I'd like to talk about more translation contests
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:13
English to Polish
+ ...
Nov 23, 2013

I would like to mention a couple of assumption first from which I'll start. To begin with, translation contests are a wonderful exercise, and they also make room for some rivalry, which is normally absent from this work (unless business competition counts, I guess, but even that doesn't normally go far beyond adjust one's rates vis-a-vis the rest of the market).

So, here are the cons:

– diversion
– chance to prove yourself
– and also against others
– which is basically peer review par excellence.

Also:

– you can gain visibility (particularly if you win)
– and also get some tangible credentials
– which especially helps newer or less known translators
– or you can enter a new field with some credibility (e.g. one you know well but get few jobs in).

Furthermore:

– contests don't actually engage significant resources
– at least not beyond what the voters (if there's no small jury board but a general vote in which many members can participate), would normally allocate to forum participation
– in any case the win and the fun is the top benefit here, prices (if any) are only secondary
– though I guess it still takes some staff attention.

Plus:

– let's be honest, if a little frank: we need to liven up the place, it's been getting a little stale lately
– contests are a good way of achieving just that
– they also have the potential to emphasise that Proz.com is a professional community site, not just a community site
– in any case they fit in well with the peer review spirit which is emphasised by the Cert. PRO Network (which actually has a 'peer review' functionality) and the Kudoz board ('peer comment' etc.).

All in all, what's not to like?

I realise there are some risks. One needs good texts and texts that can actually be used. Well, there are enough public doman and free-licence and otherwise available or obtainable texts for this purpose, especially given as 1) it is a non-commercial purpose, 2) it has the potential to do something for the author's (or holder's) image.

In fact, contests could be combined with charitable activities: TWB, Wikipedia (not necessarily medical, we have untapped potential in other fields, too). The author/holder could also be given the right to use the winning translation free of charge, with the grading process serving as a guarantee that the best translation was selected in a reliable competitive procedure. And that carries a lot of worth.

There's probably need for some staff attention, but if that's a problem, then I guess appropriate volunteers could be found to help, such as senior professionals who don't wish to participate and compete, or previous winners, or senior members of the Proz.com programme, or popular mentors or moderators (perhaps specifically appointed for this purpose). It could basically be a service to the community. In terms of reward, such participation would certainly enhance one's professional standing and project an expert status, even though barring one from the competition at least in that particular round.

Some additional ideas, generally in the area of non-monetary winnings:

– Winners could perhaps have it easier to enter the Cert. PRO programme if they haven't yet
– Or TWB
– Or the Localisation team
– Or, in any case, they could at least have their application fast-tracked and their winning piece used as the entry sample (even if it's too long or too short or otherwise doesn't meet the formal requirements)
– Winners could get featured. An interview perhaps. A badge. Some spotlight on the main page
– Free membership if the Staff is so inclined, but I'm not making any strong suggestions here. This is only based on Staff's actions so far in rewarding active participants in community life (e.g. presentation authors)
– Ability to host a presentation or training more easily
– Profile badge.

Please note that many of the winners' benefits suggested here would also save the recruiters' time and supply the Cert. PRO Network, TWB, Lion teams etc. with suitable candidates. So that's a win-win.

Plus, basically anything to find and promote the talents within the community is good. Both translators need this opportunity and clients (and outsourcers) need this sort of screening. Also, the community would have something to talk about. There'd be more life in this neck of the woods.

Again, particularly for the less established translators (in general or just here) or even anybody who wants to embark on a new field or is taking a slump in terms of client turnover (which can happen to anybody once in a while). We've got plenty of threads about how to get established, how to find clients, how to enter a particular field. Guess what. Winning a contest, especially when contending against more senior translators, is a good way to start.

Plus, there are very few translation contests anywhere, so there is potential for Proz.com to become the leader in this area, as in the leading translation contest platform, perhaps actually lending the platform to private or external contest organisers who wish to host their contests on Proz.com. Again, this would enhance the peer review atmosphere and professional status of the site.

Additionally, with more contests there would be more variety in terms of fields especially, as in legal, finance, medical, literary and so on, far more so than with one test a year.

So... how about more contests? I'd be willing to lend a hand personally.


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Václav Pinkava  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:13
Member (2013)
Czech to English
+ ...
Can't help agreeing Nov 23, 2013

... but can't help wondering if you plan to do a Polish entry for the current contest ?

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You’re right! Nov 23, 2013

Competitions are quite fun, occasionally challenging and a nice break from our normal routine: that’s the main reason I have been taking part in them (and winning some “prizes” in my language pairs) since I became a Prozian in 2007. Needless to say that I’m preparing my entry…

P.S. I don't take this as serious as you (apparently) do!


