Still struggling sometimes after five years and 2+ million words
Thread poster: Comunican

Comunican
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:02
Catalan to English
+ ...
Aug 10, 2010

Even with 5 years translating and about 2 million words under my belt, I am still frequently surprised at how challenging I find certain texts. And I was interested to know if others feel the same. Or whether it is just me ...
Here's a sentence from a translation I am doing from Spanish to English. I consider this to be moderately to very difficult; it feels like really hard work to me. Do others agree / disagree?

Tanto las restas a las cantidades de reparto en la fecha indicada en el SISTEMA como “fecha de entrega”, como las de mercancía recepcionada con esa misma  “fecha de contabilización”, se realizarán de forma sucesiva, es decir, hasta no completar la resta de las cantidades del primer reparto de esas fecha, no se procederá a restar el siguiente por la cantidad resultante del resto


 

xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 08:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't shoot the piano-player Aug 11, 2010

The real problem highlighted by Comunican's dilemma is that in today’s global economy an increasing number of poorly-educated and/or poorly stimulated young people are finding their way into jobs for which they are severely under-qualified. And their day-to-day drivelling in pursuit of these sub-professional activities is believed, mistakenly, to be of sufficient worth to justify its translation into the world’s major languages.

There’s nothing wrong with finding that source text ‘difficult’. What’s wrong here is the source text itself, which should never have been committed to paper in the first place.

MediaMatrix


 

Anna Muntean Stacanova
United States
Local time: 08:02
Russian to English
+ ...
After about 2 years it got easier. Aug 11, 2010

German to English is the hardest pair for me. I noticed that after one and a half or two years it got easier. The work has become less mentally draining. Some sentences are still hard work, but nothing that some research and maybe even help of linguee and google can't help

I have though hard time sitting down and working non-stop 1 hour, so I have to get up every 30 minutes to have a 5 minutes rest.

May I ask, do you specialize or do you translate in different fields. Specialization might help.


 

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
not that I'm any expert but ... Aug 11, 2010

I always check out your questions, Comunican, precisely because 90% of the time, I find them real mind-benders! imho you tackle some very tough material.

I like the suggestion that Anna makes. I translate just in the social sciences, art, history, and some philosophy. Even then, I don't find my work easy (but it is challenging and fun), and I've been doing this full time for 10 years, and part time before that!

So, as another poster said, don't be hard on yourself...


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Agree with you, Mediamatrix Aug 11, 2010

Every now and then, I develop a deep-seated dislike for the author of a text which I'm translating, because it's total garbage. A lot of documents are written not to convey useful information but to make a statement about the person who wrote them - or just to fill time because they're underemployed.

Translation is a very intimate process - you get under the skin of the text in a way that a person skim reading it does not. The trouble is, that often means you're the only person who realises that it's not actually saying anything - it's just a cloud of meaningless words, like the emperor's new clothes.

I recently translated a paper by a Harvard professor, and it was vacuous, jargon-ridden, unreadable crap - so much so that I thought maybe it was a hoax. And yet it will get published in some journal or other, and the author will get complimented by colleagues who didn't get beyond the third paragraph.

But I still like the fact that,as Comunican puts it, every day is a struggle. I've been doing this for over 20 years, and every day I look at sentences on the computer screen and think: What on EARTH does this mean? Sometimes it's the writer's fault, and sometimes it's because the gap between their language and mine is close to unbridgeable. But I wouldn't want it any other way.


[Edited at 2010-08-11 02:56 GMT]


 

Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:02
French to German
+ ...
How right you are, MediaMatrix! Aug 11, 2010

mediamatrix wrote:
There’s nothing wrong with finding that source text ‘difficult’. What’s wrong here is the source text itself, which should never have been committed to paper in the first place.

MediaMatrix

Plus my OT:
And some people should also not "prepare" texts to be translated/proofread with a CAT tool either. This would avoid such occurrences as taking hours to process a text just because the file preparation was heavy-handed and awkward.
End of OT

[Edited at 2010-08-11 04:38 GMT]


 

Comunican
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:02
Catalan to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone! Aug 11, 2010

I really appreciate your support on this

In particular, Mediatrix saying "What’s wrong here is the source text itself, which should never have been committed to paper in the first place" is spot on!

And thank you Patricia for "imho you tackle some very tough material" - that is really comforting, as I know what an experienced professional you are.

Ditto Phil. And his sentiments are mine exactly - I get that deep-seated dislike of the authors of texts on a regular basis! And it's reassuring to know that after 20 years you still look at the screen sometimes and wonder what it means! Interesting that you thrive on that challenge; I need to find a way of adopting that approach!

