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Calling translators "linguists"
Thread poster: Cory Ohira

Cory Ohira

Local time: 17:28
Japanese to English
Sep 1, 2017

Why did translation agencies started referring to translators as "linguists"? We all know that translators are NOT linguists. This may seem like a minor point but I don't get how companies that deal with "words" started insisting on using the incorrect terminology.

PS
I wanted to post this on "Translation Agencies" forum but that forum seems to have disappeared.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:28
Member
English to Italian
Better than 'resources' Sep 1, 2017

As per subject.

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I'm proud of it! Translators should be lingusts. Sep 1, 2017

What is wrong with calling us linguists? Not all linguists are translators, but translators are a sub-group of linguists.

This is how the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary defines a linguist:

1. a person who knows several foreign languages well
She's an excellent linguist.
I'm afraid I'm no linguist (= I find foreign languages difficult).
2. a person who studies languages or linguistics
a computational linguist


I have been proud to be a member if the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) for many years, and I was really delighted to become a Chartered Linguist a couple of years ago.
___________________________________________________

This is how the CIoL defines applicants for becoming Chartered Linguists:

Professional practice

Applicants will have been in current professional practice for at least the last five years, working (as a minimum) 120 days each year in one (or more) of the following specialisations:

-- Translation
-- Interpreting
-- Teaching a foreign language and/or coordination or management of foreign languages at secondary level or in university language departments or language centres
-- Teaching translation / interpreting
-- Sustained, frequent use of foreign languages at a high level in business, industry, the professions (e.g. law, engineering, accountancy) or government
-- Translation/interpreting project management or equivalent in other areas of language services

___________________________________________________

What I hate is being called a Resource, as if I was some kind of commodity, or a Vendor or Supplier (of words by the kilo?).

I am a qualified professional, and I've worked hard to get there!

icon_smile.gificon_smile.gificon_smile.gif


 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:28
German to English
We all know?? Sep 1, 2017

Do we? Actually, I don't think we do.

In the UK, for example, translators and interpreters have long been referred to as "linguists". That's why the oldest UK professional association is called the "Institute of Linguists" (founded in 1910; now the "Chartered Institute of Linguists"). Perhaps you will feel further insulted by the fact that the CIOL also includes language teachers as "linguists". Check out their website.

In the United States, there was traditionally a much more narrow interpretation of "linguist", in the sense of somebody who had a qualification in, or worked in, one of the branches of linguistics. However, that narrow view appears to be breaking down now (with the possible exception of academia), and you do now see the term "linguists" used much more frequently to refer to T&I (and not just by agencies).

Exactly what makes you think that the terminology is "incorrect", as you claim?

And what would you prefer? Something like "vendor"?


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:28
English to Russian
+ ...
We are APPLIED linguists Sep 1, 2017

Cory, not all linguistics is fundamental and housed in universities. Professional translation is the most typical example of applied linguistics. Being a good translator requires at least an intuitive understanding of fundamental linguistics, too.

 

Cory Ohira

Local time: 17:28
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
That makes sense but... Sep 1, 2017

This is how the CIoL defines applicants for becoming Chartered Linguists:



In the UK, for example, translators and interpreters have long been referred to as "linguists".


That makes a bit more sense.

Then why not just use the term "translators"????

That's like calling doctors "hospital workers" (not technically wrong but this could be anyone working at a hospital) or using the term "scientists" when referring to an "engineer".


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I suspect it goes much further back than 'linguistics' as a university subject. Sep 1, 2017

Of course there have been students of what was known as philology for centuries.

Back when Latin was the language used at universities, 'linguae' meant languages, and there were Classics (Latin and Greek) or what came to be called modern languages. So those who spoke and studied languages were known as linguists. Probably only a tiny proportion of them specialised in philology or what we call linguistics. I would call them linguisticians.

To this day, a Danish translator still takes a degree with the title Cand. Ling. Merc. (candidatus/candidata linguæ mercantilis) - which means an MA in commercial languages. There is a certain amount of linguistics, but the Latin word 'linguae' meant languages in practical use, grammar, syntax, and how to read, write and speak them. So language students were known as linguists.

My guess is that the idea of linguistics as a science is much more modern.

Quite simply, the English language is not always logical, at least on the surface. I agree, agencies could just as well say translator when they mean translator, but if they are looking for a proofreader/editor, or they seriously mean a trained translator, not a bilingual amateur who wants to earn a few bucks, then it could be a useful distinction.

