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Who is a professional translator and what is a professional translation?
Thread poster: Roland Nienerza

Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
English to German
+ ...
May 3, 2010

The word "professional" though very frequently used especially by providers and also quite frequently by solicitors of translation services, appears to be surprisingly unclear and undefined.

ProZ.com presents "Professional guidelines for translation service providers" on http://www.proz.com/professional-guidelines/ which contain mostly rules for contract terms and general commercial matters. Most of these rules are quite reasonable - even as they appear to aim more at satisfying the interest of clients than to promote the interest of linguistic providers. And there are some rather rummy specimens too, such as -

[Professional translators - ] • "do not unjustly criticize other professionals or their work" - leaving it to the fancy of everyone to decide on what is "just criticism" and "unjust criticism", with the result that the one who criticises will rather always think it is "just to do so" and the one who is criticized will mostly take the criticism as "unjust" and therefore declare the critic as "non professional". -

[Professional translators - ] • "do not engage in conduct or communication unbecoming of a professional" - which is very vague indeed and seems to part from the illusion of a perfect world in which nice manners of some are inevitably requited with nice manners by others. But there're a lot of crooks and bad apples out there - and it is not to the purpose to deal nice manners to those. -

[Professional interpreters - ] • "interact with others only to the extent required to interpret." - Even if "others" would be correctly defined, this rule is also just reflecting an ideal, but not the real world. -

According to these guidelines all one might conclude about a professional translation would be that it is the one produced by a professional translator - while a professional translator in his turn is the one that sticks to ProZ.com's or similar guidelines for a professional translator. But, these guidelines are essentially little more than a "Code of Commercial and Related Ethics" - and would obviously allow providers of very questionable linguistic or translatorial services still to call themselves "professional translators", as long as they adhere to such guidelines. Judging the professional quality of a translator only on these grounds would be a bit like assuming that a good surgeon is the one that pays his taxes and behaves like a gentleman - whatever that may mean in detail. - Well, his patients surely would like him to have some medical qualifications on top.


In reality, the essence, as opposed to circumstantial paraphernalia, of the professional quality of a service provider can only be judged on the professional quality of the service itself that he delivers. In other words, the decisive distinction for a professional translator is the professional quality of his service, i.e. the professional quality of the translation that he delivers.

If the translation itself is not professional, the provider of that translation cannot be called a professional, however nice his business conduct might otherwise be. A bad translation - and there are many, really many bad translations around - will not become professional by the fact, that it had been produced by someone who abides by ProZ.com's or any other set of "Guidelines for professional business conduct".

Such guidelines are useful of course for orderly business procedures - and it is good to have them formulated in ProZ.com. But they are only secondary rules and should or better can apply only if the primary characteristic of a professional translator, i.e. his ability to deliver professional translations, is warranted.

To my observation there is - strangely enough - no generally shared view in the industry about what a "professional translation" really means. It would certainly be useful to have some principal understanding about this - the really substantial criterion for the qualification of a translator as a "professional".


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:06
Japanese to English
Professional or otherwise, what is a translation? May 3, 2010

Roland Nienerza wrote:
The word "professional" appears to be surprisingly unclear and undefined.
... no generally shared view in the industry about what a "professional translation"


I've thought about this for awhile, too.

I started to come to an understanding of what the problem might be
when I read Anthony Pym 2010 Exploring translation theories,
in particular:
The translator is an equivalence producer, a professional communicator working for people who pay to believe that, on whatever level is pertinent, B is equivalent to A.
and
the belief in equivalence is historical, shared, and cost-effective in many situations.

So, at the outset, the commissioning of a translation involves
a kind of collusion.

Then, the only consensus about translation is that it involves reproducing,
in some way, a text in a target language based on one in a source
language. Translating poetry is not the same as translating a contract
for use in a court case.

There are many different kinds of source text ranging
from informative -- manuals or specs -- to operative
political speeches or advertisements, to expressive literary texts.
And no text is purely one thing or the other.
Different kinds of text require different kinds of translation.
The same text, for different purposes, requires different kinds
of translation.

Buyers generally want 'equivalence', sticking to the source,
because that is all they are capable of assuring the quality of.
So, rather than focussing on fulfilling the purpose of the text,
the main concern of buyer quality assurance is avoiding
equivalence 'mistakes'.

In commercial translation, we also often get poorly written
source texts. There is an ethical question of whether we
should for equivalence, produce garbage / in garbage out
or, to better fulfil the ultimate purpose of translation,
take the liberty of improving the original.

And remember, while company executives drive Benz, BMW, Jaguar,
Lexus, they buy cheap spot-welded vans for their delivery division.
Similarly, unless convinced otherwise, they are usually only prepared
to pay for cheap spot-welded translation.

Large agencies handle huge volumes of work, especially if they can
snag translations into dozens of languages. In the agency market,
with its negative bidding system, translation has become a commodity
to be bought as cheaply as possible. Agencies cannot always afford to
be concerned with quality. The buyers won't let them. After improving
a text, I was told by an agent "If the client wants to hire a copywriter,
they will." At another agency, a coordinator got annoyed with me for
properly using en dashes instead of hyphens. Smooth throughput
is the name of the game.

To deliver a product not a problem, translators end up translating
for, often incompetent, buyer quality assurance. Translators who do
this well are the darlings of the agencies. Are they professionals?

Conclusion
A professional translation is one that is considered adequate in
the commissioning circumstances.
A professional translator is a person who can make a living producing
adequate translations, that is, work tailored (price and quality) to
the buyers needs.
IOW a professional translator is called into being and sustained
by the needs of the translation market.

It is senseless to look for an essential definition of a concept as
abstract as 'professional' in circumstances where there is no
definition of, or agreed quality criteria, for the work or services produced.

You can pursue translation as an occupation as long as you keep
providing the buyer with a product that satisfies.

You can pursue translation as a vocation, constantly striving
to balance all you know to create a translation that will pass
the agency check (if there is one) and buyer QA and still fulfill
the purpose of the text.

You can strive to be professional. But I think that this is an
orientation more to do with personal ethics, a morality play we act out
as we suffer, heroes always have to suffer, the insults of ignorant
clients. And, of course, the hero(ine) is always a stubborn stick-to-
your-own-lights individual, never a hack who simply gives people
what they they think they need.

The Proz things you mentioned mainly seem to be concerned
with ethical behaviour.

[Edited at 2010-05-03 11:34 GMT]


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
English to German
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something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue - May 3, 2010

David Eunice wrote:

I've thought about this for a[]while, too.

