Poll: Can specialising in a field of translation lead to complacency in acquiring new knowledge?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Sep 23, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Can specialising in a field of translation lead to complacency in acquiring new knowledge?".

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Not really Sep 23, 2016

Specialising in economics may mean that I learn less than I used to about such fascinating topics as fuel injection pumps and horses' hooves, but on the other hand I'm learning a whole lot more about the likes of excess kurtosis and heteroscedasticity. Which is nice.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 17:03
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
No Sep 23, 2016

Seems like an illogical question to me.

To specialize in a field (or fields), you have to 'acquire new knowledge.' Duh!

@Chris
Injection pumps, automobiles and car electronics, PID and industrial automation, and machine tools and industrial robots are all very sexy areas to translate in. Every day, I have to work with male/female screws, mating parts and surfaces, grease nipples, lubricating oils, and boring and reaming. This is XXX stuff. I have to take a break every 15 minutes because my glasses steam up.

[Edited at 2016-09-24 07:47 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:03
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Sep 23, 2016

I have been on a learning curve for ages and loving it!

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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:03
Dutch to English
+ ...
haha Sep 23, 2016

I see...

Well, it depends. I couldn't translate the same stuff constantly. It would bore me to tears. Though I suppose if you did actually specialise in a few distinct field, then that would alleviate some of that.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
In my case no Sep 23, 2016

I am something of a generalist anyway, but where I do specialise, I find that although I seem to know more than others, I am constantly aware of what I don't know.

I am fascinated by new developments and I spend a lot of my time chasing up new knowledge just for the fun of it, though often stimulated by a translation job and hopes or prospects of more in the same field. I specialise in some corners of medical work, a smattering of business law, and food, glorious food! Otherwise I specialise in two particular museum clients and their topics, and in presenting texts for the general reader in real, idiomatic English.

I'm back in the regions of my youth this week, Hertfordshire and a brief trip to Yorkshire, listening and reading all the blurbs and the adverts ... We can't make Northumberland this time, but I go all soppy over Vera Stanhope

Complacent? I sincerely hope not!


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:03
French to English
Don't know Sep 23, 2016

Not for me, no; quite the opposite in fact. If you are a specialist, then your professional conscience should, in my view, push you to keeping up to date. New ideas, new methods, new approaches, etc. are always possible. In yacht racing, one of my specilaist fields, they never stop inventing and adapting ideas from elsewhere. It applies to materials, working methods, construction methods and design (boats, sails, equipment). It is never-ending!

I don't think any specialisation stands still for long. Further, terminology whanges all the time. That's one of the important features about translation : having to keep up to date.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:03
French to English
Like! Sep 23, 2016

Julian Holmes wrote:

Seems like an illogical question to me.

To specialize in a field (or fields), you have to 'acquire new knowledge.' Duh!

@Chris
Injection pumps, automobiles and car electronics, PID and industrial automation, and machine tools and industrial robots are all very sexy areas to translate in. Every day, I have to work with male/female screws, mating parts and surfaces, grease nipples, lubricating oils, and boring and reaming. This is XXX stuff. I have to take a break every 15 minutes because my glasses steam up.

[Edited at 2016-09-23 09:54 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Complacency??? Sep 23, 2016

My major specialties are Human Resources / Training & Development, mentioned merely to draw a line. Of course, like any translator, I work on countless other subjects too.

Socrates said, "We don't know what we don't know."
If you read that twice, you'll notice it has a double meaning:
a) We may eventually learn that we don't know squat about some subject where there is more to know than what has met our eyes so far; or
b) bluntly stated, we have to learn something, if we don't know it yet.

IMHO the level of specialization in the subject matter at hand required from a translator is determined by the level of specialization of the INTENDED AUDIENCE of the material.

For instance, the explanations made by a nuclear physicist intended for nondescript visitors at a science museum may be properly translated by ANY skilled translator.

Conversely, the instructions on some medical procedure given by a surgeon, and intended for other surgeons, will necessarily require a medical translation specialist.

Case study... I needed urgently one text to complete a publication in my specialty area. So I phoned the author, in California, to ask for it. He said, "Listen, I'm all packed, leaving for the airport now. I only have it in German, will fax it to you before I leave."
This was decades before Google Translate was born. In spite of my (actually Polish) surname, I can't understand German at all. So I OCR'd it, shot it through Babelfish, which could then only translate into English. Knowing the subject inside out, I got the idea, fixed it in English, and then translated it into Portuguese.
Just for safety, I sent the English translation I had fixed to the author who, on his return, told me that it was excellent. He would be (and has been) using it exactly as I wrote it in the USA.

Second case... I was requested to translate EN > PT a video for dubbing, giving detailed instructions on how to perform some novel surgical procedure. Found some references on it online, in both EN/PT. The problem was that I could not understand a thing there, what was being done, nor why... in EITHER language! I simply gave up, and directed the client to a specialized medical translator (though he was not trained to translate video at that time).

That was the point in my career when I drew the line. From that day on, I would not take any translation job involving material developed by professional practitioners AND INTENDED FOR professional practitioners in five areas of human knowledge I knew too little about. Previously I had been doing it under the promise of expert reviewing of my translations. No more!

So it's not complacency, but sheer determination NOT to learn more about these five areas where my accrued knowledge will never suffice to do technically reliable translation work.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
It's Friday afternoon Sep 23, 2016

Julian Holmes wrote:

@Chris
Injection pumps, automobiles and car electronics, PID and industrial automation, and machine tools and industrial robots are all very sexy areas to translate in. Every day, I have to work with male/female screws, mating parts and surfaces, grease nipples, lubricating oils, and boring and reaming. This is XXX stuff. I have to take a break every 15 minutes because my glasses steam up.

[Edited at 2016-09-23 13:09 GMT]


I don't want to think about the slope of your J-curve


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Maybe a different type of complacency Sep 23, 2016

I can't make up my mind. Maybe a 12-year-old with a mind full of buzzwords came up with this stupid question?

Here's my take: maybe Proz has grown complacent after specializing in idiotic polls that pop up here a few times a week.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 03:03
German to English
+ ...
the question doesn't make sense Sep 23, 2016

When you specialize in a field, you get deep knowledge and possibly training in that field. Such a thing builds respect for just how much is involved, and complacency is not an attitude I would see arising from this.

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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:03
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In a field OF translation or in any field FOR translation purposes Sep 23, 2016

Teresa Borges wrote:

I have been on a learning curve for ages and loving it!


Specializing in a field OF translation won't help much. Specializing in any field to work in translations in that field is always helpful, and will only lead you to learn more and more. Additional knowledge and experience never causes complacency. On the contrary, it stimulates you to learn more.

As Teresa well mentioned, we're in a constant learning curve, until we die (perhaps after that too).


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No! Sep 24, 2016

In addition to always learning more in my fields of specialization, which are constantly changing, I continue to learn other information as I take on new clients.

My recipe: I have a few very strong areas, a few areas I never touch, and a vast expanse in between where I only accept a job after seeing if I think I can handle it. This allows me to continue to learn more about other fields, which in turn prepares me for a wider ranger of work that I can responsibly accept.

I don't think I'm "complacent" about anything. Translation work is full of curve balls.


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