Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
What is the ideal for translation?
Thread poster: Phil Hand

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:56
Chinese to English
Oct 29, 2014

In a few of the debates we've had on here, it's struck me that people might be working from completely different ideas of what ideal translation might be. Just as an example, when talking about machine translation, I realised that many clients probably want machine translation for the consistency and reliability that it would theoretically offer. And I'm sure there are differences of opinion among translators, too. So I thought I'd offer my vision of what an ideal translation process would be li... See more
In a few of the debates we've had on here, it's struck me that people might be working from completely different ideas of what ideal translation might be. Just as an example, when talking about machine translation, I realised that many clients probably want machine translation for the consistency and reliability that it would theoretically offer. And I'm sure there are differences of opinion among translators, too. So I thought I'd offer my vision of what an ideal translation process would be like, and ask you for yours. Maybe we'll find some interesting differences!

1) The client. The translators would have the ability to speak directly to the client. If the client is not the user of the translation, then the client would allow/help the translators to speak to the users as well.
The client would offer contact with the author of the source text, if she is available.
The client would understand that translation is a fundamentally human process: that the translators are reading the source text and making an interpretation of the source text in the target language. The client would accept that the translation can be authoritative and provisional at the same time. If necessary, the client will accept translators' notes.
The client understands the nature of the source text, and the purpose of the target text, and communicates both to the translators.
If the client has any linguistic requirements for the target, she delivers them to the translators in an easily accessible form (I'm thinking here of glossaries: for goodness' sake, put them in CAT-readable form!).

2) The agency (if any). The agency acts as coordinator, technical support and clearing house for information. It converts files into appropriate formats, handles diagrams and other formatting issues. It offers technical resources and puts translators in touch with the right people.

3) The translators. There are two translators, and they are in direct contact with one another, and a previously established willingness to work together and mutual respect.
They have an explicit agreement about how to divide up the responsibilities. Most commonly, translator A will translate, B will edit, and A will confirm. In this set up, the final responsibility for the text rests entirely with A.
The translators will have discretion over which software tools to use, if any.
The translators will have professional working knowledge of the source language. This means: sufficient knowledge of the source language and the field of the text that they can understand the source text exactly as its target readers understand it; further understanding of the source language and culture sufficient to put the text in context and understand how it relates to non-target readers.
Translator A will have native (or native-equivalent), professional language skills in the target language. She will be an experienced writer of texts (as translator or otherwise) in the field of the translation, with a full knowledge of any domain-relevant jargon and its relative comprehensibility to those who do not know that domain (i.e. she can use technical terms accurately and judiciously).
The translators will be in agreement on the purpose of the text and the translation, and translator B will agree to defer to translator A on matters of style or judgment calls.
The translators will produce an authoritative translation to the best of their ability. Any cultural or translation issues which defy easy solutions should be flagged in a translators' note.

And there should be enough time and enough money that everyone can focus on their job rather than worrying about either.

OK, that seems like enough. Now, remember that this is supposed to be *ideal*. Most translation jobs are definitely non-ideal, and I'm not complaining about that here. I'm just interested to know if we even have a broadly shared conception of the ideal. I'd love to hear what you disagree with in the above, and what your ideas for the ideal translation process are.
Collapse


 

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:56
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
just name one Oct 29, 2014

Hopefully, the source content should be correct, logical and well organized, one contributor to the ideal for sure.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:56
Russian to English
+ ...
I may have some more ideas later, but just this one for now. Oct 29, 2014

Translation is a highly sophisticated skill or a set of skills, rather, which not that many people really posses, if you compare it with other profession. This is why translation is expensive, should be expensive, and it has always been expensive. Under those circumstances, I don't really see the place for any middlemen. Translation (in contrast to interpreting) is not something that should be outsourced on an everyday basis--perhaps just sporadically, as a referral.

 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 02:56
English to Russian
+ ...
Agree with Phil + more Oct 29, 2014

I totally agree with Phil, and would suggest some more principles along the same lines.

1. In a project that's multilingual from its inception (e.g. a product manual or a software user interface intended for international distribution), creation of the first (base language) version should already involve translators, who may be able to advise the writer/developer of potential problems, such as the use of poorly translatable culturally specific concepts, or even something as trivial
... See more
I totally agree with Phil, and would suggest some more principles along the same lines.