I started to come to an understanding of what the problem might be
when I read Anthony Pym 2010 Exploring translation theories,
in particular:
The translator is an equivalence producer, a professional communicator working for people who pay to believe that, on whatever level is pertinent, B is equivalent to A
and the belief in equivalence is historical, shared, and cost-effective in many situations.


Well, unfortunately for them it is often only the belief that they pay for. But it should be the professional ambition of the translator really to deliver them the certainty that they actually get the equivalent B for A - nothing more and nothing less!


Then, the only consensus about translation is that it involves reproducing,
in some way, a text in a target language based on one in a source
language.


But it should not be in "some way", which is exactly what "unprofessional" is, but in an utterly "precise way" - in order to be "professional".


Translating poetry is not the same as translating a contract
for use in a court case.

There are many different kinds of source text ranging
from informative -- manuals or specs -- to operative
political speeches or advertisements, to expressive literary texts.
And no text is purely one thing or the other.
Different kinds of text require different kinds of translation.


No! - For me, they don't, but need all utterly precise - which of course does not mean "literal" - translation. If that is properly done, all these different text categories, that of course exist, will come neatly out in target as what they have been or had been meant to be in source. - It is exactly the tampering and tinkering by - very often very ill-prepared - translators that might utterly spoil source texts and turn them into unrecognizable rubbish.


The same text, for different purposes, requires different kinds
of translation.


No, it doesn't. - Rarely as the case may be that the same text might be intended for different purposes, the adaptation in such a case will have to be a matter of editing, not of translating.


Buyers generally want 'equivalence', sticking to the source,
because that is all they are capable of assuring the quality of.
So, rather than focusing on fulfilling the purpose of the text,
the main concern of buyer quality assurance is avoiding
equivalence 'mistakes'.


Yes - and right they are. For that is all that's needed!


In commercial translation, we also often get poorly written
source texts. There is an ethical question of whether we
should for equivalence, produce garbage in / garbage out
or, to better fulfil the ultimate purpose of translation,
take the liberty of improving the original.


And this is what I rigorously contest. - In my view there is no such ethical question for the translator - and it very certainly is not "the ultimate purpose of translation" to take any liberties at all.

Of course, the translator will not repeat or "emulate" little imperfections like typos or similar inadvertencies, but just have those to disappear in his translation. The general rule has of course to be "garbage in / garbage out". There can be cases where the author of source has deliberately written something that looks like garbage on the surface - and aims at some hidden purpose. In all such "garbage" cases, it is the professional interest of the translator to inform his client about the situation and ask for an express permission to "edit".

It is a failure of the translator, not only when he produces "good stuff in / garbage out". - It is clearly a failure of the translator too, in my firm opinion, when he produces "garbage in / good stuff out." - That is simply not his job. - It can even involve extremely serious copy right issues and it is a cheat all over the board. - A cheat of the author, a cheat of the client and a cheat of the perspective reader - all thinking that they get the author's text in another language when in reality they get the science or other fiction of a perhaps well-meaning, but certainly ill-advised, if not altogether incompetent translator. - And I repeat. Even if, rarely enough, the translator really improves or embellishes the text, he is then doing something which is not his business! Period.


And remember, while company executives drive Benz, BMW, Jaguar,
Lexus, they buy cheap spot-welded vans for their delivery division.
Similarly, unless convinced otherwise, they are usually only prepared
to pay for cheap spot-welded translation.


That is a fact of life. And no one who himself likes to shop at discount prices should complain about it.:) But this is about marketing and commerce - and has nothing to do with the subject of "professional translation".


After improving a text, I was told by an agent "If the clients want to hire a copywriter, they will."


And that, in my humble opinion, was right!

While this -


At another agency, a coordinator got annoyed with me for
properly using en dashes instead of hyphens.


is of course one of the many regrettable experiences all translator face at one time or another with often very and utterly ignorant clients.


Smooth throughput is the name of the game.

To deliver a product not a problem, translators end up translating
for, often incompetent, buyer quality assurance. Translators who do
this well are the darlings of the agencies. Are they professionals?


Translators that aim at other standards than to deliver a perfect mirroring of sources are in my view not indisputably professionals.


Conclusion
A professional translation is one that is considered adequate in
the commissioning circumstances.


Well, for me a professional translation is one that is thoroughly adequate or equivalent to source.


A professional translator is a person who can make a living producing
adequate translations, that is, work tailored (price and quality) to
the buyers needs.
IOW a professional translator is called into being and sustained
by the needs of the translation market.


This is the - quite correct - description of a professional translator from the commercial point of view. In this sense, a good professional translator is the one with good commercial results. - Of course, in the long run, business success will hardly come without underlying quality. - But the two things are not identical.


It is senseless to look for an essential definition of a concept as
abstract as 'professional' in circumstances where there is no
definition of, or agreed quality criteria, for the work or services produced.


And that is the big mistake prevalent in the industry. - They are not agreed upon, but there are quality criteria.

Here in Jerryland, where I hail from, they have now a series of academic translation schools that are producing theoretical treatises à gogo about what they call with a Graeco-Latin fun term "translatology". But I have seen work samples of some alumni of such schools that have really been of a very "strange" quality.

It appears indeed, that a real understanding of what defines a "professional translation" is very surprisingly not on stock in the community.

As I had said at the beginning. There is much talk about "professionalism" in a business or commercial sense - or the "professionalism of the translator". Rather no one seems to care about the "professionalism of the translation".


The Proz things you mentioned mainly seem to be concerned
with ethical behaviour.


Exactly. - Ethical, business, commerce.


[Edited at 2010-05-03 19:24 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Yes, the ProZ guidelines are ethics guidelines May 3, 2010

Roland Nienerza wrote:

...But, these guidelines are essentially little more than a "Code of Commercial and Related Ethics" - and would obviously allow providers of very questionable linguistic or translatorial services still to call themselves "professional translators"


Well, what about this guideline (the very first one on the list)? Whoever adheres to the guidelines, supposed to:

# represent their credentials, capabilities and experiences honestly

Judging the professional quality of a translator only on these grounds would be a bit like assuming that a good surgeon is the one that pays his taxes and behaves like a gentleman - whatever that may mean in detail. - Well, his patients surely would like him to have some medical qualifications on top.


In addition to the first guideline I quoted above, here is the 3rd one:
# accept only assignments that they have the knowledge, resources and time to do well

Wouldn't it be nice if people really observed these guidelines, would it?

Katalin


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:06
Japanese to English
More things in heaven and earth, Horatio... May 4, 2010

Hello again Roland

Thank you for addressing my points and
for correcting my typo.

