What makes a translation professional?
Thread poster: Dr. Lausberg de Morales

Dr. Lausberg de Morales  Identity Verified
Guatemala
Local time: 11:05
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Feb 8, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to invite you to discuss with me what makes a translation professional. I guess almost anyone within the community is claiming to be a professional translator. But why? Do you base your professionalism on your level of studies, on your professional experience, or rather on certain quality assurance steps within the translation process, or rather on a combination of these?

I am looking forward to discuss this matter with you.
Kind regards,
Uta


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:05
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two issues Feb 8, 2010

Dr. Lausberg de Morales wrote:
1. I would like to invite you to discuss with me what makes a *translation* professional.
2. I guess almost anyone within the community is claiming to be a professional *translator*.


Is your question about professional translation services or about professional translators? A translator is professional when he gets paid more than just an honorarium for what he does, i.e. if it is his profession. A service (and hence a translation itself) is professional when it is reliable and predictable.


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Dr. Lausberg de Morales  Identity Verified
Guatemala
Local time: 11:05
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Is your question about professional translation services or about professional translators? Feb 8, 2010

Dear Samuel,

thank you very much for this important observation. I would rather like to focus on the professionalism of the SERVICE. Although I guess that it is more likely for a full-time translator to deliver a translation of professional quality.

QUALITY: Let´s focus my question on this: What is professional translation quality? And how do you identify whether the quality of a translation is professional or not?

Kind regards,
Uta


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:05
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
A combination Feb 8, 2010

In my opinion, a professional translation reflects a high-level education, and a solid knowledge of the subject matter and the languages, as corroborated by the accuracy, naturalness and correction in expression achieved through the punctilious application of the translation and proofreading steps (thus making it reliable and predictable, as Samuel says). It must also be accompanied by a demonstrated unyielding sense of responsibility, timeliness, flexibility, and excellent customer service and communication skills, besides being backed up by the not-so-self-apparent characteristics of the translator, such as experience, passion for the language, and everlasting dedication to improving, learning, and striving for excellence.


[Edited at 2010-02-08 23:29 GMT]


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Minoru Kuwahara
Japan
Local time: 02:05
English to Japanese
+ ...
professional translation quality Feb 8, 2010


What is professional translation quality? And how do you identify whether the quality of a translation is professional or not?


From the point of view of a translation service provider, I think professional translation quality focuses on linguistic impeccability in terms of grammar, style, terminology choice, sentencing/paragraphing, punctuation, spelling, format and so on.

Minoru Kuwahara


[Edited at 2010-02-08 23:30 GMT]


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:05
Japanese to English
Ethics Feb 8, 2010

Law and medicine, two of the longest established professions have ethical
codes. Basically, these concern doing what is appropriate and in the client's
interest
, allowing the client to decide, and maintaining confidentiality.
So what would make a medical examination or legal contract professional?
Probably the skill and ethics of the practitioner.

There are all kinds of translation...
Medical, legal, technical, patents, academic, manuals, tourist information,
press releases, publicity, advertorials, advertising, whole websites and more.
And there are various ways in which you can use CAT tools to help you
successfully translate these different kinds of materials.
Successfully is a another leading word, because in about 2,000 years
of debate, there has been no consensus that any one set of criteria
can be universally applied when evaluating translation.

From that point of view, translation is still more like a craft than a profession.
A translator thinks about the purpose of the text and labours to perform an
appropriate translation. In 20 years of translation, I have only received
a translation brief about five times. When I ask, I often get conflicting purposes
and target audiences (consumers, stakeholders, shareholders, business clients
all have to be addressed differently). So, appropriate is a matter of judgment.
Clients are often incapable of informed consent.

And who is your client? The person commissioning the work, the agency, or
the reader. This is a very serious concern in Japan where client 'quality
assurance' often works against the client's interest.
Meanwhile, agencies want you to deliver consistent product rather than
excellent translation. A professional translation is not necessarily a good one.

In short, whatever your level of skill, commitment to delivering 'proper'
work
, on time is what your professional side is all about.
Does your work, given the economic constraints of time allowed
and rate for the job, for surely there are different qualities of translation,
fulfill the purpose of the text?
How often and how confident can you be of that?
That is the ethical concern of translation.

[Edited at 2010-02-08 23:36 GMT]


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:05
Member (2008)
English to French
....how about a sports analogy? Feb 9, 2010

If you can earn a living doing solely translation by definition you are a professional. If you translate part-time, on the side, for fun, here and there, want to get into the game, etc. you are an amateur.... I don't mean amateur as an insult btw, I mean it as the opposite of professional as in "profession" not as in ethics/quality of work.

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Alison Thomson  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
French to English
Professional vs. Amateur Feb 9, 2010

Although presumably if we are talking about professionalism of service, as opposed to the individual's employment status as a professional translator, a talented amateur could produce as 'professional' (whatever the definition of that is deemed to be) a translation (and perhaps more so) as somebody who works full-time and therefore 'professionally' as a translator.

Would it be true to say that?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:05
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Adding to what David said Feb 9, 2010

David Eunice wrote:
Translation is still more like a craft than a profession. A translator thinks about the purpose of the text and labours to perform an appropriate translation. In 20 years of translation, I have only received a translation brief about five times. When I ask, I often get conflicting purposes and target audiences (consumers, stakeholders, shareholders, business clients all have to be addressed differently). So, appropriate is a matter of judgment.


