pair since I work in those languages. Obviously, if you work in Italian and English, for example, you just adapt the material to your needs.
I picked up a series of "typical questions" to illustrate my comments – they are neither better nor worse than many others – so don’t feel picked up on if your question was chosen – I just needed examples ;-)
Out of 11,000,000 questions, I had lots and lots of choices!
I’ll also use a woman as both asker and answerer in most cases (since I’m not biased here…;-))
1. Starting point
You can go to the question section by using the Proz menu :
Kudoz, Ask questions.
Or you can go directly to it by typing : http://proz.com/ask
To log or not to log
First, you should log in. It’s not very pleasant to answer people who do not bother to log in or not sign-in as member (it’s free, after all and you don’t even have to supply your profile). Some answerers will blast you for not logging in, and that’s a bit too much, but many answerers will not answer questions from non-logged askers, figuring, with reason, that the question probably won’t be closed and no points will be awarded, which is most often the case. Furthermore, members are entitled to 5 questions a day, while non-members can ask only one.
2. Language pair:
If, like me, you work in more than one language pair, make sure that you check it every time you ask a question – it’s easy to leave the wrong one, just to have it corrected by one of the “answerer” or a moderator. Even if this is not major, it can mean delays, particularly when you are working on a short deadline (is there any other kind?)
3. Field (broad):
There are only 8 fields to choose from, so this should be easy. Try to avoid Other, particularly since a lot of people now screen the questions they will answer only to their own field(s) of expertise.
4. Field (specific):
There are 160 fields in this section – surely you can find one that applies to your question. The following example shows how “not to” make this choice. Note that each question in Kudoz has a number, which makes it easier to locate and check one particular question. You can check it by clicking on the link below.
Other / home improvement products
Surely, “Furniture” would have been a better choice here to get a proper answer.
If you have many questions in one particular field that is not covered in those 160 fields, send a note to Proz – they’ll consider adding it to their selection.
5. Write-in field (for further specification):
This field makes it possible to add-in info for the answerers and for yourself. This way, you can quickly pick up your questions out of the list of questions, without remembering or searching for one specific question number (although the starting screen now allows you to access only your questions).
1. e.g.: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1135844
Write-in field: a self-help job book
6. Term or phrase (one term at a time please):
2. e.g. 1: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1135844
How Successful Am I?
3. e.g. 2: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1152304
Exceptional ride – no “back slap” - no dockwalk by design
4. e.g. 3: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1152296
billet médical de la CSST
5. e.g. 4: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1099000
6. e.g. 5: http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1153072
ACCORD DE GROUPEMENT MOMENTANE D'ENTREPRISES
It’s easier to explain what’s wrong than telling you all the tricks by giving you thousands of examples.
The first question is simple and to the point.
The second question has two terms and should have been divided in two parts (2 questions). In fact, the moderator (and myself) mentioned that fact to the asker. There are times when your question will get removed because it has more than one term. There are times, however, when it is very difficult to divide a question in two/or in three… four…
The third question looks OK, except that what the asker wanted was to translate “billet médical” and not CSST. Everybody was answering her on the “CSST” part of the question until she specified it (how to add notes will be covered in the next article). She would have been better off asking: billet médical (de la CSST).
The fourth question is a joke and should have been ignored or removed by the moderator. This is the kind of terms that you can find in any dictionary, online or otherwise.
The fifth question is all in caps. This is considered shouting and is impolite, not just on Proz, but anywhere else on the Internet. Furthermore, caps complicate the compiling of the glossary. Two small examples :
is certainly not the same as :
Ram (bélier, piston, etc.)
is not the same as
RAM (Random Access Memory)
Quotes "" or « » at the beginning of a term also cause problems - in fact, two problems. First they don't appear on the line: "Source term", which makes the translation more difficult to enter and they mess up the glossaries.
It is also very important to enter accents in French.
The last question does not make sense until you realize that it means “momentané” (momentary) and not momentane. If you don’t know how to enter accents, or if your keyboard is not in French, check your software for the characters you need. Word has a good section in the help file titled: “type international characters”. If you translate into and from French, you should really change your keyboard to a bilingual keyboard, at the very least.
