Literal translation
Thread poster: spanruss
spanruss
United States
Local time: 17:13
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 26, 2006

Time and time again, I see in KudoZ that many answers that come back are simply literal translations. Though occasionally the literal translation proves to be the best, it usually is not. I've come to believe that this is often the result of a non-native speaker offering his opinion on a language in which he may be somewhat strong, but still is not proficient. Such proficiency can only come from decades of living in a country that speaks that language. I speak English, Spanish and Russian, but am only a true native speaker of English. Therefore I only translate into English, and answer KudoZ questions into English. Has anyone else been frustrated in their KudoZ ventures due to this very thing I'm talking about?

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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 01:13
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
Sure ... Aug 27, 2006

But it's not the general rule in Kudoz. Similar literal translations may be one among many other answers. It's always the asker's decision which to pick at the end. Beside, some non-natives may offer good help in this regard, even if the answer isn't good enough, the answerer may provide some valuable resources. Not to mention that some people may spend time answering similar questions as a way to improve THEIR own languages. Kudoz isn't just about points, but it's about helping other as well ... so why not help the asker AND the answerer at the same time?

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casey
United States
Local time: 18:13
Member
Japanese to English
It's the thought that counts... Aug 27, 2006

I appreciate anyone who's willing to help me out. Sure, maybe they're wrong, but that just means I won't choose their answer. I've noticed some people who are not native in either of the languages that like to answer. They're wrong nearly 100% of the time, but occasionally they get lucky, and so do I, in turn...:)

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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 01:13
Turkish to English
+ ...
I know what you mean, but... Aug 27, 2006

I can quote a good example from a Turkish into English Kudoz question. There is a Turkish proverb whose English translation is given in one of the best known Turkish-English dictionaries as:
"The man who tells the truth is driven out of nine villages."
This is an accurate literal translation, but I doubt if it actually means anything to a native English speaker.
Well, some time ago this proverb was asked as a Kudoz question. One respondent provided the above answer, quoting the respectable source. A certain native English speaker (myself!) gave the matter some thought. I think the English expression "Nobody loves a sage", which may not be a proverb but is used in films and TV series, comes very close to expressing the same idea. The text in which the Turkish proverb was used was about a whistleblower who only succeeded in making himself very unpopular, so I suggested in this context "Nobody loves a whistleblower".
Well, probably 99% of translators in the Turkish to English pair are native Turkish speakers, and not surprisingly the 'agrees' stacked up under the literal translation, then the points went to this suggestion. This came as no surprise to me anyway.
I leave native English speakers out there to judge which is the more plausible translation.
Does it really matter anyway? I am sure that apart from roughly half a dozen languages that are widely taught in English-speaking countries, almost all translators working into English are native speakers of the source language. Given the low status attached to linguists in the English speaking world and the way that globalisation is driving rates to levels that equate with unskilled work in developed countries, the trend towards translation into English by non-native speakers will continue. The dramatic fall in the number of students taking modern languages in the UK is indicative of this general trend. The phenomenon that you have rightly identified within Kudoz questions is another small indicator of the same trend. Why worry about it? Personally I regard answering Kudoz questions as a way of filling some idle time - I never even look at the questions when I am busy with translation work of my own. I am, however, loath to criticise Kudoz, because occasionally when I have been totally stuck I have posted my own questions. There are a number of native-Turkish speakers with very sound knowledge of certain specialised fields who post very authoritative answers to serious queries, and I am extremely grateful for some of the help I have received from this source. The rest I can take in my stride.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 17:13
German to English
Disrespectful KudoZ answers Aug 27, 2006

spanruss wrote:

Time and time again, I see in KudoZ that many answers that come back are simply literal translations. Though occasionally the literal translation proves to be the best, it usually is not.... Has anyone else been frustrated in their KudoZ ventures due to this very thing I'm talking about?


Yes, this is a real problem. One of my favorite ProZians, Lia Fail, brought this topic up three years ago.

Lia Fail wrote:
I hate when I get dictionary answers to my questions, they are a waste of space and time. They are an insult to one's professionalism as the answerer seems to assume you neither have nor use a dictionary, nor that you even know the literal translation for a word, despite claiming implicitly to be a translator in that language combination. They fail to appreciate that the reason you are posting a question is that you want some insight or another angle on a thorny translation problem.

