Poll: On the whole, are translators contributing to making the world better?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 05:30
SITE STAFF
Feb 9, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "On the whole, are translators contributing to making the world better?".

This poll was originally submitted by Thomas Johansson

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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oxygen4u
Portugal
Local time: 13:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
We, not "they" Feb 9, 2006

I'd like to make a quick note.
This may not be relevant, but the options should have been yes we are, we have no effect and we are making things worse.
After all WE are translators!

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-02-09 17:00]


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:30
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes Feb 9, 2006

Because if people can communicate, they can understand.
So anything that aids communication would make the world better.
If it weren’t for the fact that the secret of communicating, is to listen.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translators and Interpreters Feb 9, 2006

Both are important, and I feel that anyone who facilitates understanding between people of different languages and cultures is contributing to making the world better.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 08:30
SITE FOUNDER
I changed the poll to say "we" Feb 9, 2006

oxygen4u wrote:

I'd like to make a quick note.
This may not be relevant, but the options should have been yes we are, we have no effect and we are making things worse.
After all WE are translators!
Good point. I edited the poll.


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Dees  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:30
English to French
+ ...
Why are we making things worse? Feb 9, 2006

Hi,

I've just noticed that a few people voted "we are making things worse". Just out of curiosity, in what way can we make things worse? Please could you share your ideas with us?

Cheers,
Mitsuko


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:30
French to German
+ ...
Assuredly worse, sometimes Feb 9, 2006

Mitsuko Moine wrote:
I've just noticed that a few people voted "we are making things worse". Just out of curiosity, in what way can we make things worse?


Hey, have you looked at an instruction manual for a watch lately?



P.


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Angela&Claudio
Italy
Local time: 14:30
Italian to Spanish
+ ...
Not only useful for communication but for culture preservation Feb 9, 2006

I think things would be worse just if we weren't needed anymore and all of us had to speak the same "global" language.

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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:30
English to Russian
+ ...
Translators shape history in the background Feb 9, 2006

AngelaMaria wrote:

I think things would be worse just if we weren't needed anymore and all of us had to speak the same "global" language.

Exactly!The concept of "global" language might be a good idea for ordinary consumers, but it is death to the trade we are engaged in. Nothing can be so exciting as to explore and admire diverse cultures, play a part in bridging gaps and rediscover national identity.


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Szymon Metkowski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:30
Member (2006)
German to Polish
+ ...
Just like the post office... Feb 9, 2006

There is some ridicule in this question. It's just like asking whether the post or the phones are making the world a better place. We just pass on a message, we do not contribute to the sense of it (at least we should not). Of course there is no possible world without translators. We simply have been here since people started to travel and meet other cultures. But it's so obvious. Not a big deal to me. Asking a question like that may improve the self consciousness (what I do is essential for humanity), but do we really need that type of self-assurance?

[Edited at 2006-02-09 23:59]


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Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:30
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Complex issue Feb 10, 2006

That's a way too complex issue to answer with a simple yes or no.

Facilitating global communication might contribute to making the world better, but what about facilitating global trade? It's probably good for big corporations and the economy, but what about long-term effects of exporting our junk to every county in the world?

Somebody mentioned cultural preservation. How can individual cultures be preserved when you can by a McD hamburger and a Starbucks coffee in every country? When English words permeate most languages and even replace native words?

Just read any "German" chat board messages, financial reports, computer manuals, marketing training material etc. and you wonder how long it will take until there's no need for English>German translators...
Not to mention all the incorrect and/or literal translations that are being spread by translators. One of my pet peeves is the literal translation of "reference"; there is no "Kurzreferenz" in German (short reference), and yet it gets 82.000 Google hits...

What about translators/interpreters facilitating directly or indirectly international espionage? Is this good or bad?
Translation is just like any other tool or technology: it's as good or as bad as the purpose for which it is being used.


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Fun and unscientific polls Feb 10, 2006

Jolly gee...

The polls are getting betterer and betterer.

I know they're meant to be unscientific and mostly for fun (I guess this means they don't need to make sense), but may I suggest a little bit of editing before posting?

--
Dyran
looking forward to:


How long is a piece of string?

o Very

o Not

o Kinda

o Both


;P


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:30
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
I don't know Feb 10, 2006

Szymon Metkowski wrote:

It's just like asking whether the post or the phones are making the world a better place. We just pass on a message, we do not contribute to the sense of it (at least we should not). Of course there is no possible world without translators. We simply have been here since people started to travel and meet other cultures. But it's so obvious. Not a big deal to me.
I quite agree with this (although I wouldn't say the poll is ridiculous).
I think we do not relly change the world ourselves, but we kinda help others change the world (in a better or sometimes in a worse way). We are just a 'tool', a 'means' of progress, not it's source.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:30
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
"You can really achieve a lot if you don't mind who gets the credit" Feb 10, 2006

Somebody told my father that when he was young, and at a big jubilee last year he was applying it to other people.

He's a modest man. Several people at the party said it definitely applied to him.

I think it certainly fits translators too. Some of us love hiding anonymously behind our computers. (If we had flashy offices like some architects and lawyers we might even get paid like them )

The best translators I know are very modest people, but they all believe in promoting understanding and working quietly for the good of those around them.

They help colleagues and hey, they brighten up my day on Proz.com too!

Thanks everyone!


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Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 08:30
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
We're making things worse Feb 12, 2006

I am frankly a little bit surprised to see that so many people seem to feel pretty good about our contribution to the world as translators. I voted that we're helping to make things worse.

When I look at the sorts of things I am typically offered to translate, I am usually not very proud of what I am doing. Most jobs come from corporations and a few others from government agencies or related types of organizations. As someone suggested, we are part of a wider system, much like the post or a telephone. Maybe we cannot affect the way that system functions very much, but at least we can have an opinion about its overall effect on the world and consequently ask ourselves about the value of our own contributions to it in that light.

I guess it comes out to each person's overall assessment of where the world's corporations, businesses interests and governments are taking things. Are people really so positive to where things are going as the 55% figure of people who voted Yes seems to suggest??? Do people so overwhelmingly have faith in the activities of such organizations?

It is true that at some level translations help people understand each other. But it is just one aspect of it, and I think there are more important considerations when it comes to assessing the overall contribution of translators to where the world is going. I mean, who is supposed to understand whom here, and in whose interest is that understanding supposed to take place? Typically, it appears to be an understanding that is in the interest of a very narrow range of interests and also pretty much one-way (e.g. from businesses to consumers about their products or from various types of political, corporate, syndical, etc. leaderships to the grassroots).

I recognize, however, that helping people to understand and bridge cultural gaps, etc. are very, very good ideals for translators to have and nurture, and translators would rightly feel proud of working for such ideals.

[Edited at 2006-02-12 05:45]


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