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Poll: Can translation be taught as a skill?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

The Misha
Local time: 05:21
Russian to English
+ ...
Folks, don't kid yourself - we are all craftsmen here May 27, 2011

No offense, but I think most of you guys are flattering yourselves here. Ours is first and foremost a craft - a practical skill developed through study and practice and applied to a particular job at hand. As such, it can be - and is - taught, now more than ever, it seems. Back in my time and place, we were taught the foreign language and no one ever mentioned translation (that was almost a four letter word under the circumstances, but that's a different story altogether). The tricks of the trad... See more
No offense, but I think most of you guys are flattering yourselves here. Ours is first and foremost a craft - a practical skill developed through study and practice and applied to a particular job at hand. As such, it can be - and is - taught, now more than ever, it seems. Back in my time and place, we were taught the foreign language and no one ever mentioned translation (that was almost a four letter word under the circumstances, but that's a different story altogether). The tricks of the trade, those we had to learn by ourselves.

Just like there are good and bad plumbers - jewelers, keg makers, line cooks, you name it - there are good and mediocre translators, and all of them serve a purpose, or at least eat every day. To be sure, most of you are right about the writing ability, the talent, the God's spark inside and what not. It all helps. However, those familiar with Gaussian statistics would know where the majority fall and what the chances would be for rising above the crowd. It's OK, microwave oven manuals and Excel spreadsheets need to be translated too, and you don't really need a God's spark for those. Trados does it. It's a part of the trade too.

On a separate note and without going deep into that tired old native vs. non-native controversy, here's a little disclaimer for the purists here: I plead guilty to that cardinal sin you seem to hate so much. I translate into what, technically, isn't the language I speak to my mother, and I am good at it too. Nor do I ever try to hide the fact. If you are good, what are you scared of? Competition is good, so let your work speak for itself. And please, please don't tell me you are trying to make this a better world. There is no magic. We are all selling a skill here - the one we learned, one way or another. The one that CAN be taught.
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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:21
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translation, no; interpretation, yes - IF the knack is there May 27, 2011

I taught Spanish-English translation for over a decade in the Translation and Interpretation Division at Georgetown University. My good students had the knack for it before they walked in the door. With a few exceptions, the best students were the ones who were also studying interpretation, and I think that's because the bar for admission to the interpretation classes was much higher. They were also in a full-time immersion program and the other students were not.

I taught such thin
... See more
I taught Spanish-English translation for over a decade in the Translation and Interpretation Division at Georgetown University. My good students had the knack for it before they walked in the door. With a few exceptions, the best students were the ones who were also studying interpretation, and I think that's because the bar for admission to the interpretation classes was much higher. They were also in a full-time immersion program and the other students were not.

I taught such things as strategies for dealing with common structural mismatches (e.g., a fronted verb in Spanish where English requires a specified subject); differences in the discourse values of the parts of speech in the two languages; how to detect markedness in the source language and convey it in the target; matching the register; when to take liberties and when to be literal; how to think through a solution before running to the dictionary, etc. But the good students often had instincts that led them to these solutions without the explanations. **The explanations helped them to generalize what they knew intuitively and hone the gifts they already had.**

Interpretation, of course, is translation-plus. One has to also learn how to listen and translate at the same time, and that is a skill that can be taught. It may come naturally, but the skill is acquired more quickly through special classes.
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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:21
Member (2008)
English to Italian
yes May 27, 2011

Yes, then you can be a good learner or not.
How to translate can be taught, then everybody has specific skills to produce a good, a bad, an excellent translation....


 
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