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Poll: Is it necessary to have formal translation training to be a good translator?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 18:24
SITE STAFF
May 12, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Is it necessary to have formal translation training to be a good translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Warren Lindsay

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Catherine GUILLIAUMET  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:24
English to French
+ ...
No, it is not ! May 12, 2009

And I even would say more (in my bad English, sorry) : Often, it is a "plus".
I mean that the most important factors of excellency are :
the translator's cleverness, his/her deep knowledge of his/her domain(s) of expertise, and his/her style of writing ... all things to be sure that one cannot gain in translation schools.
Have a nice day
Catherine


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Jason Ma  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:24
English to Chinese
+ ...
I believe it's necessary to have formal training May 12, 2009

Actually, I have been applying for an opportunity to study for a Master's degree in translation in China.

I would like to know other collegues' suggesions. Thanks.

[Edited at 2009-05-12 14:18 GMT]


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Qutubuddin Khan  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:54
Member (2008)
English to Arabic
+ ...
It's not May 12, 2009

I think it is not necessary to have a formal translation training, though I myself have.

Actually, I have found that many without formal training are doing better than some who have it. I think a flair for language and lots of reading help a translator.


Qutub


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Caro Maucher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:24
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
It can help, but it's not necessary May 12, 2009

In fact I agree absolutely with Qutub's answer!

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not entirely May 12, 2009

I don't believe that a translation degree or certificate per se is necessary, although it is useful, especially when the market/prospective client demands it. I see translation as a matter of linguistic and cultural competence and a convincing track record rather than formal qualification.
Nowadays, university translation courses focus on the use of CAT and other technological aspects which are increasingly important in the business. This is obviously a good thing. However, I believe that translation is as much an art as it is a science, and that a degree in translation (and knowledge of the toolkits available) does not necessarily make for a good translator.
I find it quite frustrating when posters stipulate that their offers are only open to translators with "credentials" and I find myself unable to apply for them, although I consider myself perfectly capable.

Then there is the question, in Spanish context anyway, of "official" or "sworn" translators. A "Traductor jurado" in Spain is an official title, which gives the holder the authority, similar to that of a notary, to certify (stamp/seal) the integrity of the finished product (i. e. that it is a faithful rendering of the original). I have worked for several of them (I do the work, they pay me the standard rate, then stamp it, and charge the client 3 or 4 times more). Most of the ones I know, in my opinion, are not very good translators themselves, although they have studied and passed an exam to gain their qualification.


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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:24
English to Dutch
+ ...
Every once in a while... May 12, 2009

this question pops up in the translation industry. In my honest opinion a formal translation training is a nice-to-have, not a must-have (not my expression, by the way, it came from a German to English translator).

I consider myself a very capable translator and, more important, my clients seem to think so, too, otherwise they wouldn't keep coming back for more. The fact that I make a living from freelance translating in my language pair is proof of the fact that one can survive in the translation world without any formal training, as long as one uses that all-important muscle between the ears. There seems to be merit in having enjoyed a formal translation education and those who have done so rightfully say that not everybody with a good command of two or more languages is a translator, but to claim that without formal translation training one cannot translate properly, as I have seen happen on other websites, is way off the mark. In translation, as in almost any other field where brains are the main tool for generating business, there is a lot to be said for experience. Degrees only show that you have successfully completed an education and rarely show how your attitude towards life and work is. As an employer I would be more interested in the latter than in a piece of paper saying you completed such and such education.


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:24
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
I wouldn't call it crucial ... May 12, 2009

... as good but untrained translators exist as well as trained but bad ones.
(As the "but"s indicate, I wouldn't basically call it a bad idea to have some training though.)


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betta_splendens
Thailand
Local time: 08:24
English to Thai
formal training = formal credential May 12, 2009

Certificates provide you better opportunities.

Translation is a skill. All skills require practice, frequency, and time. Of course, training, formal or not, is a sort of practice. But being a 'good' something, I think it's a combination of skill and responsibility.

