GERMAN and ENGLISH mother speakers: The Real Relevance of Translation Theory in Working Practice
Thread poster: Boo Bronte

Boo Bronte
German to English
Aug 27, 2008

GERMAN and ENGLISH mother speakers:

Hi there,

I am currently trying to establish the real relevance of translation theory in the work of the professional translator. If you have the time, i'd be really grateful if you could complete a questionaire i've made up. It should only take 5 minutes to fill in. The answers will be part of an essay i'm currently working on which focuses on this topic.

Here's the link below:

Thank you!icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2008-08-27 13:06]


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:44
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
to my experience Aug 27, 2008

You either stick to translation theory or you keep your customers satisfied. You cannot do both.icon_smile.gif


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:44
English to German
+ ...
A question Aug 27, 2008

I read "applying for a job", "your position" several times. It is not clear, how freelance translators / self-employed individuals / company owners are supposed to answer.



Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:44
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It depends Aug 27, 2008

It depends on whether you are a cultured, thinking person or just a workhorse.

[Edited at 2008-08-27 14:23]


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Gap? Aug 27, 2008

That can't be easily answered by "yes" or "no" for those of us who've been around before translation courses became as widespread as they are now. When I decided to take my degree, for instance (already after 4 years of practice), 90% of what was being taught was still literary translation. Now, that's changed where I'm living. Hence, the answer to that question would depend on the changes perceived by the subject who is responding. The field itself is in constant flux.

But: I still have to find a school that teaches you how to cost, invoice, and do the practical things that come with the translation business (including presenting your services to clients).

Another question that comes to mind is what you mean by "theory": does this apply to the premises schools impart (syllabi contents), or to the field of translation theory itself? (I presume the latter - which I DO find useful - but other people might be justified in thinking the former).


Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Member (Feb 2018)
German to English
yes/no answer to no. 7? Aug 27, 2008

7) When confronted with a problem whilst translating do you refer to:

a colleague
relevant theoretical literature
subject specific literature
translation software/electronic aids

Er, all of the above, if necessary. The translation software being my own home-made electronic glossaries. But the survey would only let me choose one.

I answered the "applying for a job" part as if it meant "acquiring new clients".
I answered questions involving "translation theory" as if that meant the techniques, approaches and general theory I have read about and been taught. What definition of "translation theory" were you thinking of?
I was a bit put off by the question on "referral to theoretical thinking" being too time-consuming: were you thinking of reading essays on obscure theoretical points, rather than remembering what you have learnt over the years and applying it, or checking something in a work of reference?


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
German to English
+ ...
before I even attempt to complete the survey... Aug 27, 2008

I need to know what you mean by 'translation theory'.

The term is used in the questionnaire as though its meaning is self-evident, but IMO it is not at all clear what it means. My exposure to what might be called 'translation theory' ranges from academic works on the theory of conveying meaning from one language to another one (largely useless for practical translation, no matter what their intellectual content may be) to texts intended to be used as course textbooks or self-study works for persons who want to become translators (generally useful). Do these all fall under the term 'translation theory'? And if so, how can one answer questions regarding the utility or benefit of such a diverse variety of items?


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
"Pragmatics" Aug 28, 2008

One of my deeply respected teachers, Professor Morten Pilegaard, uses the word 'pragmatics' about his work and the theory he teaches, and most of the theory I have read comes under this heading. (Pilegaard of medical dictionary fame in the Danish translation world.)

I was fortunate in coming relatively late to translation as a profession, but lived with it in the background as a child. I did study literary translation for a couple of years at university nearly 40 years ago! (French and German to English), but gave up on it for a number of reasons.

I was also lucky enough to be taught Law by another lexicographer, Sandro Nielsen, and other subjects by lecturers who teach their students to study the genre and registers of parallel texts in both languages, and to practise translating both ways.

Subject-specific terminology, target groups, genre and comparative semantics are all highly relevant in my daily work, and my somewhat positive attitude to theory is based on this kind of thing.

To gain a wider perspective I read David Crystal (I prefer his earlier books...), and occasionally Tom McArthur, Hatim & Mason;or Danish writers like Pia Jarvad, Knud Sørensen and now Sabine Kirschmeier-Andersen and articles from the Danish Language Council, but am not really interested in authors like Noam Chomsky. I bought Stephen Pinker's latest book, but dropped it after a few pages.

As my colleagues mention above, translation theory needs defining before the questionnaire gives any meaning. There is a whole spectrum of theory, from the highly philosophical to the down-to-earth rationalisation of how to render various recurring themes from one language to another in everyday business life. Then there is 'localisation', but I am never sure how to define that either.

I read the comments above before answering the questionnaire, and then decided on my own definition of translation theory as the kind I prefer to read. icon_biggrin.gif Hence my positive attitude to it, and I attach considerable importance to it.

I did not answer the 'gap' question, sorry. It really depends what you mean by translation theory. Yes, the gap is enormous at one end of the spectrum, but no, there is not much gap between the theories I have been taught (or remembered to learnicon_biggrin.gif ) and the asignments in my in-tray every day.

[Edited at 2008-08-28 08:25]


hazmatgerman (X)
Local time: 07:44
English to German
Answer respectfully requested Aug 28, 2008

Dear Boo Bronte:
once I see your answers on the questions raised by others I shall decide whether or not to tackle your survey.


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
German to English
+ ...
Assuming academic training means translation theory? Aug 29, 2008

Parrot wrote:
But: I still have to find a school that teaches you how to cost, invoice, and do the practical things that come with the translation business (including presenting your services to clients).

At least in the late 1990s when I attended, Monterey Institute did teach these things to its translation students. I have an MA in Translation that included only one theory class. We did have lessons on terminology management and the use of MT and translation memory (even back then - more than 10 yrs. ago), discussions of working conditions for interpreters, and other subjects of a practical nature. Translation homework assignments were often taken from jobs our professors had done (anonymized, of course).

So regarding the survey, having an academic degree does not = deep knowledge of translation theory.


Ilona Hessner  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:44
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Theory and practical experience Sep 2, 2008

Living means learning - always and everywhere!

My studies have provided me with the necessary basic knowledge to start as translator and interpreter at all. It really is not important how long the theoretical phase lasts. Perhaps it should be considered that there are a lot of translating tools - and nevertheless it will never be possible to develop a tool being capable of replacing a translator. Languages are changing, the globalization brings about source documents of minor quality.

Sorry, but I can't understand what is meant by real relevance of translation theory in working practice.

My working practice: 32 years for English and French.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

GERMAN and ENGLISH mother speakers: The Real Relevance of Translation Theory in Working Practice

Advanced search

CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search