The view of translation to which you cleave
seems to me to be quite naive.

Your notiions may come from the
type of translation that you normally do.

You seem to view translation as a
kind of code conversion, as if the translator
is an enigma machine operator, as if there is always
one ideal translation to be generated from a source text.

My ethical commitment to translation is to
fulfilling the purpose of a text.
A buyer commissions original texts. Businesses do not
generally do this without some kind of motivation.
In fact, it is the ethical duty of the executives
of a business to always act to increase the benefit
to their shareholders.

From this point of view, any documentation work
they commission can be broadly classified as for:
business communication (correspondence and press releases);
for legal compliance (including manuals and safety documents);
to institute a state of affairs (contracts, patents, agreements, declarations);
for information (press releases (as publicity), safety documents, manuals, catalogues, narration scripts);
for sales (advertising and publicity, narration scripts);
any other reason you may think of (do tell).

How can a manual increase the benefit of the business
to their shareholders?
By being well written and easy to use.
So, if a translator gets a manual that was badly written
by in-house by an engineer who was given two weeks
to do the job and started it three days before the deadline,
there may be plenty of scope for improvement of
the document during the translation process, to make
it is easier to use and ultimately of more benefit to the
the shareholders. By being committed to the purpose of the text
you are also maximally fulfilling your obligation to the buyer.
You provide maximum value.

If there is scope for a translator to improve
a badly written manual, how much more scope
for a translator to transform and improve badly
written publicity and advertising materials,
which are clearly intended to increase the sales
of the company's products.

In addition, a translator is a professional communicator.
Once you have been translating full time for five or so years,
if your native language skills have not greatly improved,
you would have to had been a brilliant writer at the outset,
or persisted as a dull hack. In other words, wrestling day-in,
day-out with the problems of generating a variety of text,
you are likely to be a better writer than people who are
generating text in house, often without thinking
about the ultimate purpose of the text.
I am not thinking here of speeches or essays expertly crafted
by people who have something to say. Those kinds of texts
are semi-literary and require a more respect and consideration
for the content than, for example, text routinely generated
by wage slaves.

My disinclination to add any more than I have to the pool
of sewage in the world is why I do not work for clients
who do not appreciate the improvement I can add.
I get very frustrated if I am expected to reproduce muddle
and missed opportunities. Deliberate obfuscation, which
you mentioned, on the other hand, is an intellectual challenge.

My ethical commitment is either to making the buyer look
as good as possible (improving brand image) or to increasing
the sales of the company. (By now, you probably understand
that I do not specialize in contract and patent translation.)

Naivety is also suggested by your inability to understand
that translation is in some way a reproduction.
My whole argument was based on the fact that there is
an enormous variety of text for translation.

I recently attended a presentation on translating
Japanese poetry. The prize-winning translator said,
up front, that it is impossible to merely translate.
All you can do is somehow aim to reproduce something
of the effect of the original. Or, in the words of
Seidensticker, one of several translators if the Tale of the Genji:
Since there is probably no such thing as a perfect translation of a complex literary work, the more translations, one would think, the better.

In a chapter headed Purposes, Anthony Pym
gives interesting examples of translations of Mein Kampf.
The point he made was that translations are always motivated.

An ethically committed translator considers the motivation.
"Accuracy" may be be less important than other factors.
When you agree to collude with the idea of equivalence
are you agreeing to equivalence of words and phrases or
to equivalence of effect?

Pym also provides a practical example of the kind of thing
commercial translators encouter everyday:
A legal agreement, for example, may be adapted to target-side textual norms if and when it is to be governed by the laws operative in that culture, or it may be rendered with the source-text form if and when the translation is more for purposes of understanding, or again, it may be translated in almost word-for-word way if, for instance, it is to be cited as evidence in court. The source text would be the same in all cases. What is different is the purpose that the translation would serve. Anthony Pym 2010 Exploring translation theories, pp. 44--45.

Unfortunately, at least in Japan, we are rarely briefed about
the intention of, or even the target audience for, the text.

Even so, the translator, with greater experience of varieties
of text, training from translating excellently written texts
(they do exist), and more expert knowledge of the target culture,
can often have better intuition about the what the text is supposed to
do than the original author(s) of the text and and almost always
about how to achieve the purpose of the text in the target language.

Who knows more about how bodies or particular organs work,
doctors or their patients?

Software engineers design applications for clients.
One problem that they have is in getting the client to
sufficiently specify what they want the software to do.

Translations can be similarly designed to achieve purposes.
And translators are often not briefed at all about what
the buyer wants the text to do.

In some fields of translation (contracts, patents, manuals)
this is relatively unproblematic.

Then there's tourist information orginally written for the
source-language reader...
The first question, for translations into English:
Are the materials intended for target-language (AmE or BrE?)
readers? Or for for a global ESL readership?
Then you have to work out what cultural information to
supplement, and how to casually include it, so that
the target reader can understand the significance of the
places mentioned without being obviously 'educated'.

There is no one-size-fits all solution to translation and no
translator that can make a living from translating all the
varieties of text that are commissioned. An expert patent
translator is a different beast to someone working in art history.


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
English to German
+ ...
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some more in a small circle conversation - May 4, 2010

David Eunice wrote:

The view of translation to which you cleave
seems to me to be quite naive.


First I hasten to say that I am in no way put out by the term "naive" in definition of my work concept. The proof of the pudding is always the eating, as they rightly say. - Why not call a pudding naive - as long as it tastes well.


Your notions may come from the
type of translation that you normally do.


Absolutely. - Could hardly be otherwise.


You seem to view translation as a
kind of code conversion, as if the translator
is an enigma machine operator,


That translation is code conversion is nowadays an axiomatic, cast-iron, unbudgeable understanding.


as if there is always
one ideal translation to be generated from a source text.


Not "is", unfortunately. But "has to be"!


My ethical commitment to translation is to
fulfilling the purpose of a text.


My rather unethical commitment to translation is to translate the text, the whole text and nothing but the text.


From this point of view, any documentation work
they commission can be broadly classified as for:
business communication (correspondence and press releases);
for legal compliance (including manuals and safety documents);
to institute a state of affairs (contracts, patents, agreements, declarations);
for information (press releases (as publicity), safety documents, manuals, catalogues, narration scripts);
for sales (advertising and publicity, narration scripts);
any other reason you may think of (do tell).

