Off topic: Do you find source language quality has fallen into decline?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:15
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Nov 28, 2016

At least I have the feeling that nowadays authors of technical texts lack some knowledge about their native language, and QA is a thing of the past. Even spelling mistakes that are displayed by Word go through into final versions.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
No decline Nov 28, 2016

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

At least I have the feeling that nowadays authors of technical texts lack some knowledge about their native language, and QA is a thing of the past. Even spelling mistakes that are displayed by Word go through into final versions.


I don't think it's a decline. It's just that sometimes, people who have technical expertise and are extremely good at what they do are just not very good at writing. I get lots of jobs translating technical reports, product specifications etc. that have clearly been written by someone who genuinely understands the subject matter but is not very skilful at writing things down.

In my translation I subtly correct these small errors. No big deal.

The language is not heading for Armageddon.


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viking modena  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:15
Member (2012)
Swedish to Italian
+ ...
Yes, for sure Nov 28, 2016

I am quite often involved in comparing different language versions of the Italian source text and sometimes I can hardly understand myself what they mean, though it's written in my mothertongue. When it goes really crazy, I get a different interpretation for each language, which is a sign of bad or at least doubtful source quality.

It's not only a matter of spelling mistakes. Manuals often give you information not required, or lack to give important information. I've also seen judges and lawyers that refer to withdrawn directives.

When it comes to technical Italian, there is recently a tendency with technicians to use the "operation" instead of the "operator" word, e.g. "trasporto" instead for "trasportatore", so the "conveyor" becomes a "transportation", and " cambia utensile" becomes "cambio utensile" (= tool changer > tool changing). It can lead to misunderstandings, maybe when you are translating an Excel list in alphabetical order (of course without any other reference material).

Usage of comma/dot for metrical/imperial measurement is another big issue (and troublemaker in CAT tools).

My "easy" explanation is that many firms nowadays want to pay (technical) writers as little as translators, so either they do it themselves or hire some cheap resource.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:15
German to English
Globalization -> non-native authors Nov 28, 2016

When translating texts issued by multinational corporations, I've frequently encountered documents that were clearly written by someone who was not a native speaker of the source language. Sometimes the syntax is obviously that of a Romance language, or the lack of articles betrays a native speaker of a non-Germanic language, possibly Slavic. Doubtless translators working out of English run into the same thing.

Then there's the issue that's older than globalization: people who can't express themselves clearly in their own native language or who have no mastery of grammar.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:15
Romanian to English
+ ...
Yes Nov 29, 2016

viking modena wrote:

I've also seen judges and lawyers that refer to withdrawn directives.


I noticed this, too. Lawyers, or whoever drafts contracts in a company, are getting visibly sloppier in their phrasing, use of legal terms and, like viking said, legal citation.


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
English to Polish
+ ...
Extinct species: the proofreader/ editor Nov 29, 2016

Vast herds of those noble animals used to roam the halls of publishing houses. Hunted to extinction by hunter-accountants with automatic cost cutting weapons.

So, it's not always a case of non-native writer. There's simply nobody to look at the text to tighten it up, even a bit.
Where there used to be one typo per book there is now one per chapter, sometimes per page.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely! Nov 29, 2016

Yes, I completely agree: Source text linguistic quality in technical texts has declined.

In my opinion, there are three main causes:
- More international companies from outside of the English-speaking world are operating internationally, and their nationals write manuals in their second language (mostly English)

- More international writers work in companies from English-speaking countries.

- The pace of product and service development all over the world has increased considerably over the last decades, and there are probably not enough trained technical writers (or such writers are expensive for many companies). Many manuals are written by people who lack training in technical writing.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Languages are generally given lower priority in schools Nov 29, 2016

... at least in my languages.

I am from the post-war generation when the resources teachers had in schools consisted largely of 'chalk and talk' and possibly a library with some good books. The same applied even more to my parents' generation, born in the 20s and growing up in the 30s, but they had plenty of time to learn English, and the brighter ones learnt French, Latin and German too. Grammar, classical authors, more grammar... A whole generation of writers emerged from the working classes, wrote about the wars, the pits, the factories, and dragged themselves up by the bootlaces into professions. A few lucky young people like my parents got scholarships to university, and everyone took education seriously.

Children in my generation were encouraged, bribed or forced to do their homework, and there were far fewer distractions back then. The telly, if not the whole world, was black and white! In our village reception was poor, so we only had BBC, not ITV. (There was ONE channel, and the television was either on or off, mostly off, so my mother could read in peace!)