For example, I want a translation for 'SEÑAL' in a highly specific context and I get 'sign, indication' as an answer. Now please explain why I bother to post a question to get this kind of answer? I know that already, otherwise I wouldn't be translating now would I?


http://www.proz.com/post/104770

Another unhealthy practice is copying and pasting search engine results that show merely that the proposed target term exists and leave out the essential step in the process of showing that the proposed target term is an acceptable translation. This has become a plague in the Spanish to English combination. I'm just quoting two references. In the actual answer there was a whole page full of them:

PHOENIX AG - Annual report 1999On the other hand, earnings from ordinary operating activities were up EUR 1.3 million to EUR 31.1 million. Earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) ...
www.phoenix-ag.com/statisch/statische_seiten/gb_englisch_99... - 71k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF] Umschlag f PDF engl neu.qxdFile Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
Earnings from ordinary operating activities. 2222541.03. 14. Taxes on income. 17. -1296744.42. 15. Other taxes. -19384.70. 16. Net earnings. 906411.91 ...
213.23.73.95/FR/societe/is/gpcwf/files/annual_report_2000-2001.pdf - Similar pages


[Edited at 2006-08-27 18:32]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:43
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
One can't really generalize Aug 27, 2006

I have first-hand experience of the English monolingual and English-Hindi, Hindi-English and Hindi monolingual kudoz sections.

In the Hindi-related sections this is a real problem, with many non-Hindi speakers also having registered themselves as Hindi translators just because of the quantum of jobs available in Hindi is much larger than in their own native languages, and because most Indians know a smattering of Hindi thanks to Hindi's nation-wide spread. They all think that this much knowledge of Hindi is sufficient to do translation. They are sadly mistaken, though, as their kudoz answers reveal.

In the case of English monolingual, a large section of the answerers are non-native speakers of English and many of the answers they provide are excellent. This has something to do with English having a global spread and it being perhaps the only language in the world with more non-native users than native users.

Also, because of this very characteristic of English, native speakers are sometimes at a disadvantage because they would be unfamiliar with local flavours of English, such as the English used in an area like India where English is not spoken as a first language but there is a large pool of people who use English.

I will take just one example here from the kudoz questions that I can recall which illustrates this point.

The question was "what is meant by command area" (not the exact wording, but from my recollection).

Most native English speakers who answered this question got it wrong, they related it to a military situation, whereas command area is a term used quite frequently in India to describe the area to which a dam provides its benefits like irrigation water, electricity, drinking water, etc.

The correct answer was provided by a non-native speaker of English (that is, me!).

But the case illustrates the point I want to make, that is, in the case of English at least, for a large part of the questions asked in kudoz, being a native speaker of English is a distinct disadvantage because it implies that the person is unfamiliar with the local flavours and usages in far off areas where all English is in use today.


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xxxFrancis Lee
Local time: 00:13
German to English
+ ...
Who is the more foolish - the fool or the fool that follows him? Aug 27, 2006

Don't quote me on that

Tim Drayton wrote:

I leave native English speakers out there to judge which is the more plausible translation.
Does it really matter anyway? I am sure that apart from roughly half a dozen languages that are widely taught in English-speaking countries, almost all translators working into English are native speakers of the source language.


Sadly, this applies to a certain degree to German-English, as is reflected in the corresponding Kudoz section:
Non-natives post questions, other non-natives provide sub-standard answers with annoyingly high confidence levels, their equally clueless non-native colleagues give them a series of Agrees and the Asker awards the points, with superior answers by natives overlooked. One major reason for the latter is the growing disillusionment among native-speakers with Kudoz, i.e. a tendency to avoid/boycott questions from non-natives. This is German, after all, where we have a plentiful supply of native translators.

Don't get me wrong, this is not just about non-natives. I often see literal translations from native English-speakers as well on Kudoz. And there are, of course, native "learner" Askers (yes, we're all in an eternal learning process, but you know what I mean) who know no better and do no yet appreciate why it is often necessary to diverge from the original.
When someone provides an inappropriate (for whatever reason) answer to a question I've posted, I use the new Asker reply box to politley tell them so. Sure - to be honest, I'd rather just tell them to not bother in future, but that would indeed be unfair, as some colleagues are simply trying their best.
But in the case of my questions and others: it's primarily non-natives who post such at times stomach-churning suggestions.
They, as a majority, often dictate proceedings and are IMO to a significant degree responsible for the declining standards on Kudoz ...


