Long 'China Daily' Article on Translation (English edition)
Thread poster: Parrot

Parrot  Identity Verified
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Jul 22, 2005

"The nature of a translator's work requires us to render a message and disappear... We are so accustomed to disappear that we forget how indispensable we are."

On the occasion of last year's meeting of the Translators' Association of China, the China Daily published a long review on the state of translation as perceived by some of the country's most respected professionals:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-11/12/content_390986.htm

The TAC meet every five years. Although the China Daily report mainly speaks about literary translation into Chinese, the article is relevant to everybody in pursuit of the elusive ideals of "xin, da, ya" - precision, fluency and elegance.

In line with this universal note, the article observes, "translation is an enterprise demanding a heart that could abide loneliness".


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
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This is truth. Jul 22, 2005

I just read the article recommended by our old pal Parrot and can't agree more with ideas it contained.

1. The quality of translation is sliding.
This is true with so many people professing they're translators but actually they work spare time with a whole day's energy spent with their regular work. I have been struggling with a botched translation done by another "translator", who clearly doesn't know what translation is. But s/he got paid, only later the agency found her/his work was unacceptable and let me do the editing at the rate of translation. While doing the hard job (so many inconsistencies, wrong translations and ludicrous Chinese) I wonder how many people like this are churning out rubbish every night? Yes, every night.

2. Translation is lonely work.
I mostly work at dawn and afternoon until late at night. Sometimes only loneliness accompanies me during my working hours. In extreme cases, I become a living hermit and don't step out of my door for days. This work is less romantic than what many people think.

3. Fast work with high quality at stake!

How fast can you translate? Don't tell me you can do 8,000 words a day. I can do more than that (for practice). Seriously speaking, for general translations, 2,500 words a day with guaranteed quality is a reasonable limit (at least for me). Anything more than that is possible for other people but I think also very hard. Right?
I spent about 4 hours translating 220 words for my direct client for last two days. If I have more time, I'd like to improve it more.
I remember someone says mistakes in translation is unavoidable. But it's definitely wrong. When operating on a patient, a doctor has to make sure NO mistakes happen. The same is true for an architect or a translator. If you work for an agency, perhaps your mistakes can be spotted and corrected by an in-house editor and your face saved, but this is not true for your direct client! S/he relies on you. Period. You may cheat her/him as many CLEVER "translators" really are doing, but that may eventually ruin your career as a professional!
So, how fast can you go? Better slow down and raise your rates a little instead. Tell your client you can guarantee your quality with a little more cents paid, but never as some of the guys even in Proz, bid with the cheapest labor to offer rubbish to the world. If you want examples, I can show you some as I happened to edit one or two of our fellow Prozer's work of this cheap! Don't be a "trans-later", just don't go too fast!

[Edited at 2005-07-23 01:05]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Speed Jul 22, 2005

Jianjun Zhang wrote:

How fast can you translate? Don't tell me you can do 8,000 words a day. I can do more than that (for practice). Seriously speaking, for general translations, 2,500 words a day with guaranteed quality is a reasonable limit (at least for me). Anything more than that is possible for other people but I think also very hard. Right?


That's actually very respectable, and considered fast in professional circles. I used to work with a state-owned professional congress organizer, and estimates for international conferences are in the order 3,000 words/day/translator. This was based on the time-and-motion studies being observed as a guideline in those days by the AIIC. It presumes a well-rested, well-oiled pro (i.e., one who takes the proper breaks and doesn't force himself beyond the limits of his own fatigue, avoiding time-consuming errors) does a good job at 500 words/hr. (Two hours of the day are presumed to go into re-reading and breaks).

Over this, we'd put a proofer who could apply a stringent quality check at the rate of 1,200 words/hr., and over him would be an editor (or even better, the whole editorial board). This guaranteed the unification criteria (always critical when more than 1 person is involved).

So the 8,000 words a day would actually be the proofer's output.

Altogether considered, 2,500 would be close to the EU figure (Parliament and the Commission), while 2,000 is the estimated daily output of a UN translator. The Canadian Translation Bureau, which works with subcontractors, expects a maximum of 1 error per 400 words on the finished product (it works roughly with the 8,000-word/day proofing figure).


