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Language skills or life skills?
Thread poster: autor

autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:09
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Apr 19, 2009

Thsi thought has been triggered by a recent thread in this same discussion group,

A client wants a translation of a text of 2,500 words of a set of minutes of a meeting between the engineers at a nuclear power plant with the suppliers of an item of equipment they supplied, Lets say the minutes are written in French and the client want them translated into English. They can allow the translators a day for the task and they have two applicants.

The first is a native English speaker, a language student with excellent French language qualifications. They can read, write and speak the language, and are fully conversant with the grammar, verbal idioms, etc. etc,

The second is also a a native English speaker, a qualified engineer who has worked at nuclear power plants, but has no French linguistic skills, and has only ever translated, say Spanish to English.

Who will produce the better translation?


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Anne-Marie Grant  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:09
French to English
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The answer is simple. Apr 19, 2009

Employ both and get the second to advise on terminology and proofread the draft version produced by the first.

[Edited at 2009-04-19 22:00 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:09
English to German
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Great topic! Apr 19, 2009

However, what do you mean by "no linguistic skills"? That he is fluent in the source language, but isn't much of a writer in the target language?

TIA!

Nicole


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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The first one, without a doubt Apr 19, 2009

autor wrote:
* The first is a native English speaker, a language student with excellent French language qualifications. They can read, write and speak the language, and are fully conversant with the grammar, verbal idioms, etc. etc,
* The second ... has no French linguistic skills.


To translate from French to English, you need to be able to read and understand French. What's so complicated about the choice? The student isn't the ideal candidate, but out of the two candidates he is the best option. If the engineer could read and understand French, then that would have made a big difference, but since he can't, he is simply not qualified for the job, and that's that.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Not necessarily an expert at the item Apr 19, 2009

autor wrote:
...a set of minutes of a meeting between the engineers at a nuclear power plant with the suppliers of an item of equipment they supplied.
... a qualified engineer who has worked at nuclear power plants.


A nuclear power plant is not a simple machine. Having worked at one means that you have experience with certain portions of the whole, but it does not make you an expert on the process, nor does it guarantee that you will know anything about the item of equipment discussed at the meeting.

So be careful to say "he is a nuclear power engineer, therefore he will be an expert on all items of equipment used at nuclear power plants".


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:09
English to German
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??? Apr 20, 2009

autor wrote:

but has no French linguistic skills.

Who will produce the better translation?


A very difficult question indeed.


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:09
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No linguistic skills in this contect meeans.. Apr 20, 2009

Nicole Schnell wrote:

However, what do you mean by "no linguistic skills"? That he is fluent in the source language, but isn't much of a writer in the target language?

TIA!

Nicole


The person has not previously studied or translated from the source language (eg. French), but has studied and translated from a different source language (eg. Spanish)


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:09
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Portuguese to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Great idea! Apr 20, 2009

Anne-Marie Grant wrote:

Employ both and get the second to advise on terminology and proofread the draft version produced by the first.

[Edited at 2009-04-19 22:00 GMT]


But if you asked them both to carry out the translation, which do you think would turn out to be the most acceptable to the client?


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 15:09
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
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On the balance of probabilities ... Apr 20, 2009

autor wrote:
But if you asked them both to carry out the translation, which do you think would turn out to be the most acceptable to the client?

both would suck.

Employing both, however, would not be strange for the nuclear industry at least: they know, that things fail sooner or later and you have to design the redundancy in. In this case it's not even redundancy, but a fail-unsafe (sic) "ying&yang"- kind of translation experiment design. Like asking for a lady violinist and getting a violin playing male and a polo playing lady.

So very, very probably the other party would go and get their own team of translators. The same applies to any other, less hazardous situation - while keeping the cost of it in mind -.

Regards

Vito

[Edited at 2009-04-20 12:14 GMT]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:09
English to French
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I would also go with both Apr 20, 2009

I would go with both, but I would do the opposite of what Anne-Marie says: I would have the engineer translate and the non-engineer review. The reason why is that the engineer can go farther than just ensuring that the terminology is correct - s/he knows whether you need to assemble part A on, over or above part B better than the non-engineer. Once these ambiguities are out of the way, the non-engineer with better linguistic skills can ensure that the rest is in order.

Otherwise, I do agree with Vito. I don't think they would necessarily suck, but each would be lacking something to produce a healthy translation.

[Edited at 2009-04-20 18:08 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:09
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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Am I missing something? Translating from French without knowing French? Huh? Apr 20, 2009

How could anybody without understanding a word of French produce a translation into English (or any language)? Just use Google translate and try to make sense of it based on his engineering experience?

I am sorry if I misunderstood something, but this whole proposition just does not make sense to me...


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 15:09
Member
Catalan to English
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Seconded Apr 20, 2009

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

How could anybody without understanding a word of French produce a translation into English (or any language)? Just use Google translate and try to make sense of it based on his engineering experience?

I am sorry if I misunderstood something, but this whole proposition just does not make sense to me...