1. In a project that's multilingual from its inception (e.g. a product manual or a software user interface intended for international distribution), creation of the first (base language) version should already involve translators, who may be able to advise the writer/developer of potential problems, such as the use of poorly translatable culturally specific concepts, or even something as trivial as failing to allocate enough space on the screen to accommodate the translated text (which may be several times longer than the base version). Examples of the latter can often be found in conventional mobile phones if you switch the user interface to a language like Russian or Finnish - abbreviations are sometimes illogical and incomprehensible. Generalising this a bit, it's better to write the text directly in the target language than to translate it, even if (or especially if?) the writer and the translator are actually one and the same person wearing different hats.

2. In highly specialised translations, the translator should have a background in the subject field. Having a translation performed by a "pure" linguist and then edited by a subject field specialist is counterproductive (and damaging to editor's nerves, too).
Collapse


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My ideal... Oct 29, 2014

My ideal would be a regular flow of translations of the type that really interests me, at the right time, without too much pressure, all year round. No periods of too much work, and no periods of not enough work.

I'm a dreamer. Aren't we all?


 

Inge Luus  Identity Verified
South Africa
Local time: 03:56
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Indeed... Oct 29, 2014

...this is the ideal they teach us at university. Plus - a brief from the client, ie specific instructions regarding who the target audience is. In practice, we always have to assume who the end reader is.

@Tom in London: agree with all yours plus: sabbatical of 2 months every year (without losing clients or being harassed with jobs during that time) for reading, research and relaxation.


 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:56
German to English
+ ...
answering Oct 29, 2014

A translation has two components; translation and (target) language. The translation itself must reflect the original with nothing added, omitted, or changed. Tone, purpose and register are in there too. The language must be correct in terms of spelling, grammar, syntax, and go beyond that. It must be plausible, "native" sounding, and also fit the context - if it's a doctor-to-doctor conversation, seller to customer, speech to audience - then the language must be appropriate to that context.... See more
A translation has two components; translation and (target) language. The translation itself must reflect the original with nothing added, omitted, or changed. Tone, purpose and register are in there too. The language must be correct in terms of spelling, grammar, syntax, and go beyond that. It must be plausible, "native" sounding, and also fit the context - if it's a doctor-to-doctor conversation, seller to customer, speech to audience - then the language must be appropriate to that context. The target country is also important. Often the target language is used in more than one country. German, for example, is used in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. English is even more wide spread.

I agree that the customer plays an important role and should be included in the process as much as it is possible - here I mean the end client. It is the customer who can tell you the purpose of the translation, the target country, and any special needs. If working with a competent agency (PM), that PM will ferret out that information - if not you have to ask. If working directly with the client, then asking is a simple matter.

So to a great measure I agree with point 1 - the client. However:
The client would offer contact with the author of the source text, if she is available.

Clients receive texts in foreign languages that they themselves don't understand, and in that case they cannot give any contact with the author - nor would someone who wrote the client in a foreign language want to spend time with the client's translator. This is only true if the client himself wrote the text, rather than having received it.
If the client has any linguistic requirements for the target, she delivers them to the translators in an easily accessible form (I'm thinking here of glossaries: for goodness' sake, put them in CAT-readable form!).

That is only true if the client has expertise in the target language and subject matter. Most customers I work for rely on my expertise and my ability to find the appropriate terms and wording. However, the client should be available for questions. On rare occasions I've had end clients who had in-house conventions, such as certain government departments. I have never in almost 30 years received a glossary from anyone. Some of us don't use CAT tools.
) The agency (if any). The agency acts as coordinator, technical support and clearing house for information. It converts files into appropriate formats, handles diagrams and other formatting issues. It offers technical resources and puts translators in touch with the right people.

My customers include some fantastic agencies, some going back decades. I agree that an agency coordinates, in that it talks to the end client, then engages a translator and makes sure that the right information flows back and forth, then eventually hands the translation to the client and payment to the translator. I haven't experienced or needed file conversions. In regards to diagrams - yes, desktop matters are not the responsibility nor expertise of the translator. I can't imagine the technical resource part.

3) The translators. There are two translators, and they are in direct contact with one another, and a previously established willingness to work together and mutual respect.

I very rarely work with another translator. One agency I work for hires a second translator to proofread. I've been part of a team a few times, and I have also hired an expert in a specialized field a few times. I agree about the mutual respect and the other things you mentioned. We can assume that both are competent, and if there is proofreading (in the broader sense), that translator knows at least as much as the first translator. I like this:
In this set up, the final responsibility for the text rests entirely with A.

Finally
And there should be enough time and enough money that everyone can focus on their job rather than worrying about either.