So, how fast can you go? Better slow down and raise your rates a little instead. Tell your client you can guarantee your quality with a little more cents paid


By far the best solution. I'd go as far as to say it's not only the cents that count, but the whole working environment. You need good working conditions in order to perform optimally. That also means clients have to be made to understand it is unreasonable to expect a translation to go faster than the typist or the writer who made the document (and here you'd be surprised at some expectations)

[Edited at 2005-07-22 19:39]


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
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Environment Jul 23, 2005

Parrot wrote:

By far the best solution. I'd go as far as to say it's not only the cents that count, but the whole working environment. You need good working conditions in order to perform optimally. That also means clients have to be made to understand it is unreasonable to expect a translation to go faster than the typist or the writer who made the document (and here you'd be surprised at some expectations)


A good working environment and a good rest are both essential. According to researches (very old), a good working environment is more important than the pay in boosting quality output. When heat hits, I feel dizzy and develop a headache. When my PC is rumbling along at worm pace, and my time wasted, I can't have a good mood. The reason that I mentioned poor works are turned out at nights, is that I observed in the TM record that those poor "translators" usually work between 22:00-00:00. After a whole day's work as students, teachers, engineers, doctors, etc, probably this is a time they most want to sleep. With utter fatigue turned on, and an irresponsible heart installed, it's no wonder what they will produce.

Parrot wrote:
That also means clients have to be made to understand it is unreasonable to expect a translation to go faster than the typist or the writer who made the document (and here you'd be surprised at some expectations)


My experience is that agencies tend to set a deadline for you to complete a job. If you can't do it, the job may go to another translator. It's hard to explain to them about working output if they insist on this, because they themselves know everything about translation work (I presume they should). For direct clients, a good and reasonable explanation will not push the job away but get you more jobs. Because you see, you are so considerate and responsible for your work.





[Edited at 2005-07-23 11:18]


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chica nueva
Local time: 15:30
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Hi Jianzhun NAETI accreditation Jul 23, 2005

Hi Jianzhun

I am really interested to know about your NAETI accreditation.I don't know how many other peers have this. We had some discussion on new official exams and standards in China in another thread, I think. Would you be willing to tell us more about the accreditation situation in China? and about the accreditation you have. Does it help you get work? Is it difficult to pass? Does it have Chinese to English as well as English to Chinese? other languages? Who administers it? Thanks

Lesley


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
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Accreditation Jul 23, 2005

Lesley McLachlan wrote:

Hi Jianzhun

I am really interested to know about your NAETI accreditation.I don't know how many other peers have this. We had some discussion on new official exams and standards in China in another thread, I think. Would you be willing to tell us more about the accreditation situation in China? and about the accreditation you have. Does it help you get work? Is it difficult to pass? Does it have Chinese to English as well as English to Chinese? other languages? Who administers it? Thanks

Lesley


Hi Lesley,

NAETI info and most answers to your questions can be found here: http://jwc.lzu.edu.cn/kszx/naeti.htm

Or by searching NAETI at Google.com

As explained in the article, it was raised as the translation market evolves in China. Presently, it seems to me that there are only two accreditation programs for translation and interpretation in China. The other one adopts a testing approach a little different from this one. But sorry I don't know much about that and hope someone else could give some details?

For me, I got this accreditation long before I stepped into international translation market. To be frank, this accreditation alone didn't get me any work either from home or abroad. I don't think it should. Even being a member of ATA or being accredited by NAATI of Australia probably won't get you work straight away. Accreditation is accreditation. It is only a kind of proof from a third party with a certain authority to show potential clients that you reached a certain level of translating ability.

I believe acquiring clients is a kind of art and marketing skill rather than translation skill. Some people can get clients, a lot of them, but they do poor translations.

We can see many successful translators don't have this or that accreditation. Getting one is good, but not always essential.

About the difficulty of this exam:

My own experience is that any serious and practicing translator can pass at least level 2 with no problem, although level 1 is a little difficult. No reference books/materials and so on will be allowed during the exam. I remember there were four passages, of which two are Chinese to English and the other two vice versa. The area covered are specialized rather than literary.

Total testing time was four hours. But I'm now not sure about this.

I heard last year the test was changed. I hope it is not getting harder.

Hope the above can help you a little. Enjoy your weekend!


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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The ITI solution Jul 23, 2005

Jianjun Zhang wrote:

My experience is that agencies tend to set a deadline for you to complete a job. If you can't do it, the job may go to another translator. It's hard to explain to them about working output if they insist on this, because they themselves know everything about translation work (I presume they should). For direct clients, a good and reasonable explanation will not push the job away but get you more jobs. Because you see, you are so considerate and responsible for your work.


was to print and publish a small brochure dedicated to client education. Someone put the link to the website version in one of these fora. I have to be going out now, but I'll look for it when I come back (if someone else hasn't put it up). It's like a "How to" on buying translations and what to expect.

If some professional organization were to adopt this text, or make another one suited to your situation, it would go a long way as a reference.

Not all agencies are run by practising translators who understand how things work.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Whaddaya know Jul 23, 2005

With the new search interface, it wasn't so hard.

Here's the ITI brochure: http://www.iti.org.uk/pdfs/trans/Translation(UK).pdf

ATA has published one as well: http://www.atanet.org/Getting_it_right.pdf



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Long 'China Daily' Article on Translation (English edition)

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