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Poll: How do you keep your writing skills sharp and nimble?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 12:46
SITE STAFF
Feb 8, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How do you keep your writing skills sharp and nimble?".

This poll was originally submitted by Mario Chavez. View the poll results »



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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
My sharpeners Feb 8, 2012

In my case, “reading a lot” oftentimes means reading the documents I’m translating. Translating seems to involve a certain kinetic energy that means the more I translate, the more I learn, and that improves my writing skills. The work itself is good for learning new terminology and ways of expressing certain words or phrases.

As part of my university studies, I'm also taking a text commentary class and Spanish language classes. They're sort of refresher courses on many things I picked up a long time ago, but there’s always something new to be gleaned from them, and the reading involved with the courses has added new shades to and sharpened my written form of expression.

Another element that helps me stay nimble is when customers ask me, "Why did you capitalize that?" "Why did you use a colon there?" "Why a comma before the word and?" That definitely keeps me on my toes.

P.S. Mario, it’s nice to see your question. I hope you submit more.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
All of them Feb 8, 2012

The input from foreign turns of phrase is often lovely...

John Cutler wrote:

As part of my university studies, I'm also taking a text commentary class and Spanish language classes.


Did that as well. There's a lot to be learned from text commentary -- something we hardly ever did in English, as far as I recall. We don't go into so much detail, anyway.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Same here Feb 8, 2012

John Cutler wrote:

In my case, “reading a lot” oftentimes means reading the documents I’m translating. Translating seems to involve a certain kinetic energy that means the more I translate, the more I learn, and that improves my writing skills. The work itself is good for learning new terminology and ways of expressing certain words or phrases.



Me too. I don't have usually a lot of time for leisure reading, although I do try to read a local newpaper most days. And when I do read any non-work-related material, it is not usually with any notion of self-enhancement or learning. Nor do I consider my own writing skills all that sharp or nimble in the first place, but I have never really given it much thought.

I must admit I am surprised that you actually have clients who express an interest in or query things in your translations such as capitalization, punctuation, etc, as I would guess that barely 1% of mine have any clear notion of how these things are supposed to be used - either in their own language or English! I sometimes take pains to explain to them that, for example, writing acronyms in lower case does not aid comprehension, but it rarely seems to register.


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:46
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Translation work Feb 8, 2012

John Cutler wrote:

The work itself is good for learning new terminology and ways of expressing certain words or phrases.



I totally agree. Translation is one of the best ways there is to improve writing skills because it makes you lift the bonnet and look closely at the nuts and bolts of the language and its writing conventions, taking you off on frequent fruitful research tangents. Exploring the differences and similarities between two languages is also an enriching experience for a writer.


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Rosa Grau
Spain
Local time: 21:46
English to Catalan
+ ...
I don't understand Feb 8, 2012

Isn't translation about reading and writing?

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:46
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Reading and writing Feb 8, 2012

I do both, even outside of translation work. Creative writing in all of the languages as well as reading is an excellent way to improve my writing skills.

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pgschreier  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 21:46
German to English
Work as a magazine editor Feb 8, 2012

I write regularly for a technical magazine. That's also a plus when I pitch my services as a translator when I can show my name on the magazine masthead or produce recent bylined articles.

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Rob Lunn  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Cycling doesn’t make you a better runner, even if it does get you fitter for running. Feb 8, 2012

What about just writing?

I was surprised to see that all the poll options were related to reading. Reading obviously helps, but not as much as actually practicing your writing. I would think anyway.

I suppose the poll doesn't mention writing because it assumes that translators are always writing, but I think there's a difference being writing for translation and writing for other purposes.

While, as others have said, translating does help your writing, just writing can help it in other ways. It seems to give you a different perspective.

[Edited at 2012-02-08 12:32 GMT]


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 21:46
English to French
+ ...
Other Feb 8, 2012

In addition to what others have said, I keep my mind wide open to the outside world: how do other native speakers use their language (written and oral), what is "right" or "wrong" (according to the book) and WHY (lots of grammar checks, spelling and dictionary definitions).
Languages change over time; different people use them differently in different circumstances. I try to soak up as much as I can...


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Because... Feb 8, 2012

neilmac wrote:

I must admit I am surprised that you actually have clients who express an interest in or query things in your translations such as capitalization, punctuation, etc,


It has to do with the fact that the employees of my main client, many of whom I know personally, are encouraged to read scientific journals and write in English. The main questions usually have to do with the differences in British and American English. You'll understand me when I say they've studied English over the years with a veritable "cast of thousands" of English teachers (Ian the Brit, Suzy the American, even Fritz, the German). It leaves them writing a sort of hodgepodge English that doesn't always square with the Oxford Style Guide I consistently use when working for that client.

The inquisitive ones ask me about the colons and commas; the rest just assume they know more than I do and that I'm the one who's wrong.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Reading in all my languages and ... Feb 8, 2012

talking in all my languages and (radio / TV) watching/listening in all my languages, and by freelance journalism and by studying.

[now retrospectively wonder if I should have picked other ... as my option]
as my strategy seems to involve more than reading.


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Coursework Feb 8, 2012

Although I no longer teach, I continue to maintain my various state language teaching licenses, "just in case." I try to select courses that will help me in my translation work. For English as a Second Language license, I recently took a graduate-level course in advanced English grammar. I had thought I was well-versed in the fine points of English sytax, but I actually learned a great deal. The last time my license was about to lapse, I took an on-line class in writing creative non-fiction from a local university. I am convinced that pursuing these studies keeps my writing skills fresh.
BTW I found an excellent on-line course in Spanish translation --for the Dip Trans. that "counts" toward my Spanish license, and am looking for something similar for French. This is off topic, so if you know of one, I would be grateful if you would p.m. me .


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Elena Novski  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:46
Member
Russian to English
+ ...
Writing? Keep writing! Feb 8, 2012

There is only one method to maintain your writing skills: keep writing. Same about reading. If you want to improve your reading, go ahead with your reading. That is what I have figured out of my language instructor experience.
I am not sure the question is put down correctly.
Anyway, great to know people take care about their skills! all the best in your skill 'polishing', everyone!


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Emin Arı  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 23:46
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
I totally agree Feb 8, 2012

Elena Novski wrote:

There is only one method to maintain your writing skills: keep writing. Same about reading. If you want to improve your reading, go ahead with your reading. That is what I have figured out of my language instructor experience.
I am not sure the question is put down correctly.
Anyway, great to know people take care about their skills! all the best in your skill 'polishing', everyone!


I would put my signature under this comment. As somebody said before, "If you want to be a writer then just write".

Reading would also help by providing material for your writing but writing is the best practice for writing.


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