The mentoring "thing"
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Apr 16, 2012

Today I saw a message (in Italian) from a somewhat disappointed Prozian - http://www.proz.com/topic/222839 - who tried to use the Proz mentoring feature. So I decided to take a look at it, and - as a former HRD professional - found some reasons why it shouldn't work as built.

First of all, I'm all for mentoring. Back in 1978 a client - for whom I translated written material - invited me to take a stab at video translation for dubbing. I took the chance, discovered an unknown talent in me, and that client - the company founder and CEO, who had been doing it himself - became both my mentor and my best client for some two decades. From then on, he had more time to run his growing company by outsourcing videop translation to me, and I developed a new specialty, serving that and many other clients. The relevant point here is that I learned no language/translation skills from him... all I had was constant feedback on how I was doing in one specific mode of translation.

For the sake of both the record and the argument here, in 2004 I self-taught myself to translate video for subtitling, to burn subtitles, author DVDs, etc. to do the entire job, and began doing it since, for that same mentor-client and others. Interestingly, early this year, I was out of the country and my mentor needed to translate and subtitle a video. In spite of his experience with dubbing, he said he spent several days to do it, and it came out pretty bad, in his opinion. So these are clearly two different specialties in translation.

Secondly, "we don't know what we don't know". If we don't know something, the obvious solution is learning. Yet there are two ways of learning. We can master that knowledge, so our case will no longer be classified as "we don't know it". Otherwise we can admit that we don't know "it" after having learned what "it" means here. After 38 years in translation, I've learned to identify so far five areas of human knowledge about which I don't know enough to understand material intended for practitioners in these areas in any language. One of my five such areas is medicine, so let's use it as an example here.

Third, and this will come up later, I have the paradigm clearly defined at home. While I am an EN translator, my wife is an ESL teacher. Our tacit agreement is that I don't teach, and she doesn't translate, period.

After having taken so long to set the background, let's examine what I found in the Proz mentoring program. I saw a long list of "willing mentors" with their language pairs; nothing else.

What's the proposition there? A seasoned translator is expected to mentor a newbie in the same language pair, in order to turn a fledgling translator into a worthy competitor. The pro is further expected to eventually give the beginner some of the 'easier' jobs for them to get practice. I don't envision anyone actually developing without facing any challenges. Furthermore, it will be a drag for the pro to fix the newcomer's work into somethng that can be delivered to clients expecting professional level work. Therefore I fail to see such system working effectively.

On a completely different front, now and then I get requests for medical translations. I know personally two medical translation specialists (plus a few others in my other off-limits areas), and I route such requests directly to them. However none of them works with video translation. Yet most of the requests I get for medical translation involve video! Sometimes I do it, and set up a messy way of having my experts review it; in other cases, the client agrees to have experts review them. Both options are time-consuming.

So, for instance, I'd be willing to mentor a translator working in my pair, and who specializes in an area which I don't cover, to expand their skills to include video translation, for dubbing and/or subtitling. To expand it Proz-wide, it doesn't have to be video... it could be DTP, web site translation, Flash/PPT presentations, academic papers, and many other things.

I wouldn't expect a mentor to teach "the language" itself; that's an essential pre-requisite for being a translator, no matter how inexperienced. Teaching "the language" would be outside the paradigm. The device to answer specific queries is elsewhere: the Kudoz system.

To illustrate my last point, less than a year ago, a translator from another continent found me via my web site, and wanted some coaching on subtitling. His skills in subtitling were promising, however could definitely be improved in this way, however his English was so bad that this person should improve it before attempting any kind of translation.

So, taking my case as an example to make a long story short, I actually could mentor someone in video translation, if: a) they were able to communicate with me in EN or PT (takes me too long to do it in any other language), and b) they had the skills required to translate in any pair among EN-PT-IT-FR-ES (all languages I know enough to give them feedback on, in spite of having chosen not to translate the last three). I would be personally interested in mentoring capable translators in my language pair, who specialize in nay of my five self-declared off-limits areas (medicine, biology, finance, accounting, and sports) into working with video, and hand them any such requests I received, just to keep my clients happy and efficiently served.

So IMHO the Proz mentoring system should be devised to cover such possibilities, maybe specialty areas too. Colleagues are hereby invited to illustrate other settings, so that the Proz staff can envision the whole environment and generalize it to cover "all possible possibilities" (believe it or not, I recently found this uncanny expression in a source text to translate!).

The problem I see is that Proz tends to add more and more new features all the time, however the support tickets about minor and easy-to-implement - yet important - improvements remain pending forever. Here are my 2¢ anyway.

[Edited at 2012-04-16 13:09 GMT]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 07:41
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Proz is a business Apr 16, 2012

You are perfectly right, but as I see it this site wants to generate traffic in the first place so it gets paid ads. So it is not very much concerned about quality issues as long as more traffic is generated. Pardon me if I'm wrong, but that is my impression.