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:13
Russian to English
+ ...
I personally see a potential problem with longer piece competitions. Nov 24, 2013

Who is to grade them, or evaluate them? A peer review in an academic environment is something completely different, because all the people who do the reviews represent a similar level, which is not true about more acceptive sites like this one. It might make sense if the translations were to be graded by language professors only, but then it would be very expensive. I think competitions involving translations of shorter pieces, such as sayings, phrases, etc, might be Ok, though.

What most people like is not necessarily what is good.

[Edited at 2013-11-24 10:39 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I do agree with you, Lilian! Nov 24, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

Who is to grade them, or evaluate them? A peer review in an academic environment is something completely different, because all the people who do the reviews represent a similar level, which is not true about more acceptive sites like this one. It might make sense if the translations were to be graded by language professors only, but then it would be very expensive. I think competitions involving translations of shorter pieces, such as sayings, phrases, etc, might be Ok, though.

What most people like is not necessarily what is good.

[Edited at 2013-11-24 10:39 GMT]


Longer pieces would probably take out the funny side of it and turn it into a more serious affair...


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 24, 2013

Václav Pinkava wrote:

... but can't help wondering if you plan to do a Polish entry for the current contest ?


Don't think so. It's not like I can't translate poetry at all, but I don't like that piece and wouldn't be able to give my all.

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

Who is to grade them, or evaluate them? A peer review in an academic environment is something completely different, because all the people who do the reviews represent a similar level,


Not quite.

which is not true about more acceptive sites like this one.


The majority of people are probably B.A. or M.A. holders.

It might make sense if the translations were to be graded by language professors only,


Language professors aren't necessarily translation specialists.

I think competitions involving translations of shorter pieces, such as sayings, phrases, etc, might be Ok, though.


I was thinking about 300-400-word pieces. Sayings, phrases etc. would be too easy to look up or even analyse without actually knowing the source language, at which point it would come down to being fluent and correct in the target (or getting it proofread).


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:13
Russian to English
+ ...
I did not mean any degrees, Lukasz Nov 24, 2013

I meant knowledge only and some sort of a linguistic sensitivity, or artistic appreciation -- a certain sensitivity towards style. You can often see how many people on Kudoz approve the wrong answer.

Language professors are absolutely translation specialists -- you can often see the difference between how the people with a linguistic education translate and how some other translators translate. (mostly word for word) Some don't even care what the original means, as long as all the words are translated. As far as the humanities are concerned, there is a tremendous difference. There might be less of a difference in such fields as medicine or technology. Of course there are exceptions everywhere, but not that many.

As far as poetry translations are concerned -- these can be successfully evaluated mostly by poets, even though they can be enjoyed by everyone.

As to Proz becoming boring. I think it is quite the opposite -- it is becoming more and more interesting everyday. Maybe you don't visit it too often these days.

[Edited at 2013-11-24 22:01 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 25, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

I meant knowledge only and some sort of a linguistic sensitivity, or artistic appreciation -- a certain sensitivity towards style. You can often see how many people on Kudoz approve the wrong answer.

Language professors are absolutely translation specialists -- you can often see the difference between how the people with a linguistic education translate and how some other translators translate. (mostly word for word) Some don't even care what the original means, as long as all the words are translated. As far as the humanities are concerned, there is a tremendous difference. There might be less of a difference in such fields as medicine or technology. Of course there are exceptions everywhere, but not that many.

As far as poetry translations are concerned -- these can be successfully evaluated mostly by poets, even though they can be enjoyed by everyone.

As to Proz becoming boring. I think it is quite the opposite -- it is becoming more and more interesting everyday. Maybe you don't visit it too often these days.

[Edited at 2013-11-24 22:01 GMT]


Lilian, firstly, sensitivity towards style is not what academic degrees are normally awarded for, not even in linguistics. Even humanities are more analytical than that. Fair enough, it's possible to be a competent critic without being capable of something without being perfectly capable of pulling it off on one's own.

Secondly, language professors study languages but don't necessarily study them comparatively or in any way that makes them good translators or translation critics other than by definition being good linguists, good researchers and presumably highly intelligent people (it's possible to earn a Ph.D. by hard work alone with a slightly below-average IQ, but that doesn't happen every day).

Finally, style has keep track of the style of the original. Modern linguistics is still largely at the stage of being infatuated with domestication, 'the original is unfaithful to the translation,' kind of slogans, and examples like the Prince of Translators replacing Pushkin with Shakespeare or the other way round in translation and leaving politicians confused as to who exactly was cited by the speaker. This is by the way manifested all the blasted time when philologists attempt legal translation and can't make out the difference between the legal lingo and legal concepts in a drive towards domestication at all costs including accuracy (not like that's too sharp a difference, granted).