With regard to Anna's comment on specialisation, I do try to specialise as much as I can and in fact, this text is in one of my main areas, but it is quite poorly written and logically convoluted. But one of the fall-outs from the recession has been that my agencies send me fewer business/marketing texts than before so I have been getting more technical/engineering/infrastructure texts and (no offense) an engineer tends not to write in as communicative style as a marketer.

The French tend to write in a "cleaner", more logically structured way than the Spanish or Catalans, I have found.

Right, well, I'd better get finishing this lovely text - it's due in 3 hours...

Thanks for taking the time to answer my post!
Comunican


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 14:02
German to English
+ ...
After 30 years Aug 11, 2010

it gets easier! At least in the specialisation. I find I can translate contracts and court decisions without much of a problem unless the lawyer (very rarwely the judge) starts trying to be too clever and makes a mess of the language. My other specialisation, art, is a very different kettle of fish - no matter how much experience you have you will always be surprised by the text - and I never really know whether it is the author writing gibberish or a limit on my own understanding of art and art-related texts that makes it difficult to understand the job. At least with contracts I can tell the author (if I feel sufficiently bloody-minded/cooperative) that the text is c**p/contains a minor linguistic or legal problem. (but guess which specialisation I prefer working with!)

 

Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
The fault lies in poorly edited source material Aug 11, 2010

I have been translating for 29 years, but that has no bearing on the quality of the material I sometimes have to tackle!

Well-written, well-edited prose is always a delight to translate. Poorly expressed, obscure language is always difficult.

Don't blame yourself for finding this hard. The fault is in the source text.

Some of the blame has to lie with the reduction in the use of good copy editors in the world of publishing. I sometimes even find myself editing a piece of source text first and then translating it into good English.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Different kinds of difficulty Aug 11, 2010

As you collect regular clients and get to know their styles and house preferences, some jobs do get easier, but there are still challenges after many years, and like philgoddard, I would not want it any other way.

Maybe I could do without the vacuous texts that are so vague that it is difficult to translate them without adding some meaning that might not have been intended, or imposing my own opinion!

More specialisation would probably help - I tend to work with a very wide range of texts, now and then in areas that I do not understand sufficiently. The client sometimes maintains that no one else does either... but it is a struggle, although it can be instructive, and I have learnt a lot from jobs like that when I have had them checked, so I am more confident another time.

Then there are the texts that are a challenge because they are so neat and well written that it is hard not to lose anything in translation. Those are a pleasure to translate, but they can be REALLY difficult! Unfortunately there are not so many of them, so enjoy them when they turn up!

Translation IS difficult. If you find you are never struggling, you might be getting stale or not putting enough thought into it. Or maybe translating too narrow a range of texts. Are you keeping up with new developments in your field? And so on. I personally would get bored, and then careless, if I reached that stage. But fortunately it is not very likely!

Happy translating!


 

Jonathan Morris  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
Italian to English
+ ...
DIFFICULTY/EASE Aug 11, 2010

I agree with the point that fuzzy thinking by the author is the enemy of a good translation.

There are a couple of other points:
- When it comes to translating above a certain popular register, English is essentially an honorary member of the Romance languages. I also find that most of the technical vocabulary in Braz Portuguese/Italian tends to be translated verbatim from US English, whereas the French have their own tradition. This is why it's far easier to translate from Fre/Ita/Por (& prob Spa which I don't do) than from Ger.
- The other obvious point is that most languages have 300,000-1 million words or more, and even the most educated native speaker only knows 60-80,000: conclusion, no-one knows more than 20% of all the words in their own language and the actual percentage is probably much less than this. I constantly turn up words in German which are specific not to one specialist area but to one company.


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Clean writing Aug 11, 2010

Comunican wrote:

The French tend to write in a "cleaner", more logically structured way than the Spanish or Catalans, I have found.



Many Spanish writers are unable to write concisely and clearly.

I have watched my two children (aged 18 and 14) go through the Spanish school system and it is clear that no importance is placed on production. That is to say they spend a great deal of time analysing material and memorising facts - but very little time is spent writing.

In particular, Spanish language education seems to ignore creative writing and précis. I remember writing hundreds of summaries for my English teachers, but I have had to teach my children this concept. In fact, I imagine that Spanish students would find it much easier to write the opposite of a précis than a précis itself.

The result is that Spanish children learn to use twelve (or more) words when three will do. It's a case of 'never mind the quality feel the width'.

I do not wish to bash Spanish eduction because it has many strengths - but teaching writing skills is not one of those strengths.


 


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