This is the first thing I thought when I read the initial post, but on seeing the answers I just assumed I was obviously missing something.

Obviously not.

Andy


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:09
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Portuguese to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Try it Apr 20, 2009

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

How could anybody without understanding a word of French produce a translation into English (or any language)? Just use Google translate and try to make sense of it based on his engineering experience?

I am sorry if I misunderstood something, but this whole proposition just does not make sense to me...


Its not about French in particular, and its not about Nuclear Power Plants in particular, its just that I believe that if you are an expert in a specialist subject, and you already have some translating experience in that subject, albeit from your acustomed source language, you may surprise yourself by how easy it is to translate documents on the same subject, from a different source language. The vocabulary is very restricted, there's little descriptive text, probably only one or two verb tenses used, lots of company, product and specialist equipment names which are the same in all languages,... Equipped with your knowledge of the specialist subject, some translating experience (albeit from another source language), a good general dictionary, a book on grammar, and the Internet - 2,000 words in a day?


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:09
French to English
first-hand anecdote Apr 20, 2009

autor wrote:

I believe that if you are an expert in a specialist subject, and you already have some translating experience in that subject, albeit from your acustomed source language, you may surprise yourself by how easy it is to translate documents on the same subject, from a different source language.


This is true, to a point, but dangerous!

I have some first-hand experience with this at my in-house job. I only translate French English, yet I am very aware of the specific industry terminology in my field for other languages. I work in an international environment, and it's fairly easy to pick up the terminology, in fact I enjoy learning obscure technical terms

Spanish is the easiest for me to decipher, but I have never studied it formally. My very scanty understanding is based on nothing but the similarities to French.

We often receive documents in Spanish that need to be translated for internal use. When my Spanish-enabled colleague is on holiday and the document needs to be understood immediately, the task falls on me. I usually have no trouble with the technical terms, but I spend a lot of time looking things up. My best ally is my knowledge of the context and the machines, I can usually infer the general meaning/tone based on the general context - it's a lot of common sense, guessing and some dictionary work - but by no means is it perfect!

Just today, I was talking to said colleague about an e-mail received last week when she was on holiday, it wasn't urgent and I had just glanced over the message, something about patent infringement and "give this document to your HEFE". Without checking the dictionary, I thought, hmmm... hefe, hefe, hefe... kinda vaguely sounds like "hafocat" maybe they're saying we should give this document to our lawyer, seems pretty logical in this context. Turns out I was totally wrong My context guessing method can obviously be very dangerous.

So I've done 'translations' from Spanish to English, and will probaby have to do it again despite my better instincts. I would say that 2500 words of translation from Spanish would be utterly impossible in a day, even if the subject falls within my very narrow specialist field. I would have to look up just about everything, and chances are that I would totally miss important nuances. Whoever would have to edit my work would be doing a complete re-translation, except for the technical terms.

A much more efficient way to benefit from my specialist knowledge would be to have a professional Sp > En translator do a first draft - even if that translator knows absolutely nothing about my field, it would help to get the structure and grammar right, then I would be able to edit the translation and correct any specific terminology. I would even be able to notice when something "seems strange" at the technical level and discuss those parts of the text with the translator to ensure that something wasn't misunderstood in the source text.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:09
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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What is your specialty? Apr 20, 2009

autor wrote:

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:

How could anybody without understanding a word of French produce a translation into English (or any language)? Just use Google translate and try to make sense of it based on his engineering experience?

I am sorry if I misunderstood something, but this whole proposition just does not make sense to me...


Its not about French in particular, and its not about Nuclear Power Plants in particular, its just that I believe that if you are an expert in a specialist subject, and you already have some translating experience in that subject, albeit from your acustomed source language, you may surprise yourself by how easy it is to translate documents on the same subject, from a different source language. The vocabulary is very restricted, there's little descriptive text, probably only one or two verb tenses used, lots of company, product and specialist equipment names which are the same in all languages,... Equipped with your knowledge of the specialist subject, some translating experience (albeit from another source language), a good general dictionary, a book on grammar, and the Internet - 2,000 words in a day?


I have my doubts, and I marked with bold why.
You say it is a specialist subject. You also mention a good general dictionary. Where would a good general dictionary get you in a specialist field? What if you don't even know how to use the dictionary? Have you ever tried to look up a kanji (Chinese or Japanese) in a kanji dictionary?

The only case where I could imagine such a thing work if the document in question is a standard document, with standard fields or titles or columns that are the same all around the world, and you know how it looks by heart. Only numbers or brand names (not translated) would go into the fields. But in that case, you don't even need the source text, it really would not matter what the source language is. You could produce the English language form any time, without a source file.
(Just a note: as far as I know, brand names ARE often translated into Chinese, so you would probably have trouble figuring out whether it is Coca-Cola or Pepsi...)

You said I should try. I don't think it is worth my time.
However, if you tell me your favorite specialty, I would be glad to search for a matching Japanese or Hungarian text, and let's see what you can come up with...
(I know, I may be surprised...)

Katalin

[Edited at 2009-04-20 23:50 GMT]


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