I agree. The mark of a professional translator is that he is capable of determining how the translation should be made. The translation should be adequate for his client's needs. I realise that some translators do not subscribe to this view -- i.e. they believe that there is one, ultimate standard that all translations can be measured against, but the fact is that different clients have different needs, and their translations should match their needs. A professional translator can determine what these needs are likely to be, and translate accordingly.

A useful skill for a translator to have, therefore, is the ability to ask the right questions to get enough information from the client that will help him determine what the client's needs are.

Meanwhile, agencies want you to deliver consistent product rather than
excellent translation. A professional translation is not necessarily a good one.


Agreed. It comes back to reliability and delivering what is expected (or, if the client doesn't have expectations, then delivering what is ideally suited).


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:05
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Uta Feb 9, 2010

Dr. Lausberg de Morales wrote:
1. I would rather like to focus on the professionalism of the SERVICE.
2. QUALITY: ... What is professional translation quality?


Once again I think we should distinguish between two things. A translation can be of superb quality, but if the translation is delivered a day late, then the service was unprofessional. Or, if the translation is excellent and was delivered on time, but the client had to wait several hours for even the simplest of replies from the translator (leaving aside time-zone constraints and other, reasonable reasons for delay), then the service was unprofessional. If the client had to beg the translator for requested information (e.g. if the client asked what the translator's native language is, but received no direct answer from the translator in several mails), then even if the translation was of an award-winnings standard and on time, the service itself was unprofessional. What do you think about that?

As for professional translation quality, I think it is difficult to describe it in terms of the text itself. My opinion is that the translator should be proud of his work. The translation should be as elegant and idiomatic as possible, within the constraints of the client's needs (e.g. if the client has a stupid glossary, or if the text needs to be stylistically consistent with a larger but poorly translated work).


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:05
Japanese to English
Amateur is derived from "amare" to love Feb 9, 2010

Alison Thomson wrote:
a talented amateur could produce as 'professional' a translation (and perhaps more so) as somebody who works full-time and therefore 'professionally' as a translator.
Would it be true to say that?


Absolutely. Professionals who produce hack translations
have their place in the translation market as do those desperate
people who check (copyedit would probably be too flattering)
cheap translations apparently produced by humans in China and India.
(And I am not saying that non-natives are incapable of good translation,
just that the market has a bottom end and you get what you pay for.)

Labelling is a means of temporarily not thinking about something,
accepting it as if it is essentially exists, usually compared to another
labelled thing.

If you compare professionals and amateurs and regard the amateurs
as people who undertake activities because they love the process,
what does that make the professionals?

I think that translation is more like a discipline and a vocation.
It has a lot in common with music. Each translation is piece that
perform more or less well, and hardly every perfectly. Translators
improvise, and improvisation is usually open to improvement, the next time.

But the original question, about a professional translation, was everso cunningly posed.


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:05
Japanese to English
Meeting minimal industry expectations Feb 9, 2010

Dr. Lausberg de Morales wrote:
QUALITY: Let´s focus my question on this: What is professional translation quality? And how do you identify whether the quality of a translation is professional or not?


Ultimately, by comparing it to work that is less professional.
I think that that is how agencies judge the work that comes through.

The problem with your question is that there are so many types of
translation and they are all judged differently.

As I mentioned earlier, people have been arguing about translation
quality for about 2,000 years, there has been no consensus that any
one set of criteria can be universally applied when evaluating the quality of translation.

Idiomatic English is a big part to publicity materials and even company reports.
Idioms are out of place in manuals. There, simplified technical English rocks.

Minimally. you would expect the grammar, punctuation, flow and
other mechanical aspects to be correct, all the idioms to be appropriate,
all things that can be fixed by a copyeditor, a copyeditor who cannot
produce a talented translation.

But you are not asking about about a talented translation, just a professional
one. Your sights are set low. I was once asked to judge four English translations
produced by four Japanese translators. I selected the most verbose (e.g.,
always "in order to" never "to") because, despite the verbosity, it read the best,
the translator seemed to have the best command of English.

The judgement of expectation depends on the QA process.
'Easy to check', something you learn from experience, may be a part of
professional judgement in what is a commodity business.

A professional translation is one that meets the minimal expectations for
that kind of work in the translation industry.

This would include taking into consideration the circumstances under which it
was produced. Say there is source text that cannot be greatly aided by TM.
This quantity of source text would likely yield 40 pp of target text.
This same text rendered in a one-day deadline by one translator
would be no less professional than one produced from the same source
text in a six-day deadline by another professional.

And, on a bad day or in a bad phase of stress induced by trying to produce
professional work for less than subsistence payment, a professional translator
can produce unprofessional translations.

Why are you asking this question?

[Edited at 2010-02-09 23:18 GMT]


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
German to Spanish
+ ...
What makes a translation professional? Feb 9, 2010

Dr. Lausberg de Morales wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to invite you to discuss with me what makes a translation professional. I guess almost anyone within the community is claiming to be a professional translator. But why? Do you base your professionalism on your level of studies, on your professional experience, or rather on certain quality assurance steps within the translation process, or rather on a combination of these?

I am looking forward to discuss this matter with you.
Kind regards,
Uta


Imho, a professional translator is that one that has already done all possible translation related errors and mistakes.

[Editado a las 2010-02-09 14:32 GMT]


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