How can a manual increase the benefit of the business
to their shareholders?
By being well written and easy to use.
So, if a translator gets a manual that was badly written
by in-house by an engineer who was given two weeks
to do the job and started it three days before the deadline,
there may be plenty of scope for improvement of
the document during the translation process, to make
it is easier to use and ultimately of more benefit to the
the shareholders. By being committed to the purpose of the text
you are also maximally fulfilling your obligation to the buyer.
You provide maximum value.

If there is scope for a translator to improve
a badly written manual, how much more scope
for a translator to transform and improve badly
written publicity and advertising materials,
which are clearly intended to increase the sales
of the company's products.


If you do all this - and get paid for it, so much the better. It goes widely beyond translation - being editing, copy writing, co-authoring or just text fudging.


In addition, a translator is a professional communicator.


In your eyes, maybe. - For me it's enough that a translator is a translator, and a professional translator is the one who does professional translations.


Once you have been translating full time for five or so years,
if your native language skills have not greatly improved,
you would have to had been a brilliant writer at the outset,
or persisted as a dull hack. In other words, wrestling day-in,
day-out with the problems of generating a variety of text,
you are likely to be a better writer than people who are
generating text in house, often without thinking
about the ultimate purpose of the text.
I am not thinking here of speeches or essays expertly crafted
by people who have something to say. Those kinds of texts
are semi-literary and require a more respect and consideration
for the content than, for example, text routinely generated
by wage slaves.

My disinclination to add any more than I have to the pool
of sewage in the world is why I do not work for clients
who do not appreciate the improvement I can add.
I get very frustrated if I am expected to reproduce muddle
and missed opportunities. Deliberate obfuscation, which
you mentioned, on the other hand, is an intellectual challenge.

My ethical commitment is either to making the buyer look
as good as possible (improving brand image) or to increasing
the sales of the company. (By now, you probably understand
that I do not specialize in contract and patent translation.)


So much more illustrations that you do a lot more things than a translator has to do. This is a very problematic attitude and one that bears all the hallmarks of the gravest blame a translator can incur - "translator's arbitrariness"


Naivety is also suggested by your inability to understand
that translation is in some way a reproduction.


I have no problem to understand translation as a reproduction - as long as the result is the perfect mirroring of source - not a distorted mirage, faint echo or even a partly or completely different text.


My whole argument was based on the fact that there is
an enormous variety of text for translation.


Right - I say. With a broad smile - as it would be foolish to deny this.:)

But we are here talking about professional translation.

With your approach you can only do a very limited fraction of this enormous variety of texts. - With my approach one can do all of them - provided of course one masters or has access to required technical vocabulary and term bases.


I recently attended a presentation on translating
Japanese poetry. The prize-winning translator said,
up front, that it is impossible to merely translate.
All you can do is somehow aim to reproduce something
of the effect of the original. Or, in the words of
Seidensticker, one of several translators if the Tale of the Genji:
"Since there is probably no such thing as a perfect translation of a complex literary work, the more translations, one would think, the better."


In the 50s, 60s and 70s European sinologists were rather unanimously convinced that the poems of Chairman Mao, given their deep rootage in classical Chinese, could not be translated. - Until one guy in Germany [Wolfgang Kubin] just went for it, searched Kanji by Kanji carefully out in Cíhâi, Cíyuán and particularly in Morohashi - and presented a widely applauded translation of some of Mao's poems.

I personally have not and will not translate poetry. - But I am convinced that the widely upheld "untranslatability" of poetry is an unfounded myth. It has been done throughout history with, all in all, quite acceptable success. - If someone calls the sun a horse and the moon a banana, such images will have a similar effect in any language - at long as it has terms for all four nouns. - Being able to read the original is of course a big advantage, but ultimately this applies to any text.

[quote]
An ethically committed translator considers the motivation.[quote]

Now - this is definitely and really "naive". - Put ten translators - or more - to the same text. How many interpretations of motivation do you expect to get? - Well. Ten - or more. And Mr Seidensticker could be happy about this. - But how to decide then, which of the ten - or more - interpretations will be right?


"Accuracy" may be be less important than other factors.


Well.- I do it the easy way - and take this just as a joke. LoL.


When you agree to collude with the idea of equivalence
are you agreeing to equivalence of words and phrases or
to equivalence of effect?


I take the first - and have the second cost-free, as a gratification.


Pym also provides a practical example of the kind of thing
commercial translators encounter everyday:
"A legal agreement, for example, may be adapted to target-side textual norms if and when it is to be governed by the laws operative in that culture, or it may be rendered with the source-text form if and when the translation is more for purposes of understanding, or again, it may be translated in almost word-for-word way if, for instance, it is to be cited as evidence in court. The source text would be the same in all cases. What is different is the purpose that the translation would serve." Anthony Pym 2010 Exploring translation theories, pp. 44--45.


But such are special cases, rare btw. - They have to be convened beforehand, or have to be applied later on, in text processing and editing. - This has practically nothing to do with the topic of "professional translating". - If such things are expressly required, they come on top of the translation process, which in itself has to be as accurate and precise as any other professional translation.


Unfortunately, at least in Japan, we are rarely briefed about
the intention of, or even the target audience for, the text.


I have hardly ever got briefings of that kind.


Even so, the translator, with greater experience of varieties
of text, training from translating excellently written texts
(they do exist), and more expert knowledge of the target culture,
can often have better intuition about the what the text is supposed to
do than the original author(s) of the text and almost always
about how to achieve the purpose of the text in the target language.


Well.- This is so absurd, that I do not have to comment.


Who knows more about how bodies or particular organs work,
doctors or their patients?


Hm. - Tja.


Software engineers design applications for clients.
One problem that they have is in getting the client to
sufficiently specify what they want the software to do.

Translations can be similarly designed to achieve purposes.
And translators are often not briefed at all about what
the buyer wants the text to do.

In some fields of translation (contracts, patents, manuals)
this is relatively unproblematic.

Then there's tourist information originally written for the
source-language reader...
The first question, for translations into English:
Are the materials intended for target-language (AmE or BrE?)
readers? Or for for a global ESL readership?
Then you have to work out what cultural information to
supplement, and how to casually include it, so that
the target reader can understand the significance of the
places mentioned without being obviously 'educated'.

There is no one-size-fits all solution to translation and no
translator that can make a living from translating all the
varieties of text that are commissioned. An expert patent
translator is a different beast to someone working in art history.


- Na ja. - Eh bien voilà, des trucs si beaux.:-)


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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:06
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
What's your definition of translation? May 4, 2010

This is what it all boils down IMO. I understand (and whole-heartedly agree with David's entire post) translation not to be a work of GIGO, but rather a text that fulfills a function in the target language/culture that is equivalent to the one of the source text. Translation is about functional equivalence not about words and phrases.

