Poll: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Is this true for translation?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 00:34
SITE STAFF
Oct 17, 2017

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question ""Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Is this true for translation?".

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Oct 17, 2017

Those who can't are definitely doing

 

Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:34
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not sure Oct 17, 2017

As one who taught translation for 14 years, I'd like to think that I was a good teacher and was and still am a decent translator.

On the other hand, most of my colleagues had considerably less experience that I had at the time.

[Edited at 2017-10-17 08:25 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:34
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No Oct 17, 2017

I know at least one extremely good translator who teaches - and is remembered as an excellent teacher by many students.

Some of those who can't are still trying. Very trying, as my father would have said!


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:34
French to English
Sometimes, as with anything. Oct 17, 2017

This was something my parents said all the time. George Bernard Shaw, I believe?
They meant this as a warning: firstly to ourselves, to be wary of spouting forth unless you know what you are talking about and/or can actually do it (better) yourself; secondly to be wary of it in others. In either case, we also had it drilled into us to remain humble and not speak out of order, along with the maxim that we should stand up for what we thought was right.

That was a heavy check-list for a 7 year old!

[Edited at 2017-10-17 09:14 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:34
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, I don't think so... Oct 17, 2017

Anyway, the quote by George Bernard Shaw is: "He who can, does; he who can't, teaches"

 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:34
Member (2012)
French to English
Interpretation of the question Oct 17, 2017

I take the question to mean "those who can, do. Those who can't, translate", not "those who can't translate, teach".

I never did agree with that GB Shaw saying about teachers. After all, many of the greatest minds were teachers - Aristotle, Galileo, Mozart, Marie Curie, Einstein, Hawking, etc. Teaching is an admirable profession.

As for the suggestion that literary translators are failed writers, I don't think that's true either. Think of all the great works of literature we would never be able to read if it weren't for translators, who have never really received the recognition they deserve.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
LOL ... Oct 17, 2017

... "and those who can't teach, teach teachers"...icon_smile.gif

I suppose that, as in any other knowledge area, there will be teachers or lecturers who are well up on the theory, but might not be so good at actually doing the job in practice. However, I think we need to take each case on its merits and situation.


 

Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:34
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Spain Oct 17, 2017

As we say in Spain, 'la duda ofende' (I'm offended by your lack of faith)...
I'm a sworn translator and a teacher in translation for more than 25 years.
Those who can, do... and some of them teach. At least during a large amount of time.
Those who can't, don't and shouldn'ticon_smile.gif.
If things go the other way round, someone is doing things pretty bad.


 

Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:34
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Meaning of the maxim Oct 17, 2017

First, it *does* mean "those who can't translate, teach." I think Shaw's original intent was more an observation than a wise lesson in humility. We often see teachers who cannot practice what they teach and would not survive in the business world.

Here's the story as I see it:

- A number of universities have translation courses taught by language professors who have little or no experience translating. If they tried to work as full-time translation professionals, I suspect there would be a steep learning curve and they might not survive in the practical world.

- There are also schools that offer degree programs in translation and interpretation in which the teachers' full-time professional focus is translation. These teachers would be more likely to survive.

- There are also full-time translators who teach translation as adjunct instructors. They usually have much to offer would-be translators and are devoting their time for love of the art. They often have in-house jobs because freelancers make more money translating than adjunct instructors get paid for teaching and they would take a hit financially.

- Also, as Chris S wisely pointed out, there are a lot of people translating who can't translate and should be doing something entirely different.

[Edited at 2017-10-18 07:24 GMT]


 

Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:34
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Oct 18, 2017

If you can't do what you teach, you are a lousy teacher and/or a hypocrite.


[Edited at 2017-10-18 03:48 GMT]


 


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