IMO, the practice that improves translation skill best is a kind of editing, whether it takes place in class or in your own house, whether you practise it by yourself or with a mentor.

[Edited at 2009-05-12 10:47 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-05-12 10:51 GMT]


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 03:24
Italian to English
+ ...
Discussed before - no it's not May 12, 2009

This was discussed several months ago as a forum question. Of course not scientific, but the overwhelming consensus among a good number of people discussing the question, almost all with many years of experience, was that formal translation training is not necessary, and not even formal language training.

With the information system and telecommunications revolution in the 1990s, coupled with globalization, more and more people have realized that they can enter into the translation business, featuring low barriers to entry. In tandem, the number of formal training courses has proliferated.

The answer to the question may differ according to age and experience.


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Marika Costantini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:24
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
yes, it is May 12, 2009

perhaps it is not "compulsory" (many translators are good translators even though they don't have a linguistic education) but a degree or a specialization are not a "plus" or just "a piece of sheet"!! in my opinion, the fact that you live or lived for a while in a specific country (not yours, of course) is not sufficient to declare that you perfectly know the language. just an example: a friend of mine is married with an Englishman. her pronunciation is absolutely perfect but she stated many times that she would not be able to become a translator 'cause speaking and writing are very different matters (there's a lot of difference between an interpreter and a translator). so, I think it's not compulsory but very very important to have a specific linguistic education, together with experience, obviously, that is fundamental.

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
That old discussion.... May 12, 2009

Would you board an airplane if you knew the pilots did not have a formal flying training. Would you have yourself treated by an M.D. without the proper medical training.

In the case of translation: it helps. Most of those who say "no" have 1 language combination and never had to assimilate from 0 all the intricacies of a language.
Those who had such training had to choose 2 foreign languages (from 0 to a translatable level) and a target-language, which in most cases is their native language.
With interpreting it is another ballgame : no training, no conference-interpreting


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Edward Turner  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:24
English to German
+ ...
Not necessary May 12, 2009

A formal qualification is certainly not necessary. I am a qualified engineer and also a freelance translator. I have seen translations done by qualified translators that are so wide of the mark it is incredible. However, there also engineers who despite their training are at best average and more a liability. Detailed subject knowledge and sound language skills are more important. I agree, I wouldn't board a plane with an unqualified pilot at the controls or let an unqualified doctor cut away at me, however, I've seen companies with qualified business people at the helm go bankrupt due to incompetence, I’ve seen people with no formal qualifications build great companies because they are clever in other ways. It’s like so many things, even with the ‘correct’ training you’ve still got to have the desire to succeed and always be prepared to learn.

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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 19:24
English to Dutch
+ ...
yes and no May 12, 2009

I'd say formal translation training isn't necessary, but formal linguistic training in one's mother tongue is. I can only speak for my own mother tongue, but so many Dutch native speakers don't really know their own language anymore (grammar, spelling, etc.), even people with a degree in translation...

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:24
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Of course not! May 12, 2009

Over the generations there have been thousands of very good translators who did not have the chance of a formal training.

In fact the training courses, grammar books, dictionaries and theories are based on their hard-won experience.

But it really IS hard-won experience. Having it collected rationally and passed on in a form that others can benefit from is a great help. A formal understanding of one's own language is necessary to produce the kind of quality that is expected in most situations. But not necessarily a training in translation per se. Some people never learn it, and others seem to know it instinctively.

I think a certain natural 'ear' for languages is also necessary.
My father's family have lived in multilinugal communities for several generations. Some find languages far easier than others. My grandmother loved languages and my grandfather found them a battle. My father himself could read seven or eight languages more or less fluently, and spoke several at different periods of his life. He was more or less functionally bilingual for many years.

My sibs are all thankful that they did not end up as ex-pats forced to live through another language! I feel I have finally found my niche in life.



PS I'm more than grateful to the college lecturers and experienced colleagues who trained me - and also to my father, who was one of those who really did break new ground and write the books as he taught his own students. At 88 he can still give good advice or tell some fascinating tales.




[Edited at 2009-05-12 20:51 GMT]


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