Claiming that "translation" is merely translating words/phrases is quite amateurish in my eyes. The same applies, obviously, for realising in a project that there are mistakes in the source text and reproducing them.

Rolands definition of "translation" seems to be exactly what Google Translate is capable to do, albeit with poor results for the time being. But in a few decades, translators with the same concept of the meaning of translation might be easily replaced by aforementioned application!

Specialised translators have extensive expertise in their fields (and linguistic skill, obviously) and sometimes/often (depending on field) this is more than what the original author has to offer. In these cases I feel it is my duty to rectify this in the translation and, of course, telling the client about it so the source can be amended as well. I have come across quite a few inconsistencies in the sources I worked on in the past and the clients have always been delighted at my improvements.

Now why would I say "Well, it was in the source text, so it's gonna be alright" if I know it to be utter rubbish? Or if I feel that the source is lacking clarity, why would I reproduce a fuzzy text which is not as good as it could be? For me, a translator produces to the best of his ablitly a text with same function as the intended function of the source. If you have a dodgy source you can, of course, blame the author and just run the GIGO-routine, but I can't see what's professional about that.

Editing, copywriting, adaptation etc. are all part and parcel of translation and everyone following this approach can rest assured that GT won't put them out of work anytime soon!

I could go on about Robert's view on the general translatability of poems, but I will take a break now and am looking forward to more posts in this enjoyable thread.

Best,

Kay


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

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Not your definition of "translation". May 4, 2010

Kay Barbara wrote:

This is what it all boils down IMO.


This is not boiling down to a definition of whatever kind of translation.

My intention with this "enjoyable tread" [I am glad you see it this way] was and continues to be the arrival at a certain understanding about what distinguishes a professional [human] translation from all kinds of amateurish beating around the bush, fudging texts with wildly speculative assumptions instead of clear-cut understanding and rendering- and, of course and not to be mentioned, from raw machine translation.

The wild, speculative interpretation is not only what Google Translate does, by fishing out of their term bases items on statistical probability grounds, this is also what untrained bilinguals, particular bilingual children, do when they have their unskilled flings on translating or interpreting.

You are completely misled in believing that it is easier to make a 1:1 translation than to give the gist of a text. The opposite is true. What can a person, who is simply unable to deliver the hundred percent equivalent, do other than to produce an approximate, more or less wild guessing. - A translator with reduced linguistic capacity in target language will in many cases simply be unable to deliver the adequate terminology and therefore has no other means then to stammer about and to paraphrase everything with the paltry linguistic equipment at his disposal.

As I had said before, it goes without saying that minor imperfections are straightened out without talking about, and important errors, inconsistencies or misconceptions that obviously go against the intentions of either the author or the client or even both, have to be reported - be it just in footnotes or in talking directly to the client or the author.

But apart from such - all in all exceptional situations - there cannot be the slightest doubt that GIGO is the name of the game! - What you two really naively overlook is that GI can be the intention of the author or the suspicion of the client, and either could lay high stakes on having GO accordingly delivered.

And I hasten to say that for me GIGO - Garbage In / Garbage Out - is a rather theoretical thing as I am very rarely getting Garbage In in the first place. Of course I do not like all kinds of texts I get to do but definitely the largest part of them, and many are simply excellent or gorgeous. While on the other hand I had a few cases that I did indeed a consider a job proposal as garbage - and consequently quite simply declined them. - In other words, my work reality is rather - EIEO - Excellence In / Excellence Out -, or as I have it in my tag line - "giving as good as got". To which of course there is a well intended second meaning.

Here is what a colleague, Jeanette de Vries, writes about the matter in an article "free for republishing" -

"Reliability calls for a modest and serviceable attitude. A reliable translator is one who tries to produce as faithful a version of the source document in the target language as possible. This means that he will make every effort to cover the content and intention of the source text in full, while refraining from any personal interference with that source. Nothing should be lost in translation, but nothing should be added either. Due to the requirement of reliability, translation can become a balancing act between the need to remain faithful to the source and the desire to produce an attractive, readable or meaningful text. Ideally, a translation should be no more readable or meaningful than its source, although we are aware that this only applies as an academic criterion. In commercial practice, clients will expect translations that meet the quality standards of the target language and audience, irrespective of the quality of the source."

Pasted from http://www.articlealley.com/article_1465231_80.html

Yes, there is "although". But "although" is the concession to dubious considerations - and "although" comes after "ideally".

For the purposes of this discussion one could break this down to - "professional translation is strictly GIGO - but for commercial reasons there might occur the necessity for occasional infringements of professionalism."


I understand (and whole-heartedly agree with David's entire post) translation not to be a work of GIGO, but rather a text that fulfills a function in the target language/culture that is equivalent to the one of the source text. Translation is about functional equivalence not about words and phrases.

Claiming that "translation" is merely translating words/phrases is quite amateurish in my eyes. The same applies, obviously, for realising in a project that there are mistakes in the source text and reproducing them.

Roland's definition of "translation" seems to be exactly what Google Translate is capable to do, albeit with poor results for the time being. But in a few decades, translators with the same concept of the meaning of translation might be easily replaced by aforementioned application!


There is indeed a possibility that GT and similar tools might attain a standard that could make them into a practical alternative for reliability in comparison to wildly raving, unrestrained and unrestrainable fiction writers and story tellers, if you know what, and whom, I mean.


Editing, copywriting, adaptation etc. are all part and parcel of translation and everyone following this approach can rest assured that GT won't put them out of work anytime soon!


I would not bet on that.


I could go on about Robert's view on the general translatability of poems, but I will take a break now and am looking forward to more posts in this enjoyable thread.


- oops! Could it be that you mean me?

Summing up a little what has been brought in by the two of you - and having had a look into the kind of service you are offering, i.e. essentially copywriting in one case and gaming or IT in the other, it becomes clear that we are definitely speaking about very different things - You are obviously relating - if not to fringe areas altogether - to fields in which indeed textual precision might be of less or even no importance at all. What you two are doing, in one case more, in the other a bit less, goes in the direction of localising - where definitely the source text has no intrinsic value and only serves as a launch pad for achieving an aim in the target area. -

Copywriting and localising are not translatorial activities in the strict sense of the term. - I am speaking of language culture and word power - while you are speaking of grouse shooting.

No wonder that we can hardly get to any common conclusions.

So - to anyone interested. - The question of what defines a professional translation as the distinguishing feature of a professional translator - as opposed to a professional copywriter or localiser - remains open for discussion.



