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The serious danger of biting off more than you can chew
Thread poster: David Hollywood

David Hollywood  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:00
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 1, 2011

I would like to hear comments on to what extent people go out of their comfort zone to get established, into the market and how it is possible to identify who is capable and who is not

[Edited at 2011-08-01 03:22 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:00
Chinese to English
Test translations Aug 1, 2011

I honestly don't think it's that difficult to tell who's going to be competent and who isn't. Whenever I see horror stories on the Proz forums, there are always a million signs there for the wary to pick up on. Failure to write good English (or whatever the target language is) in emails; failure to respond in a courteous, professional manner; no website or Proz profile; vagueness about experience or previous projects.

If you're not sure, a quick test should sort the sheep from the goats. Within 200 words, you can tell if a translator "gets it" or not.

And it can be good to accept a translator a bit out of their comfort zone. I've done it many times: accepted a translation in a specialist area in which I don't have much/any background. No translator springs from the earth fully formed, experienced and qualified. If you get someone who is professional, enthusiastic and basically competent, and they say they can handle a document, the chances are they will. It's not 100% foolproof, but then, what is?


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:00
English to German
+ ...
People Aug 1, 2011

asking tons of questions over a long period of time are probably not be very recommendable.

The "vagueness about experience or previous projects" can be a very good sign since the translator sticks to the NDA rules.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:00
Chinese to English
non-disclosure not the same as vagueness Aug 1, 2011

Gudrun - actually, I disagree with that. There's a world of difference between vagueness (because the translator was exaggerating their experience) and non-disclosure.
For example, I can be very clear about what I'm translating at the moment (a construction contract) and its content (technical, legal, etc.); but I'll say explicitly to you (or any potential client) that I can't tell you who it's for, where it's happening, or any other identifying details.


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:00
English to German
+ ...
Thank you, Phil, Aug 1, 2011

for the clarification.

I was referring to agencies who want to know which projects you did for whom.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Many language pairs Aug 2, 2011

I would have serious doubts about amazing "multilingual" people who present themselves as being able to translate a long list of language pairs. It is not so easy to learn to translate from language A to language B on a professional level, and even harder to learn to go the other way from language B to language A. Then to put down a whole laundry list of language pairs... well, it just seems like a puerile effort to try to impress people with fluff.

Jack of all languages, master of none; that's too much to chew.


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:00
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Jack of some languages Aug 2, 2011

Henry Hinds wrote:

I would have serious doubts about amazing "multilingual" people who present themselves as being able to translate a long list of language pairs.


I am skeptical of people who "specialize" in a long list of completely unrelated fields. Nobody translates all languages (jack of ALL trades). We each have our strengths and weaknesses and shouldn't assume that they are the same for everyone.





[Edited at 2011-08-02 09:18 GMT]


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:00
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Depends... Aug 2, 2011

Henry Hinds wrote:

I would have serious doubts about amazing "multilingual" people who present themselves as being able to translate a long list of language pairs. It is not so easy to learn to translate from language A to language B on a professional level, and even harder to learn to go the other way from language B to language A. Then to put down a whole laundry list of language pairs... well, it just seems like a puerile effort to try to impress people with fluff.

Jack of all languages, master of none; that's too much to chew.


I can assure you that when you come from a country where one is, by the practical circumstances one grows up in, forced to learn a few (say 3 or 4) of languages, it is not uncommon to attain such a linguistic level that you can become a very good specialized translator from these languages into your (real) mother tongue. I have mentioned this many times and will keep repeating it: I prefer to have a technical text translated by an engineer who knows what he or she is technically talking about but who might only in 99% of the cases get everything linguistically right, instead of by a linguist who gets all the commas right but hasn't understood scratch from the material he or she is translating. Language is only a means, not the goal!

I prefer to be impressed by a well translated text with content, instead of by a text that is linguistically 100% correct but that, for the target audience it is meant for, is completely incomprehensible.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:00
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Seconding Henry and Phil Aug 2, 2011

Both make excellent points. The case of those who claim to professionally translate into English, but who clearly are not able to write even a short forum post or to describe themselves in their profiles without making numerous glaring errors, is especially cringeworthy.