We read all the books and read them again, then we wrote our own stories and put on plays with friends and siblings. Without mobile phones, Facebook or Twitter, we listened to each other, and there was time to think about what we said. My younger sisters even listened to a magnetophone in their French classes, to help with their accents, and I remember some grainy film about le Général de Gaulle and Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, and later struggling with a tape recorder in a so-called language lab.

We learnt languages, not because we expected to use them to make a living, but as an accomplishment - like playing a musical instrument, painting or being good at sport.

It was a different world, but it was good for languages. Very different from information overload, and young people asking why they should learn languages, when 'everyone can English'? Both in the UK and Denmark, less priority is given now to learning foreign languages, and when my son was at school, the teacher told us grammar and putting commas in the right place should not be allowed to 'prevent children from expressing themselves'. Even the teachers could not always write correct Danish in some schools!
My son's generation are in their 30s and emerging as teachers...

We moved him to a private school and he writes well in both his languages, I hasten to add. There ARE people who take language seriously and write well, but there are still lots who spend all day writing and never read through what they have written. Proofreading is so BORING - and we all hate proofreaders anyway, this site is full of examples!

I expect the older generation has written this sort of thing since the time of the ancient Greeks, and we are not totally illiterate yet, but things are definitely moving in that direction!


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Ricki Farn
Germany
Local time: 16:15
Member (2005)
English to German
On the positive side ... Nov 30, 2016

... people writing bad texts in their second language probably means that people are now less self-conscious about doing so than they used to be.

Christine Andersen wrote:
We learnt languages, not because we expected to use them to make a living, but as an accomplishment - like playing a musical instrument, painting or being good at sport.


... and that creates linguistic shyness.

I realized that very clearly when I stopped speaking English (acoustically) for several years because I studied for a second degree at the English department, and we were absolutely shamed for each and every little mistake. I don't hear well, especially not my own voice, so I kept being told I had quite a bad accent. I just gave up, and after completing my degree (in writing), it took me several years to get back into spoken English.

When Mr. New Neighbour from Cameroon appeared in my life last year, I dug out the remains of the French I had forcibly acquired 30 years earlier to communicate with my French great-aunts, and assembled them into a functioning spoken communication inside of about 30 seconds. And why? Because I did not study French as a linguistic beauty pageant, I learned it because it helped me survive.

So for translators, it's sad that language is in decline, but psychologically, it might mean that communication is gaining importance over beauty and style, and THAT might not be a bad thing after all.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:15
German to English
Not lack of shyness, but job requirement Nov 30, 2016

Ricki Farn wrote:

... people writing bad texts in their second language probably means that people are now less self-conscious about doing so than they used to be.
[snip]
So for translators, it's sad that language is in decline, but psychologically, it might mean that communication is gaining importance over beauty and style, and THAT might not be a bad thing after all.


That may be a nice way to look at it, but I think the non-native author issue has more to do with a job requirement.
Mr. X: We need an experienced engineer to write this manual. Smith, take care of it.
Smith (who doesn't doesn't want to do it himself): Pubak, can you do write the manual by the end of next week?
Pubak: Oh, yes, no problem. I am best in my class when I am a student at university.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Allright Nov 30, 2016

Ricki Farn wrote:

... people writing bad texts in their second language probably means that people are now less self-conscious about doing so than they used to be.

Christine Andersen wrote:
We learnt languages, not because we expected to use them to make a living, but as an accomplishment - like playing a musical instrument, painting or being good at sport.


... and that creates linguistic shyness.

I realized that very clearly when I stopped speaking English (acoustically) for several years because I studied for a second degree at the English department, and we were absolutely shamed for each and every little mistake. I don't hear well, especially not my own voice, so I kept being told I had quite a bad accent. I just gave up, and after completing my degree (in writing), it took me several years to get back into spoken English.

When Mr. New Neighbour from Cameroon appeared in my life last year, I dug out the remains of the French I had forcibly acquired 30 years earlier to communicate with my French great-aunts, and assembled them into a functioning spoken communication inside of about 30 seconds. And why? Because I did not study French as a linguistic beauty pageant, I learned it because it helped me survive.

So for translators, it's sad that language is in decline, but psychologically, it might mean that communication is gaining importance over beauty and style, and THAT might not be a bad thing after all.


You wrote: "..... it might mean that communication is gaining importance over beauty and style, and THAT might not be a bad thing after all."

Maybe not, but I still have to deal with bad source texts, English or which language what so ever, and while working with them (believe me), I can't see the beauty.

[Edited at 2016-11-30 22:06 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-30 22:12 GMT]


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