[Edited at 2010-05-05 10:38 GMT]


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:06
French to German
+ ...
And then? May 5, 2010

Roland Nienerza wrote:

My rather unethical commitment to translation is to translate the text, the whole text and nothing but the text.


Not always true, depending on the client. This way of translating does not always work and one may be accused (yes, it happened) to have arranged an output of some online MT. So what's the point of being ethical by rendering 1:1 the content of the source text, if i the end client (who will be using the text!) eventually says the translator used cheap MT or even that they are not native in the target language?

This being said, I fully agree with you that the client is responsible for the content of their texts. We should not assume that they were trying to say XYZ when the source (and its "equivalent" in the target) reads ABC.


[Edited at 2010-05-05 04:56 GMT]


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:06
Japanese to English
Who does source-side bias benefit? May 5, 2010

Hello again Roland

You mention arbitrariness as if it is necessarily capricious.

I prefer definition 1 of arbitrary in M-W 11th Unabridged
1 : depending on choice or discretion; specifically : determinable by decision of a judge or tribunal rather than defined by statute *an arbitrary decision* *arbitrary punishment*

In fact, I think that it would be impossible to translate a
page (200 words, arbitrarily defined) of natural language
without making one or two decisions based on personal choice
or discretion (informed by experience).

There is always a possibility that the translator may be
masking fudge with discretion, but that is a question of
personal ethics and trust. Incompetent translators fudge,
competent translators trudge, but may occasionally slip.

You also selectively quoted JdV who, it appears, specializes
in legal translation and yet still asserts that a translator
needs to be creative...

Jeanette de Vries
In nine out of ten cases, however, the translator is not just expected to decode a source text but will have to rewrite it in a manner that reflects its style and is suitable to the target audience. This calls for a great deal of dexterity and creativity...


And below, Roland, to put it bluntly you are mistaken here.
Both about me, and I am sure, Kay.
You seem to have missed my earlier characterization
of obfuscation as an intellectual challenge.

Roland wrote:
What you two really naively overlook is that GI can be the intention of the author or the suspicion of the client, and either could lay high stakes on having GO accordingly delivered.


Isn't there a little arrogance in your assertion?
Competent, experienced translators have a good idea
of when garbage is deliberately generated or not.
The context alone is enough to alert you. In my case,
I work in the land of equivocation, polite or otherwise,
and I have a lot of experience with bureaucratic text
generated at many levels (all except the very highest)
and can deal with it. When in doubt, go literal.

Then again, sometimes in cleverly written marketing copy,
there is an intent to provoke the reader into transderivational
searching. This may well seem like garbage to someone who does
not understand what a transderivational search is or its function
in the copy. A non-functionally equivalent translation will be
a mistaken translation. And when a proper translation is made,
some non-savvy person in the QA chain will claim it is mistaken.
When deviating from the source, add a note.

Some agencies hate notes. I don't work for them.

Or how would you translate "Tuesday the 13th" from Spanish into
German (about which I know nothing) or English.
Functionally or literally? I suspect that the extreme position that
you have adopted has blinded you to the principles that you
naturally and contextually apply while translating.

Roland, your profile page shows you to be quite a linguist!
Working in three languages and with proven competence
in translating two more into your native tongue.
This suggests to me that your brain is configured similarly
to a friend of mine who can touch type English while reading
Japanese. Untroubled by the meaning or intention of the text,
he operates as a code-converting machine.

He advocates sticking closely to the source text, that is the
safest place to stick. As an ethical commitment ("should"
is a marker of ethical commitment
), I think that it
benefits no-one but the translator and the translation agency.
My friend wins every argument and makes the translation buyers
feel stupid for not adequately preparing texts for translation.
In the end, extreme source-side bias merely makes translation
easier to check, it does not serve the commissioning motivation
of the client. (There is plenty of interesting discussion we could
be having about doing unpaid extra work for the client.)

In an ideal world, texts would be fully considered and prepared
before being sent for translation. One international company
I know of in Japan is in such a muddle over its manuals that
there is a move afoot to have all the divisions start authoring
their manuals not in Japanese, but in simplified technical English.
Different divisions have been using different terms for the same
things. The one I remember mentioned was oil filter, but there
are plenty more. How would you deal with that? Four different
terms in one manual all referring to essentially the same item?
Would you use a different term each time, or unify?

Perhaps you would contact the company? The spokesman
for the company in question welcomes queries, but he warned
that it usually takes him several days to get a reply back from
the division responsible, and quite often his queries are
ignored. By the time a clarification is received, given the short
deadlines for most translation jobs, the work has already been
completed.

Beyond the linguistic considerations, the point of a manual
is to communicate information, some of which is related to
safety. GIGO here could be dangerous. You get a badly written
manual. You translate it considering only the words and not
what they refer to: what happens if someone gets injured,
if the bus crashes, if the ship hits a rock, if the extractor fan
shorts and ignites the grease. No, it's not your responsibility,
you did your job and the party actually responsible did not
spot the mistake.

Or how about dissatisfaction with an expensive consumer item?
The Panasonic DMC-LX3 digital camera has a very poorly translated
manual. Just this morning, I was reading online about how it is
better to download the manual for the equivalent Leica product,
or to buy the third-party manual that just came out. If there
is a buzz that a camera has a really easy-to-use manual, more
units get sold. Target-side bias is usually good for the consumer,
and consequently good for the translation buyer.

The main problem with target-side bias in non-literary translation
is that the buyer cannot easily perform quality assurance.
After five years in the business, translators lose sight that
their major concern now is to generate text that will easily pass
(often incompetent) buyer QA procedures. By colluding in equivalence,
they manage to deliver a product, not a problem.

This is how translation becomes a commodity, an expense
to be squeezed along with the cost of ink and paper.

[If you know Derek and Clive, at this point I would quote
"Is this any way to run a disco?"]

Naturally, there are other situations, in which the text is designed
(or intended), for whatever the reasons, to cloak the details of
the communication, but marketing is not usually one of those
situations.

As I see it, writing is seldom finished, and translation is an
opportunity to improve writing as it passes to a higher level of finish.

However, your notion of translation and characterization of what
I do is helping me to think about an issue that I have been
wrestling with.

Assuming that there is a value chain from the time of commissioning
writing in the source language to final publication in the target language,
what is the role of the translator?
You seem to be arguing that translation adds no value whatsoever.
Yet, many translation buyers seem to expect a native-speaking
translators to add value that a non-native-speaking translator cannot.
At what point does quality become value added?