And, unfortunately, all too frequent on this site.


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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:00
Italian to English
@ Robert - To take the side of posters to this forum Aug 2, 2011

I find that, yes, there is a lot of English that can make you cringe but, when you take a good look at their language pairs they turn out to be people who translate FROM English into some other language. And it is quite likely that they can do so well. After all, I translate from Italian to English but if I tried to write a post in Italian it would be riddled with errors but but you would get the gyst of it.
Eileen


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:00
Chinese to English
Can't write a decent sentence in your source languages? Aug 2, 2011

Really?

I'm addressing this to Eileen, I guess, but also to anyone else who thinks that "It's only my source language" is a good excuse for not being able to put a sentence together.

I'm not saying I can achieve any great literary quality in Chinese, but I reckon I can write grammatical sentences. I regularly participate in Chinese discussions online, and it's always gratifying to see when someone thinks I'm a native speaker. On the odd occasion when I've done some English>Chinese translation, I've never been picked up for a grammatical error. Equally, when I look back over my writing in Chinese do find clear errors, I'm mortified.

I would never have a go at a non-native speaker of English who makes errors in a forum post on Proz. I make errors in English in my forum posts! But I think as an intellectual goal, this idea that "it's alright because I don't translate into this language" is a bit impoverished.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:00
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Eileen--Trying to make things crystal clear Aug 2, 2011

I was referring, very specifically to those who identify themselves as translating professionally (i.e., as in, offering their services for money) into English.

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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:00
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Agree, but... Aug 2, 2011

Robert Forstag wrote:

Both make excellent points. The case of those who claim to professionally translate into English, but who clearly are not able to write even a short forum post or to describe themselves in their profiles without making numerous glaring errors, is especially cringeworthy.

And, unfortunately, all too frequent on this site.


..as Eileen mentioned, many of these people do not translate into English...and the fact that in these forums English is being used, is nothing more than a "coincidence"....Native English speakers (and writers) who make condescending remarks about the English some colleagues write would do well to try to imagine what would happen to them if let's say we decided to switch to another language as means of communication on these forums.


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:00
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Basic rule Aug 2, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:

Really?

I'm addressing this to Eileen, I guess, but also to anyone else who thinks that "It's only my source language" is a good excuse for not being able to put a sentence together.

I'm not saying I can achieve any great literary quality in Chinese, but I reckon I can write grammatical sentences. I regularly participate in Chinese discussions online, and it's always gratifying to see when someone thinks I'm a native speaker. On the odd occasion when I've done some English>Chinese translation, I've never been picked up for a grammatical error. Equally, when I look back over my writing in Chinese do find clear errors, I'm mortified.

I would never have a go at a non-native speaker of English who makes errors in a forum post on Proz. I make errors in English in my forum posts! But I think as an intellectual goal, this idea that "it's alright because I don't translate into this language" is a bit impoverished.


The basic rule is still valid: only translate into a language in which you are native (or to a high degree near-native)....and on top of that; whatever one tries to do, one should do as well as one can!

There is a difference between passive and active knowledge of a language; I myself have a full grasp of German. I will understand even the slightest nuance or even insinuation when reading or hearing the language, but I will NEVER EVER try to write a German sentence, as I simply know that, even with a lot of effort, I will always be making mistakes. Language pairs also have an associated direction, and for a very good reason!

[Edited at 2011-08-02 15:36 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-08-02 15:37 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:00
Chinese to English
Agree to disagree... Aug 2, 2011

I'll accept what you say, Sblat (?), but I have to say, I don't agree. I honestly think that you achieve greater insight into a language by using it actively as well as passively. I also think that a really full passive knowledge should, in principle, translate into a full active ability, with time and practice. That's not the same as being native (you never get enough practice in a second language); and it's certainly not the same as being a translator into a language (a translator is a professional writer, by definition a pretty highly skilled language user); but it should amount to a basic competence 90+% of the time, I think.

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