Environmental technology and the need for adaptation
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:49
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Dec 12, 2008

Usually we believe, that technical texts only need faithful translation. Technology works everywhere the same way regardless of language.

But this is not the case for environmental technology. I realised that when translating technical documents of a heat pump manufacturer. I realised that it is impossible for me to render a useful document in the source language. Instead my translation will in any case require heavy re-writing before it should be published.

Even if I had enough knowledge to re-write the material in the target language (which I don't have), I could not do it using a CAT tool (I'm forced to use Trados TE).

Because of the nature of the technology it is implemented differently in different countries do to geological and climate conditions. In Germany environmental air is the main source of energy for heat pumps. Second come pipes that lie horizontally below 1 m in earth and thirdly pipes that are vertically immersed into drilled holes of 20 to 100 m depth.

Now in Finland most systems use wholes drilled into rock deep below the groundwater level, routinely 100 - 200 m deep. Secondly horizontal pipes are dug into the earth or very often lowered to the bottom of a lake (in Germany hardly anybody can use a lake of his own) or into a swamp. Systems for environmental air come third.

So it would be necessary to reorganise the structure of a document according to the importance of different implementations in the target country. And of course their are many issues which need more than faithful translation. Issues in relation to providers of electric energy, figures and calculations all over the text etc.
All the time I have the feeling that my customer is ill equipped for the new market they are entering. Some models they offer are probably quite useless and some of the text simply should be left out.

I just wanted to mention this, not to complain or ask for advice, just to make a case for adaptation when translating technical texts.

Regards
Heinrich


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:49
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The translator as consultant Dec 12, 2008

Hi Heinrich,

I also translate very technical texts where regulations and applications vary from country to country, but I am contracted to provided a faithful translation, not a consultation on the regulations and the application. My contribution is often only a very small part of a multi-million Euro contract involving many, many people, and there could be scope for a translator to carry out some of the other tasks. Translation skills could be a door-opener.

If I had the skills to provide a broader consultancy service, then I suppose I could provide my credentials to the client and offer my services. Translators who are also Interpreters can and do get more involved eg attanding on-site meetings etc. It's an interesting thought.

Keith

[Edited at 2008-12-12 07:30 GMT]


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Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:49
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
translate then restyle Dec 12, 2008

This has nothing to do with the translation itself I think. We are paid for the translation, but not for knowing which technology is ranked first (second, third) in the region. Such cases are frequent. Here, you should translate using a CAT-tool, then clean-up the document and hand it over (even to yourself) for post-processing and restyling -- the second part of the process. This second part of the process consists in producing a target text from the source one being in the same language. It is a sort of post-editing/correction.

I've spent over 10 years translating various EU-CIS environmental projects. Nothing looks the same in the world. We had to adapt all technologies and processes.

Nevertheless, everything started from translations. Then, the texts were processed jointly by the local and EU experts to adjust the technologies, priorities etc. The final text was not actually a translation. In such cases translation is just the way of getting and setting the starting points for the future development. If you are involved in the further steps, you come closer to becoming an expert in the field.

This will help you translate texts further and even participate in post-editing.

[Редактировалось 2008-12-12 08:45 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The business of the translator Dec 12, 2008

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

All the time I have the feeling that my customer is ill equipped for the new market they are entering. Some models they offer are probably quite useless and some of the text simply should be left out.


Sorry Heinrich, but that is not the translator's business. You just translate what you are given. It is not your role to give technical advice about environmental technologies to your customer.

As a translator, your role is to translate whatever is put in front of you.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 16:49
English to Hungarian
+ ...
- Dec 12, 2008

Not our business, as others have pointed out.

Perhaps I would contact the customer and tell them that it seems to me that the text contains parts that may be unsuitable for the target audience for this or that reason - if it is very glaring.
But they probably know better than you or me anyway.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 16:49
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Yes, but ... Dec 12, 2008

As a translator, your role is to translate whatever is put in front of you.

... you don't need to do the three apes act. Whistle blowing is a hard, but respected activity.


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Ioana Daia  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 17:49
Spanish to Romanian
+ ...
Adaptation Dec 12, 2008

I understand Heinrich's point of view. I also feel frustrated by the non-adaptation of environmental related texts which sometimes are just translated and delivered to the target market without any adjustment. For instance, web-sites of important ONGs with branches in Romania, my country, are plainly translating stuff, without taking into account if it is suitable/appropiate for this area. They're giving advice on saving energy insisting on using less tumble-drying, when this is quasi inexistent here.

And when you're really interested in what will happen with the texts you're translating, it's good to know somebody is going to adapt it to fit its purpose.

Ioana


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just up to fixing errors Dec 12, 2008

Tom in London wrote:
Sorry Heinrich, but that is not the translator's business. You just translate what you are given. It is not your role to give technical advice about environmental technologies to your customer.
As a translator, your role is to translate whatever is put in front of you.


I agree with this only partially: our role is mainly to translate the source text faithfully. I don't agree with Heinrich that we should be working as consultants for the full adaptation of the text to the target country.