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Lucia Leszinsky
SITE STAFF
The ProZ.com mentoring program Apr 16, 2012

Hello José, hello Heinrich,

The ProZ.com mentoring program has been designed to provide a means for full members to meet other members who are well-established enough to take on an apprentice. The type of activity mentors and their apprentices will engage in will depend on what the agree upon before the pairing is activated. In other words, ProZ.com provides a mentoring framework, but mentors and apprentices are the ones to decide how long they will work together and on what exactly (it could be guidance with the use of the site, or mentoring for a given service, etc.).

Moreover, the ProZ.com mentoring program is not a new feature --it has been running since 2007-- and it is in no way related to site traffic or paid advertising. To know more about the ProZ.com mentoring program I suggest you give it a try.

Regards,

Lucía


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Luisa Cambilargiu  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to Italian
+ ...
Let me clarify things :-) Apr 16, 2012

Hi José,

being the "somewhat disappointed Prozian" who originated the Mentorship discussion, I thought it worth to clarify from where my disappointment was coming.

My message originated from the fact that I got no reply at all to my application as a trainee: I was not looking for a job nor I was willing to take on language lessons ... I believe this is clearly out of the program's scope.

I am facing an odd situation where I have been working for over 20 years inside a company as a translator, but now I need to start all over again as a freelancer: what I would look for in a mentor is some help in understanding the market, hints on how to best position myself in this highly-competitive environment and, more in general, be a reference point for someone who is just now jumping into this jungle. I believe that's precisely what the term "mentor" means.

Again, my disappointment related only to the lack of response I got. In a perfect world, everyone deserves an answer, no matter what it is.

Take care,

Luisa

[Modificato alle 2012-04-16 16:32 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You have clarified it! Apr 16, 2012

Luisa Cambilargiu wrote:
being the "somewhat disappointed Prozian" who originated the Mentorship discussion, I thought it worth to clarify from where my disappointment was coming.

My message originated from the fact that I got no reply at all to my application as a trainee: I was not looking for a job nor I was willing to take on language lessons ... I believe this is clearly out of the program's scope.

I am facing an odd situation where I have been working for over 20 years inside a company as a translator, but now I need to start all over again as a freelancer: what I would look for in a mentor is some help in understanding the market, hints on how to best position myself in this highly-competitive environment and, more in general, be a reference point for someone who is just now jumping into this jungle. I believe that's precisely what the term "mentor" means.

Again, my disappointment related only to the lack of response I got. In a perfect world, everyone deserves an answer, no matter what it is.


My point is that - from what I saw - you could find mentors classified by language pair, which is definitely not the case. There may be many possible mentors around who made the jump from full-time employees into successful full-time freelancers. This has triggered a possible next step, and I happen to know a few, some overly successful (= excessive demand) freelance translators who made the jump into becoming even more successful translation agencies.

Language pairs have nothing to do with it, however that's all I see about the mentors listed at http://www.proz.com/guidance-center/mentoring-program .


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Luisa Cambilargiu  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:41
English to Italian
+ ...
You are absolutely right Apr 17, 2012

You raise a very good point, José: being mentors listed by language pairs, you are naturally "driven" to base your choice upon this information. And, as it usually happens, we tend to choose what we know best, ie. someone with similar interests.

However, as you rightly point out, there should be other elements to consider once looking for a mentor and I think that a similar professional path could definitely be more appropriate. In the end, it really doesn't matter if you are translating into Russian, Dutch or Italian as far as you can share advices and thoughts on how to become a successful freelance translator!


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Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
French to English
+ ...
@ Louisa Apr 17, 2012

I'm in exactly the same position as regards starting a new career, and although I did get a reply from one person I contacted about mentoring, it was clearly not going to work. The other person didn't bother to reply!

It's really hard to tell from the ProZ list who might be an appropriate person to contact.

I agree absolutely with José's comments about the purpose of mentoring and it's evident that if the areas of expertise are too similar it's likely to cause problems and unnecessary competition.

There are lots of areas other than language related, in which I have some expertise, but I don't have the skill sets I need to do what I really would prefer to do. I'm hopeless at marketing/selling my services; knowing how much to take on or not; knowing if I should indeed invest in a CAT tool; all areas in which some guidance would be much appreciated.

I'd love to do voiceovers and the kind of work José does, but don't have the technical equipment, let alone the knowledge of how to go about it, nor frankly the resources for the necessary investment.

As I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore I do find it hard to keep plugging away without knowing if I'm going in the right direction! Most of my contemporaries are looking to retire soon, whereas I don't have that option available.

So, basically, I still need a mentor! Someone willing to share their experience and to advise, but above all to give encouragement.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
FYI Alison Apr 17, 2012

Alison Sparks wrote:
I'd love to do voiceovers and the kind of work José does, but don't have the technical equipment, let alone the knowledge of how to go about it, nor frankly the resources for the necessary investment.


First, I don't do voiceovers (any more... once was enough for me).

