Poll: When translating in an unfamiliar subject area, when do you start researching the terminology?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 18:55
SITE STAFF
Apr 11, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When translating in an unfamiliar subject area, when do you start researching the terminology?".

This poll was originally submitted by Jessica Noyes. View the poll results »



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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 02:55
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A combination, it depends! Apr 11, 2015

First of all, there are a few unfamiliar areas I will never venture in as I know my limits. But every now and then I can get a job that is outside my familiar areas and most texts I work with will have something new, even in the fields I master. It’s healthy to learn new things, isn’t it? As I started out some 30 years ago as a generalist translator the subjects I am familiar with include a wide variety.

Having said that, my working method varies a lot, depending on the deadline, volume and … my mood! At times I start by reading the whole text, marking the unknown words with a color marker just to have an idea of what to expect, then I research the terminology and began translating. At times I research the terminology as I go along…


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:55
Member (2008)
English to Italian
as I go along Apr 11, 2015

I do not think it is bad to translate in "unfamiliar" areas. If you have enough experience in translation, you know how to approach the new subject. However, this does not mean that everybody can translate in EVERY area. When I translate in an unfamiliar area, I make sure I have enough time to do the proper research, and anyway, as I said, I will never take a job in some specific areas.

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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Before I accept the job Apr 11, 2015

If the job is in an unfamiliar area, I'm already wary and if it looks like specialist knowledge is needed, I turn down the job. I am one of those silly translators who only accepts jobs I am sure I can do well and not just any job offer that rolls in. No amount of research will do any good if one doesn't know which term to choose when information is finally found.



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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:55
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Before Apr 11, 2015

Usually I have plenty of work within my specialties - pharma and contracts - but if exceptionally I accept something completely unfamiliar I'll take the time to research on the internet etc. before starting.

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:55
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
As I go along Apr 11, 2015

Terminology only has meaning in context. IMO, it's inefficient to try to learn separate terms. Right now I''m translating a document that starts with a glossary. I started to translate the glossary and quickly realized that it wasn't going to mean very much to me until I began working with the terms in context, so I just plunged in directly. The latter approach has turned out to be much more efficient, and it has even helped me translate the glossary.

I can go back and make changes if I misunderstood something, and of course I always re-read my work at least twice.

[Edited at 2015-04-11 19:03 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Research has to do with knowledge Apr 11, 2015

The phrase researching the terminology makes little sense to me. What I do is read texts about a new field; I don't do bilingual lists of words. Out of context, terms are useless.

Project managers and translators who focus on the terminology as priority don't know what they're doing.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It depends Apr 11, 2015

Teresa Borges wrote:
My working method varies a lot, depending on the deadline, volume and … my mood!

So true for me, too.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unfamiliar subjects Apr 11, 2015

Let's dispense with the redundancies, shall we? We say subject, topic, area, but not subject area a'right?

Muriel expressed what I do too: I prefer to start with the unfamiliar text head-on, then worry about the glossary as I go along.

That said, two caveats:

a) Our reading habits inform our writing habits. If I hadn't read (and done) some electronics in my youth, I wouldn't understand electronics, electrical wiring or similar texts. Likewise, translators who are well versed in literature and have strong literary writing skills shouldn't expect to transfer those skills to the technical or financial world.

b) The first step to learn an unfamiliar topic is to read about it. A lot, and not the translations. Read until you understand the concepts, the context; the terms will take care of themselves. Once you have done enough reading, then you can write about the topic with confidence, and translate with confidence.

Many of the idiotic translations in Spanish we see today is due to incompetent translators who haven't read enough about the topic.


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Anna Katikhina  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:55
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
They always say, do your research before you accept the job... Apr 11, 2015

I was reassured to find out that I'm not the only one doing the research right before the translation or as I go along With years of experience, at some point you just know how to approach an unfamiliar subject, so you don't always need to research beforehand.

If I have time, I like to print a couple of parallel texts in both languages to familiarize myself with the most common terminology.

If pressed for time, I have my parallel texts at hand and browse through them whenever the need arises.

Needless to say, you have to know your weaknesses and be smart enough not to accept jobs in certain fields.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:55
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Agreed Apr 12, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:
My working method varies a lot, depending on the deadline, volume and … my mood!

So true for me, too.


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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:55
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Subject and subject area Apr 12, 2015

Mario Chavez wrote:

Let's dispense with the redundancies, shall we? We say subject, topic, area, but not subject area a'right?



...are two different things, aren't they?

ie. The subject: acquisition of a timber-producing company. The subject areas: business and timber


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It depends Apr 12, 2015

If the target group is 'the general reader' and the client is one of my regulars AND I have time, I sometimes take on jobs outside my regular fields.

I do the research as early as possible, starting before I accept the job, just to make sure it is possible to find what I need.

I translated a short piece on football once. I thought it would be easy, as I live with a serious football enthusiast. I was wrong! It took me AGES to find the right terminology in English... My husband's football career is/was entirely in Danish or without words at all. He turns off the commentary and occasionally adds his own when watching TV. I discovered that neither of us know much about football in English!

Another time I was asked to translate a nice little piece about organ building, and the client sent me a lot of referece material in German. It was absolutely fascinating, and I knew my father would be able to help a little, but luckily I turned down the job - I really did not have time.
I saw it in print later, translated by someone who actually does know about organs, and knew I'd had a lucky escape.

I have been thrown in at the deep end occasionally by a pro-bono client - if I don't translate her text, she does it herself (or these days uses Google Translate) and asks me to proofread it!
Faced with that threat and knowing I can get expert advice down the road from a local museum, I take it on, but it is a case of 'the exception proves the rule'.

I simply don't take on work that is really outside fields I am familiar with.


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