You see, an experienced and competent source-language-speaking
translator is nearly always going to more fully understand the source
text than a target-language-speaking translator. Are the differences
between an experienced and competent source-language-speaking
translator and an experienced and competent target-language-speaking
translator related to quality alone or also to value-added?

What is the buyer procuring from a translator who is a target-language
speaker?

[Edited at 2010-05-05 07:42 GMT]


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:06
Japanese to English
Call me a dreamer... May 5, 2010

Sorry, I forgot to address this point.

I said:
the translator, with greater experience of varieties
of text, training from translating excellently written texts
(they do exist), and more expert knowledge of the target culture,
can often have better intuition about the what the text is supposed to
do than the original author(s) of the text and almost always
about how to achieve the purpose of the text in the target language.


Roland replied:
This is so absurd, that I do not have to comment.


You might have grounds for such a dismissal if the discussion were
limited to well-considered speeches and legal texts or to expertly
prepared patents; it is not absurd when it comes to badly written
websites or materials routinely generated in house by inexpert writers.

I don't work for money, but I have to be paid. The true absurdity
would be to literally translate these callow texts and to cringe when
I see them published.

You also shrugged off the following:
Referring back to Anthony's Pym's characterization, I said:
In addition, a translator is a professional communicator.


All I want to add here is that anyone who has a book published
in English in 2010 come out in Japanese translation in March 2010 is
bound to be an influential voice in the translation industry.

After earning a living from translation for two decades, I don't feel
any particular need to appeal to authority. I mainly mention Pym again
here now in acknowledgement of how well he puts translation and the
translation industry into perspective. His presentations on his own
YouTube channel are also rewarding and worth rewatching.

You might be sympathetic to his current concern: "translation as risk management."

[Edited at 2010-05-05 07:35 GMT]


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
English to German
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sure, of course - May 5, 2010

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

Roland Nienerza wrote:

My rather unethical commitment to translation is to translate the text, the whole text and nothing but the text.


Not always true, depending on the client. This way of translating does not always work and one may be accused (yes, it happened) to have arranged an output of some online MT. So what's the point of being ethical by rendering 1:1 the content of the source text, if i the end client (who will be using the text!) eventually says the translator used cheap MT or even that they are not native in the target language?


Hi, Laurent. - I must say that I am completely blasé about this mean insinuation levelled repeatedly against my concept from different quarters.

I do use Google Translate occasionally, since it is there, for getting a quick idea about small pieces of information out of languages I do not know - and sometimes I make also some little probes into languages I do not know but am interesting in - just for the fun of it. And I often marvel about what is to be got out of GT or similar tools. - But to my understanding, even for an almost non-inflectional language like English, GT is hardly capable to produce 15 words in a row without formal discrepancies - before even starting to consider content matters. With a - still - considerably inflectional target language like German, GT invariably fails on formal grounds already after at best 8 words, and here again I am not yet speaking about content.

The situation with German is so complex, particularly after the recently introduced spelling aberrations, distortions and follies, that to my observation at least 40% of native German posts in KudoZ, produced by self-styled "professional translators", denounce considerable language deficiencies. Even with a certain allowance on grounds of haste and time pressure it is clear that people who show such imperfections in these short KudoZ exchanges will continue on that level more or less throughout their whole work.

And this is one of the reasons for me to have this kind of discussion on.


This being said, I fully agree with you that the client is responsible for the content of their texts. We should not assume that they were trying to say XYZ when the source (and its "equivalent" in the target) reads ABC.


Ecco! - You say it. Or, to make it a little more precise, we should not act on such assumption on our own. If there is good evidence for this we should try to inform the other party - or at least make a footnote.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:06
French to German
+ ...
To make my point May 5, 2010

Roland Nienerza wrote:

Hi, Laurent. - I must say that I am completely blasé about this mean insinuation levelled repeatedly against my concept from different quarters.


To make my point: I had a rather serious quality issue when a client (meaning the client of an agency) had rather big misgivings about the accuracy of my precise rendering of a purely technical text. They said it was cheap MT or worse and that I could not possibly be native in the target language.

After some to and fro between the agency, the client and myself -including a telephone conference for some 30 minutes, it came out that yes, the source text was written in an technical, objective style, but that the client wanted a praising, commercial translation.

How should I have known that, given the way in which the source was written and without instructions from the client?

And how could the end client possibly support their affirmations that a translation was MT'ed to 100% when it was the exact rendering of the original?


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
English to German
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TOPIC STARTER
well, - May 5, 2010

What you describe here sounds ridiculous and grotesque and goes into the category of grave miscommunication between client/agency and linguist. - It is not exactly to the point of this topic.

I had just recently a case in which the end client advanced unreasonable criticism about a text already delivered to him, when I was already busy with a similar follow-up material. - I just commented on the unreasonable comments - and stopped further work on the follow-up material. - Funnily, I saw not only the first text, but also my part of the second text, terminated by someone else, being published online with rather little changes.

As it had been said in this thread before, if I remember correctly, if the chemistry between client/agency and linguist does not work, it is useless to continue the relationship.


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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 20:06
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TOPIC STARTER
source-biased and target-biased - May 5, 2010

Voilà. - Here we have the key distinction which means that indeed we argue in different directions, as I had already resumed in my previous post.

I am definitely having mostly factual texts - financial and other economic reporting - or more or less "contemplative" analysis. For these texts 1:1 in content - of course not in linguistic imperfection - is the aim. I have noticed too that with marketing materials more "flexibility" - meaning essentially "exaggeration bordering on cheat" - is often required.

I am - all in all - source-biased by the very nature of my job material and also by the nature of my working concept. - But I have no problem to admit that there are large categories of text and large communication fields were rendering information from one language into another goes and possibly will have to be target-biased and thus will go by different means than "professional translation".

We might call these other fields "professional adaptation" and I would consider that as another type of "professional linguistic activity". But, this is for me no longer "professional translation". I would rather call it "professional [if so] target-biased text adaptation or transformation". Maybe it would really be of interest for platforms like ProZ.com to develop a systematic kind of tagging for these indeed widely differing kinds of linguistic activity.

David Eunice wrote:

You mention arbitrariness as if it is necessarily capricious.

I prefer definition 1 of arbitrary in M-W 11th Unabridged
1 : depending on choice or discretion; specifically : determinable by decision of a judge or tribunal rather than defined by statute *an arbitrary decision* *arbitrary punishment*


I indeed understand "translator's arbitrariness" as not only capricious, but clearly wanton and reckless behaviour - for this is what the German term "Übersetzerwillkür" means.