A long-standing local client of mine had an unusual request... dubbing a small (corporate) Brazilian video in English. Of course, I could translate it as usual, but... who would dub it? So they called me to direct that dubbing. I had seen it done and participated in the process so many times, that they felt I could do it. Though I'm not licensed to do it (it is required), as the video was intended for the USA, there shouldn't be a problem.

Four male voices were required, one being the narrator. The last one was easy, I hired an experienced Canadian voice artist who lives here in Sao Paulo. Then I went to the local voice banks on the web, and all I found had booming voices like the Canadian guy. However I needed a plain Tom, Dick, and Harry trio. Most of the candidates - including US native speakers - had some Brazilian accent. After a long search, I found Tom a Dick, both accent-free, however Dick spoke EN-UK. While directing, I helped him into EN-US pronunciation (long before Hugh Laurie played House, MD). However I couldn't find a Harry. Worst of it, he was a one-liner! Who would leave home and go all the way to the studio to say just one line? I decided I'd do it. Making a long story short, I used my 7th attempt, because the 8th and the 9th came out worse. I promised that I'd never do that again.

According to the client, that dub came out quite good.

Second, while dubbing still requires some considerable tech entourage, in the present digital video era, subtitling no longer needs it. A plain PC will do the entire job; a powerful one (in terms of hardware speed) will do it faster. Amazingly, most of the best software for subtitling is freeware... and I've tried several commercial programs. Their shortcoming is usually a less-than-friendly interface: you've really gotta know how to do what you are doing. On the other hand, DVD authoring software is not so, you need good commercial software to do it. However if you'll just burn the subs on the video, and then burn it on a DVD, no authoring is required. All the investment will be in time to master the art and the craft to do it. The process is described at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/subtitling.html .

The problem in subtitling is that since it has become so affordable, too many people are offering it at rock-bottom prices to all those clients who couldn't care less about quality.


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Who is allowed to be a mentor? Apr 25, 2012

Lucia Leszinsky wrote:

Hello José, hello Heinrich,

The ProZ.com mentoring program has been designed to provide a means for full members to meet other members who are well-established enough to take on an apprentice. The type of activity mentors and their apprentices will engage in will depend on what the agree upon before the pairing is activated. In other words, ProZ.com provides a mentoring framework, but mentors and apprentices are the ones to decide how long they will work together and on what exactly (it could be guidance with the use of the site, or mentoring for a given service, etc.).

Moreover, the ProZ.com mentoring program is not a new feature --it has been running since 2007-- and it is in no way related to site traffic or paid advertising. To know more about the ProZ.com mentoring program I suggest you give it a try.

Regards,

Lucía



When I look at requests for mentors, I see this message:
You are not eligible to respond to a mentoring offer.

So who are those allowed to respond? How are they selected?? Or how are others automatically disqualified?


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Lucia Leszinsky
SITE STAFF
Mentoring program is open to site members Apr 25, 2012

Hello writeaway,

As FAQ http://www.proz.com/faq/4403#4403 states, participation in the mentoring program is open to site members, with members of the Certified PRO Network fulfilling the role of mentors.

Lucía


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
If only those with the P can mentor, then Apr 25, 2012

Lucia Leszinsky wrote:

Hello writeaway,

As FAQ http://www.proz.com/faq/4403#4403 states, participation in the mentoring program is open to site members, with members of the Certified PRO Network fulfilling the role of mentors.

Lucía



why post the requests for all to see? There is a hidden site just for badge holders. Wouldn't it make sense if all requests for mentors were only visible on the restricted site since everyone else is automatically excluded from volunteering?


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Lucia Leszinsky
SITE STAFF
Mentor offers are visible to everyone just as every other free or member-only tools or features Apr 25, 2012

writeaway wrote:

Lucia Leszinsky wrote:

Hello writeaway,

As FAQ http://www.proz.com/faq/4403#4403 states, participation in the mentoring program is open to site members, with members of the Certified PRO Network fulfilling the role of mentors.

Lucía



why post the requests for all to see? There is a hidden site just for badge holders. Wouldn't it make sense if all requests for mentors were only visible on the restricted site since everyone else is automatically excluded from volunteering?


First of all, there is no hidden site for members of the ProZ.com Certified PRO network, just a private forum where members of the network can share ideas and learn more about network-related news.

This being said, mentor offers are visible to everyone for the same reason other member-only site features and tools are, to give everyone the chance to learn what ProZ.com offers.

Lucía


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:41
Danish to English
+ ...
Visibility of the mentoring programme Apr 26, 2012

Everything else aside - I have been a Proz.com member for about six months now and had never noticed anything about a 'mentoring programme' before reading this forum discussion. And it is not all that easy to find on the site at all. In fact, had it not been for the link in one of the comments below, I would not have known where to look for it.

How come it is not easily accessible under 'Member activties'?

Not that I am interested in mentoring or being mentored in a Proz context, but others might be...


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