In this last connection, it's pretty obvious I don't share the prevalent sentiment against literal or rather literal-looking translation, but I'm pretty sure you already know this. In a translation contest driven by style I fear creative fiction would be the winning force way more often that anybody cares to admit. Heck, even I, even in legal translation, smooth things out and over for the original writer way more often than should be the case.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:13
Russian to English
+ ...
Lukas, I was not talking about any degrees Nov 25, 2013

It is just completely different to have texts evaluated in various language departments in an academic setting than have them evaluated by companies, various managers, and some people who do strictly technical translations, or some others who are not fully trained yet as translators. I am just saying that it is a different experience to have your writing evaluated by not necessarily literary people, perhaps than having it evaluated by the people for whom it is their life -- like language and literature instructors.

I am not saying the contest is a bad idea -- I just think the texts should be short, or preferably just some of sayings or quotes from untranslated literature. It might be a good idea, but the texts should not be overly long -- 100 words the most, because in longer texts it is harder to evaluate the style, plus there is really no need for any centipede-type of writing for such a purposes. I liked the Yogi Beria contest.

As to language professors (academic workers) -- yes, they study languages comparatively, and also they study writing, and language structure, and many different things, which may seem a mystery to many other people.

[Edited at 2013-11-25 12:14 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 25, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

It is just completely different to have texts evaluated in various language departments in an academic setting than have them evaluated by companies, various managers, and some people who do strictly technical translations, or some others who are not fully trained yet as translators. I am just saying that it is a different experience to have your writing evaluated by not necessarily literary people, perhaps than having it evaluated by the people for whom it is their life -- like language and literature instructors.

I am not saying the contest is a bad idea -- I just think the texts should be short, or preferably just some of sayings or quotes from untranslated literature. It might be a good idea, but the texts should not be overly long -- 100 words the most, because in longer texts it is harder to evaluate the style, plus there is really no need for any centipede-type of writing for such a purposes. I liked the Yogi Beria contest.


I believe I've already said 300-400 words was the format I had in mind. Or slightly longer. No centipedes. Oh, and nothing wrong having non-literary texts evaluated by working professionals in the field. A contest doesn't have to involve literary texts, it may well be business or marketing or litigation or whatever. In fact, I'd probably prefer something more in the area of humanities and soft science, though I'd tackle fiction if need be. I chose a history text about the middle east a while ago to escape having my legal sample evaluated by non-lawyers a while ago. (Which is always gonna end in pain on at least one side, likely both. Like: Proofer: 'Dude where u from? LOL Ur style suxxx!!!11' I: 'ROFL how many contracts u seen of this type in ur life miss? Pwnt!' Agency: 'U guys both calm down kk?').

As to language professors (academic workers) -- yes, they study languages comparatively, and also they study writing, and language structure, and many different things, which may seem a mystery to many other people.


Nope, just nope. It's rare but entirely possible to be a language professor without knowing any more than one's native tongue and perhaps one or two years of Latin or whatever was taught at school 40 years ago. Scholars researching their L2 will not necessarily have an L3, either, and may very well not be trained too highly in their L1 or translation into or from it. Just of being a professior of Ixian studies doesn't make you a translation specialist. A professional writer or writing critic probably for sure, but not necessarily any sort of academically trained translation critic. Those latter dudes are translation professors, not language professors.

[Edited at 2013-11-25 13:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-25 13:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-11-25 13:03 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:13
Russian to English
+ ...
I was referring to modern languages, Lukasz Nov 25, 2013

not Latin. Any language studies instructor knows at least two languages well -- I am not sure who you have been thinking about -- what type of departments. Oh, you meant that someone with a Master's Degree in Polish, or a PhD, may not necessarily be able to evaluate a translation into Polish, since they may not know another language well enough? Possible.

This is why I think it makes more sense to have a short expressions contest, where it is easier to evaluate the translations.


[Edited at 2013-11-25 16:45 GMT]


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Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
More! Nov 25, 2013

I enjoy the contests and wish they were more frequent! I didn't have time to participate in the last one. I think I came third in one a few years ago though. Looking back, it wasn't the best translation I've ever done but it was an ego boost at the time.

Looking forward to the next one with an ES>EN category


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:13
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Nov 26, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

not Latin. Any language studies instructor knows at least two languages well -- I am not sure who you have been thinking about -- what type of departments.


And I said that it was certainly possible to become a language professor with nothing more than L1 plus a year or two of Latin at university and perhaps a couple of years of a modern language at a slow pace.

Oh, you meant that someone with a Master's Degree in Polish, or a PhD, may not necessarily be able to evaluate a translation into Polish, since they may not know another language well enough? Possible.


To or from or whatever. Academics dealing with languages are not automatically translation specialists.

Jessie Linardi wrote:

I enjoy the contests and wish they were more frequent! I didn't have time to participate in the last one. I think I came third in one a few years ago though. Looking back, it wasn't the best translation I've ever done but it was an ego boost at the time.

Looking forward to the next one with an ES>EN category


I regret missing the last one too. And the ones before, going back to 2009. There was so much to win!

[Edited at 2013-11-26 04:25 GMT]


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