You also selectively quoted JdV who, it appears, specializes
in legal translation and yet still asserts that a translator
needs to be creative...


I quoted one whole paragraph integrally and correctly, including a passage that was not in line with my ideas.


You seem to have missed my earlier characterization
of obfuscation as an intellectual challenge.


I had not missed it at all, and even like this characterization. But I did not comment on it because in my kind of material and in my way of treating it, it does not make a difference for the outcome whether I notice deliberate fudging with truth by the author or not. If I do I feel a little, could be even a lot, amused about it - and translate source into target. Business as usual.


In my case, I work in the land of equivocation, polite or otherwise,


and that indeed, I readily admit, can be an intellectual challenge in itself, for which, btw, I do not envy you.


and I have a lot of experience with bureaucratic text
generated at many levels (all except the very highest)
and can deal with it. When in doubt, go literal. [em N]


Ecco! Voilà! - I could not say it better. That's all it takes. Period.


Then again, sometimes in cleverly written marketing copy,
there is an intent to provoke the reader into transderivational
searching.


Tja.- Whoever knows what that is, I am none of them. ;-/


Some agencies hate notes. I don't work for them.


I practically never make notes mentioning "the translator or translator's note". I rarely give additional information, particularly about abbreviations, in pointed brackets, as those are practically never used by the author himself and can easily be identified as a marking for translator input.


Or how would you translate "Tuesday the 13th" from Spanish into
German (about which I know nothing) or English.
Functionally or literally? I suspect that the extreme position that
you have adopted has blinded you to the principles that you
naturally and contextually apply while translating.


If it would be "Martes 13" in Spanish I would make it to "Dienstag, der/des/dem/den [according to context] 13. In translation I would not put it into English, as that is not a target language for me, but English "Tuesday the 13th" and French "Mardi 13" would lead to exactly the same result in German as the translation from Spanish - and that is for me not literally or functional or whatsoever. It is just the correct and precise translation, for which there cannot be an alternative or substitute.


One international company
I know of in Japan is in such a muddle over its manuals that
there is a move afoot to have all the divisions start authoring
their manuals not in Japanese, but in simplified technical English.
Different divisions have been using different terms for the same
things. The one I remember mentioned was oil filter, but there
are plenty more. How would you deal with that? Four different
terms in one manual all referring to essentially the same item?
Would you use a different term each time, or unify?


These, David, are already the nitty-gritties of technical translation and term base management that I am not very conversant with. The Japanese, who are very precise in their own language, are known for imprecision if not shoddiness when it comes to English, had started to do in-house writing in English already in the 80s - and similar tendencies appear to exist now in many other countries worldwide. - If in such cases different sections of the same company are allowed to develop their own terminology and they are juxtapositioning those later into the same manual one would not need to comment on this. -


Beyond the linguistic considerations, the point of a manual
is to communicate information, some of which is related to
safety. GIGO here could be dangerous. You get a badly written
manual. You translate it considering only the words and not
what they refer to: what happens if someone gets injured,
if the bus crashes, if the ship hits a rock, if the extractor fan
shorts and ignites the grease. No, it's not your responsibility,
you did your job and the party actually responsible did not
spot the mistake.


I am not having that kind of life and death important material.
But you may bet a house that if I would have it and spot a mistake of such dimension I would inform them properly - and might even refuse to complete the text unless and until such an issue is worked out as needed.


Or how about dissatisfaction with an expensive consumer item?
The Panasonic DMC-LX3 digital camera has a very poorly translated
manual. Just this morning, I was reading online about how it is
better to download the manual for the equivalent Leica product,
or to buy the third-party manual that just came out. If there
is a buzz that a camera has a really easy-to-use manual, more
units get sold. Target-side bias is usually good for the consumer,
and consequently good for the translation buyer.


Which, if I get this correctly, speaks against target-bias. - But I understood so far that you are firmly in favour of target-bias.


This is how translation becomes a commodity, an expense
to be squeezed along with the cost of ink and paper.


This is what translation has always been - and it would be starry-eyed or even foolish not to be aware of it. - The reality of - economic - life is that even artistic production like any other production is and possibly even has to be considered in a cost perspective.


[If you know Derek and Clive, at this point I would quote
"Is this any way to run a disco?"]


Don't know 'em guys.


As I see it, writing is seldom finished, and translation is an
opportunity to improve writing as it passes to a higher level of finish.


You had said something similar before - and I think I tend to disagree.

Sure, there is an axiomatic saying since the antiquity that writing requires practice galore and also that one should have the time - which nowadays not only translators have not - to improve a manuscript gradually, I consider that the range of the linguistic capacity of an adult person is rather fixed. One might add some vocabulary and structural techniques, but one will not learn the essence. Some have it, and others don't.

I am therefore often wondering about expressions like "experienced translator", "fifteen etc. years of experience in legal, technical etc. translation" and the like, as if the endless repetition of imperfect work turns it gradually into good work. I would like to see in these expression the word "experienced/experience" replaced by "competence/competent" - and am thinking even of starting a discussion about this topic too.



Assuming that there is a value chain from the time of commissioning
writing in the source language to final publication in the target language,
what is the role of the translator?
You seem to be arguing that translation adds no value whatsoever.
Yet, many translation buyers seem to expect a native-speaking
translators to add value that a non-native-speaking translator cannot.
At what point does quality become value added?


I am not so sure where this is aiming at.

A translation - unless anything different is stipulated beforehand - has to be 100% target-language equivalent - in every respect, just as if the text had been written by a native target speaker. - If a non-native target speaker can achieve this it will be quite a feat. But I have very rarely seen perfect texts in German written by non-native speakers, even outside of translation, and the rare instances one might see are probably edited by real native speaker. For me, an absolute waterproof competent native-speaker-quality of a translation is an indisputable must, and in this sense not a value added. - Anything below [competent] native speaker quality in a translation is simply not acceptable - and cannot be used without further processing.


You see, an experienced and competent source-language-speaking
translator is nearly always going to more fully understand the source
text than a target-language-speaking translator. Are the differences
between an experienced and competent source-language-speaking
translator and an experienced and competent target-language-speaking
translator related to quality alone or also to value-added


I am not sure whether I understand this either.

In order to translate one does not have source-language-speaking competence but one has of course to have source-understanding. Source-language-capabilities of at least some level are a prerequisite of translation, but at whatsoever level they are not sufficient for a perfect translation if they are not accompanied by competent native-target-level-capability. MTs fail already for the requirement of native-target-language-capability, while surprisingly many target-language-speaking translators still fail for the requirement of competent native-target-language-capability.[/quote]


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