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The work of a "beginner" translator must be 100% up to standard
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Jan 13

I often see "beginner translators" mentioned in these forums.

A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is **a translation that cannot be used**.

In that sense there is no such thing as a "beginner" translator. You're either 100% or you're 0%.

Your thoughts?


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John Di Rico  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:07
Member (2006)
French to English
Nobody’s perfect Jan 13

I agree that you are either a translator or something else. Fake it till you make, and in any event you’re only as good as your last translation.
Yes, we need to strive towards excellence and perfection, but does the latter really exist?
You get diminishing returns after a certain amount of time spent on a translation.
A highly productive translator can spend more time tending towards perfection (aka revision) as opposed to a less productive translator. “Beginner” translators usually suffer from low productivity because they have to research terminology, build TMs and glossaries, and don’t know how to use productivity boosting tools. So they either make less money or provide poorer translations.


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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Even you, Tom... Jan 13

Tom in London wrote:

I often see "beginner translators" mentioned in these forums.

A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is **a translation that cannot be used**.

In that sense there is no such thing as a "beginner" translator. You're either 100% or you're 0%.

Your thoughts?


...were once a beginner.

Not sure what you're hoping to achieve with your post. Can you be more specific about where you see these "beginner translators" in the forums?

As far as I know, agencies sometimes use beginners because they are often cheaper. Sometimes very much so. Of course, they're usually not that good yet, but, uhm, they're cheap. Also, an agency can have a beginner translate sth and then have a good proofwrangler fix up the worst of it (which is why I stay the hell away from proofing these days).

Michael


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 16:07
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Depends Jan 13

I recently bought a 3D printer to assemble at home following an incomplete manual in Spanish, containing pieces of bad quality. I got the machine to work after a lot of tweaking and research. Now I am the proud owner of a 3D printer. I am glad this non-consumer-model exists - otherwise I couldn't afford one. If I wanted to run a printing business, where I had to deliver prototypes of high quality in time to my clients, this model might not be sufficient, but for the tasks I use it for, it is great.

Likewise there is a market for cheap (or expressed more politely: affordable), less-than-perfect translations. Think simple devices that by law need to contain a manual, even though everybody knows how to work with them, or cheapo e-commerce, where a more-or-less understandable product description is good enough.

And then there are some areas where using beginner translators is a bad idea:

High profile marketing, technical manuals for anything that could be dangerous if used incorrectly, anything medical, many legal texts...


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Natasha Ziada  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 00:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
Beginner? Jan 13

To me, the issues you mention are signs of an incompetent translator rather than one that doesn't have much experience. I agree that issues like poor command of source or target language, incomplete work etc. have no place in any translator's work.

However, I don't fully agree with the 100% 'rule' - one simply needs to put in the hours to fully master a craft. All translators (or other professionals for that matter) will have produced a few clunky/clumsy texts early on in their careers, have missed an obscure reference or translated too literally.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:07
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Affordable? Jan 13

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:

Likewise there is a market for cheap (or expressed more politely: affordable), less-than-perfect translations. Think simple devices that by law need to contain a manual, even though everybody knows how to work with them, or cheapo e-commerce, where a more-or-less understandable product description is good enough.


Are you trying to tell us that professional, high quality translations are too expensive, i. e. "NOT AFFORDABLE"?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Something like this, perhaps? Jan 13

Hilarious hot water bottle instructions copy

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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 16:07
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Not affordable for everyone Jan 13

Professional translations are not affordable for everyone. The chinese "rubber heat water bag" producer is one example. Let's be honest - we all know how to use a hottie, don't we? So if the "direction" is legally required, albeit unnecessary, and additionally provides for a good laugh, all the better. Another example for people that might not be able to afford a professional translation are self-published authors - something that came up in another thread today. Now if it makes sense to have a self-published novel translated by a beginner translator is another topic. I might want to read neither the original nor the translation, but to each its own. I like to read translations of user instructions and product descriptions in the local Chinese shops though, when I get bored.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:07
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two separate issues Jan 13

Tom in London wrote:
I often see "beginner translators" mentioned in these forums. ... In that sense there is no such thing as a "beginner" translator. You're either 100% or you're 0%.