Why say a doctor, when you mean a GP or a gynaecologist or a cardiologist or paediatrician or...?
But that is often what people say.

PS I read books on linguistics now and then. I have never taken any formal courses in it, but I do know a little bit about linguistics. Self-study is a very time-honoured way of getting on in our profession.

OK, I promise not to post any more in this thread! Have a nice weekend everyone!

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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:28
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Linguists? Sep 1, 2017

Many translators translate multiple languages and can speak other languages which they do not translate.
Better "linguist" than "vendor" which seems to be the common practice nowadays.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 02:28
German to English
+ ...
It's been bugging me too Sep 2, 2017

It's like calling a doctor an expert in anatomy, or a financial advisor a mathematician. Linguistic skills and knowledge are one branch of what a translator must master in order to properly translate. There are probably many true linguists, including fine ones, who don't know how to translate properly even if they are bilingual or trilingual.

 

Otha Nash
United States
Local time: 03:28
Member (2017)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Linguist Sep 4, 2017

Linguist. 1: a person accomplished in languages; especially : one who speaks several languages. (Webster's)

AFAIK, the word has been used in this sense longer than it's been used to designate someone who engages in the study of linguistics. I have the impression that "linguist" is intended to better reflect the full set of skills that a language service professional might have (translation, transcription, interpretation, etc.)

[Edited at 2017-09-04 01:37 GMT]


 

Peter Ross  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 17:28
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...
Linguists are not translators Sep 4, 2017

Use of the word "linguist" in the translation industry has seemed odd to me too, but the British viewpoint provided here explains a lot.

I can see a blanket use of the term being self-applied by language professionals crossing between translation and language teaching (et al) to make a living, not unlike the CIL use of the term.

Anna Wierzbicka used to call translation, language teaching, and lexicography the three core applications of linguistics, a similar idea.

Unfortunately, linguistics training under this rubric alone is insufficient to qualify one for either translation or teaching recognition.

It's been a major challenge to my self-esteem...







[Edited at 2017-09-04 03:34 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-09-04 03:34 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-09-04 03:36 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:28
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
"Linguist" is a polyseme Sep 4, 2017

The agencies call us "linguists" other than translators because they tend to assign us a much wider scope of work than translation. We are sometimes asked to work as editors, proofreaders, or QA specialists. "Linguist" is a best word so far to cover all of these roles.

I think they are trying to sound more respectful to us by using linguists other than translators, too. They may be thinking that a linguist does much more than a translator does.

[Edited at 2017-09-04 08:25 GMT]


 

mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:28
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
Translators or linguists Sep 4, 2017

I am very surprised to read such comments from translators. "Linguist" is the generic term, so what is wrong with that use? It is just like calling people "human beings", or using "lawyer" instead of "barrister". If people are that touchy, I am afraid they are in for a few nasty surprises in life.
From a translating agency, it could also simply mean that the agency is looking for people to translate and not machines, since a linguist is never a machine. Try and be a bit more positive in life.


 

Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:28
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Exactly Sep 4, 2017

jyuan_us wrote:

The agencies call us "linguists" other than translators because they tend to assign us a much wider scope of work than translation. We are sometimes asked to work as editors, proofreaders, or QA specialists. "Linguist" is a best word so far to cover all of these roles.

I think they are trying to sound more respectful to us by using linguists other than translators, too. They may be thinking that a linguist does much more than a translator does.

[Edited at 2017-09-04 08:25 GMT]


I agree completely. I like the term linguist. It's the word I use when I explain to companies why I don't own Photoshop or DTP software - because I'm a linguist, I specialize in language. It is also helpful for people who think that translation is an automatic, machine-like process. Or those who don't understand that my skills go beyond speaking three languages.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 02:28
German to English
+ ...
Translation entails.... Sep 4, 2017

...skills specific to translation, in addition to linguistic abilities. A linguist is not necessarily knowledgeable or skilled in translation, just as someone with an excellent grasp of anatomy may not know how to create a sculpture or practice medicine, even though both fields require a grasp of anatomy. Many of us are trained in translation, specifically, and may have spent some years getting there. We are not just linguists.
In addition to - often along with - the designation of "linguist", I will see instructions that look more like they were meant for untrained apprentices and similar things. So I actually tend to see the issue as not that trivial.


 
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