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Eva T
English to Albanian
+ ...
In my language pairs as well Aug 27, 2006

Hi Kim,
what you decribed below is becoming a plague in my language combinations as well. There is this person who, in order to convince the asker that he is right, copies pages and pages from Google, which mostly are in the source language anyway, which at the end, do not prove anything about his translation on the target language.

I think people in my language combinations have come to the point that they "know" him and his method of answering Kudoz and do not pay as much attention as they used to.

Eva

Kim Metzger wrote:
Another unhealthy practice is copying and pasting search engine results that show merely that the proposed target term exists but leave out the essential step in the process of showing that the proposed target term is an acceptable translation. This has become a plague in the Spanish to English combination. I'm just quoting two references. In the actual answer there was a whole page full of them:

PHOENIX AG - Annual report 1999On the other hand, earnings from ordinary operating activities were up EUR 1.3 million to EUR 31.1 million. Earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) ...
www.phoenix-ag.com/statisch/statische_seiten/gb_englisch_99... - 71k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF] Umschlag f PDF engl neu.qxdFile Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
Earnings from ordinary operating activities. 2222541.03. 14. Taxes on income. 17. -1296744.42. 15. Other taxes. -19384.70. 16. Net earnings. 906411.91 ...
213.23.73.95/FR/societe/is/gpcwf/files/annual_report_2000-2001.pdf - Similar pages


[Edited at 2006-08-27 18:03]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 17:13
English to Russian
+ ...
Of plague and non-natives Aug 27, 2006

The virus that causes the notorious plague has very little to do with native or non-native origin. I could name just as many crappy "translators" very much native in Russian and translating into Russian only as there are non-natives struggling through any language with very little success. It's not about them being non-natives, it's about them NOT BEING TRANSLATORS. Sorry to say but Russian translators known to me as capable of providing translations into English of a quality many native would drool for simply do not waste their time here. No point - rates and 90% of questions would seem plain ridiculous to them. Proz en mass is very far from being a reference point for translation quality as we know it when we read Shakespeare in our native languages.

Imagine that there is a town where 2 automechanics make excellent money fixing all sorts of cars - German, French, American etc. All of a sudden the rest of the town decides - boy, we want the same money, it's easy, all we need is to buy a shop and some tools, and come up with a catchy sign. Well, all of a sudden the customers began to find their cars even more broken than they have been before repair and... started blaming everyone in town including those 2 who knew what they were doing all along but have been overshadowed by amass of potboilers.

On today's global scale, there are relatively few good professional translators and there are... legions of... you name them.

On the other hand, escaping native editors is a crime:-). There is a process between the source text and the end reader, and it should be observed with the same stringency as any other manufacturing process with all its codes and regulations. Otherwise the resulting cluster of words is an accident waiting to happen.

One of the best and most powerful leaders and speakers I have ever heard, the former NASA administrator Mr. Goldin kept saying that humans will always make mistakes, which does not make them bad or stupid or useless, and it is the properly designed system that is supposed to prevent those mistakes from falling through the cracks. Air-tight system! The guy was right!


Irene



[Edited at 2006-08-28 00:06]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 01:13
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Literal translation may fit into the context Aug 28, 2006

It is the asker who has to decide if any answer given is right or wrong. The cited phrase about driving out of nine villages would fit, if the subject is about Turkey (tourism, folklore) or if it is fiction. Proverbs are specific to their respective language, but in a work of fiction I would expect a literal translation, not a rendering into the target language.
You do not have to be native in order to be able to propose a non-literal translation, English proverbs are well known everywhere, as once used to be German proverbs.

Regards
Heinrich


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isoyo  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:13
English to Japanese
It's not all about getting or giving right answers. Aug 28, 2006

i think it's good for non-native speakers to enter answers they think right because then can learn from mistakes if somebody points that out. Even if wong answers made by non-native speakers are ignored, they can also learn from others' right answers/opinions/comments!!

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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:13
English to Polish
+ ...
Literal or not Aug 28, 2006

It's not necessarily that simple. It is one thing to find a saying(or what have you) that corresponds to the original, but you may also want to understand the literal meaning of the original saying.
If I'm dealing with a non-Polish speaker, I will sometimes say "there is a saying in Poland that goes......... and it means ..........."
Yes, I know I'm referring to spoken language, but the idea is the same.

As to translation into a non-native language - I often see that a translator is expected to get everything perfect, down to the last comma, while it's rare that someone picks on a source text badly written by a native. After all, a native wrote it!

Cheers,
Pawel Skalinski


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