This is one issue. The fact is that many translators are not trained extensively in the way that doctors are, so by the time these translators become earners, they still have much to learn.

A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is **a translation that cannot be used**.


Not only beginner translators deliver such work, though.


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Dutch to French
+ ...
work of an experienced translator (but not native speaker of the target language) Jan 13

Tom in London wrote:

Hilarious hot water bottle instructions copy

I would say it's the work of an experienced translator (but not native speaker of the target language)
I'm sure this translator has already translated milllions of Chinese characters.

[Modifié le 2017-01-13 15:28 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:07
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Doing simple things well Jan 13

Beginners CAN do excellent work if they have been trained well before actually starting to translate professionally. Nobody is going to pay for their first attempts in school, or wherever they learn the first steps.

I started translating in fact for an archaeologist brother-in-law. He provided the terminology and said his English sounded like German and his usual English colleague was ill, so could I please do my best? I don't know who proofread it, but I have translated a fair amount of archaeology since, and with a little feedback and adjustment I get it to sound satisfactory.

I went on to translating recipes for family members. I discovered that Danish uses a form of passive - or used to 30 years ago - which sounds silly translated directly into English:

'The eggs are beaten and added to the mixture', no, beat the eggs and add them ...
-- The oven is set at 180 degrees Centigrade (Er, what's that in Fahrenheit or Gas Mark?)
That sort of thing got me thinking.

There are large volumes of work that is not difficult, although it calls for a good language ear and knowledge of idioms. The translator must be able to resist source language interference, turn sentences around and change the syntax and structure as needed, not to mention understanding the source text. Beginners worth their salt can start there, and produce highly professional translations. They can give themselves time to do it properly and arrange deadlines accordingly, and there is absolutely no excuse for errors, late delivery or whatever.

If you can't deliver a professional translation, find another job! You can always advance to the more complicated issues later. The challenges make it fun, but a professional should take them systematically and learn to solve them competently. The fun soon palls if you are always struggling and then have to cope with dissatisfied clients!


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Black or white Jan 13

Texts of all writers, even those of the greatest ones, are edited. Come on, even Cervantes had a slip here and there "la primavera sigue al verano", which is not true and got edited in the "modern" version of the text.

Can we sustain that great writers do not have good command of their own language?

If all translators produced implacable texts, why should then editors exist at all?

It's not black or white. But I do agree, it has to be almost white.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
To clarify Jan 13

To clarify: of course anyone can translate anything.

But to become a *professional* translator for *payment* you have to hit the ground running. You can't "start bad" and somehow evolve into "good".

I spent years translating non-professionally, as part of my other career (architect) until one day I realised I had become good at it. Then I went professional.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Why this perfectionism? Jan 13

Tom in London wrote:

To clarify: of course anyone can translate anything.

But to become a *professional* translator for *payment* you have to hit the ground running. You can't "start bad" and somehow evolve into "good".

I spent years translating non-professionally, as part of my other career (architect) until one day I realised I had become good at it. Then I went professional.


If one isn't good at it, they shouldn't go "professional", no question about that.

However, you original post implies [to me] that one must be perfect. Sorry, nobody is. Not even you.

For example, in your "samples" section, the very first text, the fifth bullet point contains a capitalization typo and a spacing one (for "m"). Does that mean you are not a translator?

Sorry, Tom. Nothing against you. And obviously, you are very respected and professional translator, but why bragging on perfectionism? This is like sustaining that if an opera singer cracked a note even once during a performance, they aren't singers anymore and must go back to conservatory for 10 years or so. By the same token, Pavarotti wasn't a singer, Domingo wasn't a singer, even Kraus wasn't a singer (well, the latter at least apologised and said he couldn't continue singing during that night; the former would go down an octave and keep singing).


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Personal Jan 13

Let's try not to personalise this. I haven't made any critical personal remarks about anyone and I would recommend that others do likewise.

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