(As much explanation as possible should be entered for the term. Consider including: type of document/situation, country and dialect, URLs, translations you are considering, etc.)
This is where you give context. All I can say is more context is always useful. I know that somebody nicknamed me “Docteur ‘context’ PC” or maybe it was “Georgette ‘context’ Blanchard” since I so often ask for more context, but it really makes a difference.
This is an example of a question with great context. You can’t confuse what he’s asking with anything else. Because of that, he also gets good answers and quite fast ones.
Fresno again - highway lane numbers
My text says a "4-lane" highway (Highway 180 in Fresno CA)has been upgraded to "6-lane". The text shows a photograph of a highway with four lanes in each direction. Just how many lanes does Highway 180 in Fresno have in each direction? For me, a 6-lane highway has 3 lanes in each direction. Has part of Highway 180 in Fresno been upgraded from DUAL four-lane (8-lane) to DUAL six-lane (12-lane)?
The issue is complicated by the following excerpt from a site referred to by Rita in her answer to my previous question:
There are also more three-lane highways in the city of Fresno, which provide truckers with more options. In addition, Highway 180, which links Highway 99 and I-5, is being converted into a six-lane freeway.
Since there cannot be many (if any) "three-lane" highways that are not in fact DUAL three-lane highways (6 lanes in total, 3 lanes in each direction, not 2 in one direction and 1 in the other!), I can only assume that the 3-lane highway in the above quote is a dual-3-laner (aka a 6-lane highway), and that the six-lane freeway referred to in the same sentence is in fact a DUAL six-lane freeway, i.e. a 12-lane freeway. Or does the choice of "highway" as opposed to "freeway" somehow make a difference to the lane-counting system?
8. Pro-question or Non-pro question:
The advantage of a Pro question (from now on, just Pro) is that you get the “Pros” answering you, at least in theory. Non-pro will be answered by everyone. So it is very tempting to put Pro on everything… just to get someone to change it to Non-pro… and you’re back to square one. Once you have decided in which category you should put it, you cannot change it yourself. By the way, when they talk about “language learners” here, they are not talking about 6 year old kids. After all, the site is for professional translators, so even “learners” would have more than a good grasp of the language.
9. Language preferred for answers and explanations:
If you’re going from French to English, for example, or any other language pair, you can choose one of those for the people to ask you questions or give you anwers, or both. Unless you change it, it stays the same for all your questions. You can choose ‘any’, which means that people can answer in any one of the language pair – and they do so, quite often mixing both languages in the same sentence (OK I do that a lot… guilty here ;-))
10. Special options:
There are four options and this is what they stand for :
1. I’m not a professional translator – it’s obvious, and if it’s the case, you should tell us about it – we’ll still answer you.
2. This is “not for points”. Use that only when you are planning not to award points and close the questions. You may, however, not get many answers since points are our (usual) rewards for answering you.
3. The content of this question may be offensive – sex, religion, politics and violence are usually covered here. This is the same kind of warning that you get on films or TV programs. If it applies, please say so, rather then insulting people needlessly.
4. Translation test or homework. We all get “tests” to be done for agencies or clients. It is Very frustrating to find yourself answering somebody’s questions, and then find out that it is exactly what you are working on yourself. Furthermore, many times, many people get the same test, so many people are likely to ask the same questions. And if we find out that it was a test (or homework), we get mad at you for not saying so.
11. Private/public or restricted question:
Only Platinum members can ask private questions and I will not cover that here, since Platinum members usually know what they are talking about.
Public questions can be answered by anyone. You may, however, specify that it should be directed to certain specialties or a native language. If you do that, you may restrict the breadth of answers you get, but you have that option.
12. Preview your question
This fairly new feature allows you to preview your question "Before" you send it and to make corrections Before it is out. Use it judiciously.
After you ask your question, you may get some glossary entries offered to you. Depending on the question, there might be many answers that ‘look good’ to the Proz Glossary Robot.
Take the time to review them and if one of them gives you the right answer, then you just cancel the question (which leaves you with one more question, should you need it in any twenty-four hour period ;-))
This is long enough. Part 2 will be on how to treat answers (and answerers), ask additional questions, and how to close questions – a delicate subject… often subject to delicate decisions ;-)
© Georgette Blanchard, alias DocteurPC, 2005