But I agree with Henry that we should be ready to suggest some changes in the target text to the customer, for instance references to local law, deletion of parts that simply don't apply or are forbidden in the target country, important aspects missing but which could be relevant in the target country... But as I said, we can only suggest these things as a plus to our translation work. If the customer does not value or need our suggestions, we just translate...


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:49
Italian to English
+ ...
With Tomas Dec 12, 2008

I agree - our job is to translate, but also to point out anything which might not be relevant or applicable in our own country. It's then up to the client what they do with this advice.

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Poisson rouge
Germany
Local time: 16:49
German to French
+ ...
Suggest Dec 12, 2008

I would agree that suggesting is the only option. As translators, this is what our job is about: translating. On the other hand, we can also be specialists of a given domain. When translating cultural concepts, this is exactly the issue we have to deal with: transpose something we know to be different. This is exactly the same in the technical world. But as many pointed out, this is not what companies employ us primarily to do. I am convinced that offering such a service (for free) can only be a plus, as the person you are dealing with will realise you actually care about the translation and pay attention to details. So offering such advice is a service we do to ourselves, as it can improves the quality of the relationship (which can mean more work or being recommended...).

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xxxhazmatgerman
Local time: 16:49
English to German
hints not adaption Dec 12, 2008

Translation of regulation-sensitive material (apart from purely technical) from one jurisdiction to another necessarily involves terminological, procedural and material-characteristic mismatches. What I can do in MY subject area - and only in that area - is tell the customer that such mismatches (may) exist. That alone often is quite welcome and will be billable. What cannot possibly be done is reengineering or rewriting (!) of i.e. TLV/MAK or safety warnings. That is in the sole purview of the legally responsible person who alone has access to the relevant data.
What it boils down to: translators can hint at mismatches but had better not attempt to redesign the product.
Regards.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:49
English to French
+ ...
Not everything can be translated as is Dec 12, 2008

I also translate highly technical texts, among which environmental texts. Luckily, every time I work on environmental texts, they come from Canada, so the laws and regulations stay the same, and their translation is readily available on government sites. However, I also translate operating instructions, maintenance manuals and such, for industrial equipment, heavy machinery, appliances, etc., and most of that material comes from the United States, where laws and regulations are different.

I have made it a habit to tell the client right away that all sections dealing with laws and regulations, as well as any warranty information, should be handed to their attorney or other legal staff before I am asked to translate it. I am not a legal consultant, and as much as I would like to help them find the equivalent regulations and put the legal info together, I am not qualified for that. A translator is only a translator - it is outright dangerous to have translators deal with such information. Likewise, if they don't know the target audience well enough to be familiar with their standards (differences in power outlet shapes and powers, technology used, habits, which side of the road people drive on, etc.), I recommend them to do their homework. I can usually assist with localization questions, but I am still not qualified for it, as my knowledge is based on personal experience only.

However, I have noticed that many translators, especially newbies, accept such assignments, no questions asked, do their best at translating those parts, with the often despicable results some of us have come to know. So, this is very much a client education problem. Clients expect us to handle these problems, because other translators have done it in the past, so they assume it is part of our normal work. Then, when things turn bad, the translator is often blamed. It is not very professional to tell a client once the damage is done that they should have handled the matter otherwise.

Clients need to understand that creating foreign-language documentation isn't only a matter of translation. Many other issues need to be addressed and translation should only be undertaken once the other issues are settled.

In your case, Heinrich, I think the best thing to do, since you seem to have skipped the client education phase, is to advise your client that they should have a consultant in the target audience take a look at your translation and identify the parts that are wrong as per the regulations in place.

[Edited at 2008-12-12 17:10 GMT]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:49
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Additional aspects Dec 13, 2008

I posted this under Translation Theory and Practice because in my experience this case is not very common. Compared to other technical fields like automotive, IT, consumer electronics and the like. Usually the text that the translator delivers is only proofread and then it goes to print or into the net. So when I see my translation on the net I can take a sentence and will find it in my TM, most of the time without changes.
I remember only one case in the past, where I really had to change information. It was about installation of a satellite antenna, and of course the data for Hamburg was not fit for Helsinki.

The approach of "we just translate" is not compatible to what we in theory are about to do. Translation theory sees the translator as the person who delivers the message so that it is fully understandable to the final recipient. But I will not go further here.

There is also the technical aspect. The paradigm of modern translation is, that we deliver a file, that only needs automatic conversion and minor reformatting. That's why we use CAT or TEnTs (translation environment tools).

But in this case the use of CAT is rather counterproductive. Here is why:

These are involved:

A the owner of the source texts
B the distributor of the target text (and the one that has to make sure that the translated text is optimal)
C the agency that does the conversions and DTP
D the agency that knows the translator
E the translator (me)

Client B does not know how to use Trados or DTP. So when the translation arrives, they take hard copy and write the corrections by hand. Major reorganisation of the text, omitting superficial parts and adding new parts is hardly possible in this way. All that can be done is exchanging text blocks, correcting terminology and figures etc.

On the other hand, if the process would be done the old-fashioned way, just translating plain text and arranging it as it seems fit would probably save time and money and result in a better product, even if the layout is not quite so pretty.

Regards
Heinrich


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