Poll: Have you ever accepted a project without really knowing much about the subject?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 01:17
SITE STAFF
Feb 6, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever accepted a project without really knowing much about the subject?".

This poll was originally submitted by Michel34. View the poll results »



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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:17
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes--within reason Feb 6, 2011

I wouldn't accept a large translation in a professional domain that I know nothing about, like law, engineering, or finance. But I have accepted many, many translations on topics that I knew nothing about within my broad fields of concentration (medicine, public health, agriculture, botany, zoology, etc.). That's part of my job.

I have also accepted tons of really short translations in "alien" subject areas.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:17
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Yes. Feb 6, 2011

In fact just recently. It was only a 1 page translation, and I ended up learning more about dentistry - aside from lots of personal experience.

I wouldn't accept translations of a larger volume in fields I know nothing or very little about. It wouldn't be fair to the client if I did.

Happy Sunday.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There are CVs ... and CVs Feb 6, 2011

I'm a bit of a specialist on CVs, in terms of what ought to go into them, what ought to be left out and how best to present the facts. That's due to my long experience running a workshop for French job-seekers, where trainees come from literally all walks of life: agrochemical engineers, musicians, research scientists, waiters, IT specialists, hairdressers, ... all sitting together and wanting advice.

It's great fun and I've found I CAN proofread a genetics researcher's CV - I may not understand any of the jargon (although I've picked up things like "Southern Blot") but then they normally are 100% sure of the jargon, but I can tell when they've probably reversed noun and adjective positions etc.

That's as a trainer, with the CV's owner sitting there with me. It's a bit different when I'm sent a CV for translation. In fact, the very first job I landed was sent by an agency: an 8-page (!) mining engineer's CV. I really should have turned it down but well, you don't turn down the first one, do you?

Nowadays, I still accept any and every CV but I insist on some direct contact with the client. There are just too many abbreviations used in CVs and too many things that don't need to be said in a CV for your home country that are crucial if you're sending it abroad.


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patriciacharnet  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:17
English to French
+ ...
No Feb 6, 2011

There have been a few occasions when I was offered an assignment and I did not know the subject much so I refused.

On a couple of occasions the agency was stuck so I accepted on condition that I was allowed time to familiarise myself with the subject and that a knowledgeable translator was at hand to answer any query.

That way the job was not messed up with.

So if you need work and accept from a subject that you don't know well I would recommend in my humble opinion:

Spend some time making some quick research on the net so that you understand the broad lines of this science
Get a specialised translator ready to help in case you get stuck on an awkward term

then you can get to know a new subject and add it to your terminology potential - I added patent translation that way - not a specialist, but now I know how to do them


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 10:17
English to French
+ ...
Yes Feb 6, 2011

Did I know 'much' about any subject when I first started? Do I know 'much' about the constant evolution in any and all fields?

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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:17
English to Russian
+ ...
No! Feb 6, 2011

It's a strict no-no. Knowing the subject of your translation is more important than knowing the language you are translating from. An engineer with a moderate knowledge of the language will in most cases produce a better technical translation than a totally non-technical type who is fully bilingual.

[Edited at 2011-02-06 11:03 GMT]


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 10:17
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
We all have Feb 6, 2011

And don't try and get me to believe otherwise!

It may be because we have been pushed to do so, that we were then too inexperienced to recognise sth beyond our scope, that we had skimped on the pre-read through, or that we always want to push the limits of our comfort zones a little further, that we are intellectually curious etc.

Can you imagine always translating texts with no difficult bits, with no words to make you stop and investigate (OK, we don't want too many, but we want a bit of recreation)? No thank you.

The sign of the experienced translator is knowing just how far you should stray.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:17
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Mostly when I was starting out Feb 6, 2011

Way back in the sixties, when I started freelancing, I thought I could tackle virtually anything, but as Aceavila - Noni says, knowing one's limitations is a sign of an experienced translator, and I learned mine some time ago. But I also agree with the rest of her comment. We get pushed into it, or we want a challenge, or we are willing to push the boundaries because we need the money - it's probably happened to all of us.

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Mark Hamlen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:17
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
I'm sure we all have Feb 6, 2011

I learned my lesson when I accepted a big text in a technical area I knew nothing about. Jack listed the reasons why. The client was pleased, but I probably earned pennies an hour and got almost no sleep for three days. I had to read hundreds of pages in the target language in order to figure out how to translate the stuff in the source language.

Now I avoid going too far from my expertise. But I do like to learn, so I'll stray a bit...


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:17
English to German
+ ...
Yes. Feb 6, 2011

I do a lot of PR writing. Who would have guessed - I have to write press releases about product launches and new technologies that are announced to the world with this very press release. No such thing as reference texts or familiarity with the product. A regular sized PR text of 500 words can take an entire day. To write 500 words I often have to read 10,000 words for research.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Feb 6, 2011

Not all of us start out with knowledge of a wide range of subjects; in fact none of us do. It requires a lot of effort and research to become a translator, and the more we put into it, the more we get out of it. It is a matter of discipline. If we could get by just working in a limited number of fields and in one direction only, that would make life much easier, but that is not the real world.

When I first started out I had to tackle many varied assignments with one guiding principle, no matter how difficult, it had to be done right. And bear in mind, that was way before the Internet. Life is much easier now with the world at our fingertips, and it is much easier for me because the vast majority of the work I get I could almost do in my sleep because I've been that way so many times before.

So the answer is an unqualified yes, I have always taken on everything that has come my way and provided a quality result no matter what the cost. It has all paid off.


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Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 11:17
Member (2010)
Greek to English
Yes, for several reasons Feb 6, 2011

First and foremost, if I didn't accept projects in 'unfamiliar' fields I'd have almost no work. There isn't a huge demand for Greek>English translators in the first place; and I'd starve to death if I waited for projects in the fields I know most about (orchids, cacti and aroids!).

Secondly, how does one define "knowing (much) about the subject"? To what extent is it necessary to already know 'a lot' before starting the translation? I am familiar with a lot of subjects, and I love researching. I can and do learn quickly, and the research is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I'd hate to translate the same old stuff time after time just because it's 'my field'. I might be able to work faster if I knew lots about the subject, but 'faster' doesn't always equate with 'better'.

I've recently completed a project about a road-building and stormwater drainage system construction project, and the environmental impact assessment. So, do I need to know a lot about roads, AND drainage systems AND construction AND hydrology AND hydromorphology AND ornithology AND botany AND pollutants etc etc? No: I just need to research to make sure I'm using the correct terminology.

Of course, I do have the advantage that English (my target language) uses lots of Greek words for medical and technical texts, and Greek uses English words (or very literal translations thereof) for more recent technical vocabulary.


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Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:17
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
for sure Feb 7, 2011

In some cases it's inevitable as new technologies are introduced every day, in certain areas.
Once I did accept a translation about forestry, which i THOUGHT i knew about but obviously not enough. I didn't do a very good job and the client wasn't happy. I can't say as i blamed them.


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Melisa Fernández Rosso  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
I totally agree. I'm starting and I can't afford to choose among projects. Feb 7, 2011

Interlangue wrote:

Did I know 'much' about any subject when I first started? Do I know 'much' about the constant evolution in any and all fields?


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