In a freelance situation, the client quotes his or her fee. In regards to time, this goes beyond worry - the only way to guarantee quality is by taking enough time to do the work properly.
Collapse


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
No Urgent or ASAP tasks Oct 29, 2014

My ideal would be those 2 first, so I would carry out proper research or think properly and do the work without being harassed every five seconds with emails that ask where I have got to, plus clear directions from the agency/client-things I should know like if it is the same agent and so requires the same terminology, to cite just one example. Then, I would also mention being given the relevant directions, and not being told "Sorry, I forgot that x condition did not apply to you and did not rem... See more
My ideal would be those 2 first, so I would carry out proper research or think properly and do the work without being harassed every five seconds with emails that ask where I have got to, plus clear directions from the agency/client-things I should know like if it is the same agent and so requires the same terminology, to cite just one example. Then, I would also mention being given the relevant directions, and not being told "Sorry, I forgot that x condition did not apply to you and did not remove it". I hate the toing and froing of useless emails when things could have been settled clearly in the first place.Collapse


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree with most of your "ideals" + feedback from customers Oct 29, 2014

I mean, it is may be a small detail, but it would be nice to have regular, constructive and honest feedback from our customers (with track changes).

Not that I ask for it always, but when I do, most of the time the email is ignored. Then I shall assume the translation was good, as the customers come back and nobody complains.

I need this not to self-satisfy my proud self. I need this to improve my skills to serve them better, which should be also in their interest. ... See more
I mean, it is may be a small detail, but it would be nice to have regular, constructive and honest feedback from our customers (with track changes).

Not that I ask for it always, but when I do, most of the time the email is ignored. Then I shall assume the translation was good, as the customers come back and nobody complains.

I need this not to self-satisfy my proud self. I need this to improve my skills to serve them better, which should be also in their interest.

But I understand, everybody is so busy...
Collapse


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Feedback from customers Oct 29, 2014

That's a point I forgot too, so I perfectly agree with you Merab. They ignore it and even after having worked with them for some time, but either come back, or else they never send a complaint or ask for review. Assuming they do not complain or ask for review, one would expect the translation would have been fine, especially when the agreed time has elapsed-some ask that review has ro be asked for within 10 days, some specify that review has to be asked for within 30 days-but the point is that P... See more
That's a point I forgot too, so I perfectly agree with you Merab. They ignore it and even after having worked with them for some time, but either come back, or else they never send a complaint or ask for review. Assuming they do not complain or ask for review, one would expect the translation would have been fine, especially when the agreed time has elapsed-some ask that review has ro be asked for within 10 days, some specify that review has to be asked for within 30 days-but the point is that PMs are either too busy doing other work, or cannot be bothered about feedback, only about availability and the job. Maybe they fear that if they provide feedback, they will lose a certain translator?Collapse


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 07:26
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
Fidelity to source and flow Oct 29, 2014

In my opinion, these two are the most important cornerstones of any ideal translation. The translation should be faithful to the source - that is, it should convey the same meaning to a person of the target language as the source would to a person of the source language.

To achieve this, the translator should have a very high level of proficiency in the source language to enable him to understand the nuances of the source text.

The next important criterion is flow - how
... See more
In my opinion, these two are the most important cornerstones of any ideal translation. The translation should be faithful to the source - that is, it should convey the same meaning to a person of the target language as the source would to a person of the source language.

To achieve this, the translator should have a very high level of proficiency in the source language to enable him to understand the nuances of the source text.

The next important criterion is flow - however true a translation may be to the source, if it is also not fluent, no one would consider it to be a good translation. So the translation should read like original writing in the target language.

An exemplary translation would be one that would fool a reader into thinking that it is originally composed in the target language and is not a translation at all.

To achieve this level of fluency in the translation, you would need a very high level of proficiency in the target language.

In sum, an ideal translation would be produced by a translator who is a near bilingual in his source and target languages.

If these qualities cannot be found in a single person, a team of experts can produce something approaching this ideal. Such team would consist of language experts of the source and target languages, subject experts, revisers, editors and proof-readers, all working together and closely interacting with each other.
Collapse


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
mmm Oct 29, 2014

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:
The translation should be faithful to the source



YOu should not even know that you are reading a translation.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Could be Oct 29, 2014

Josephine Cassar wrote:

Maybe they fear that if they provide feedback, they will lose a certain translator?


That could be one of the points, Josephine. However, this will largely depend on how the translator will "manage" the feedback.

I once received a "complaint" from one of my customers relating to a couple of typos in my translation (things like "publico" instead of "público"). The translation itself was regarded to be within the expectations, no issues there.

Now, I could "get offended" and argue that was proofreader's job, etc. Of course, this would be stupid. My customer was right, there were a couple of typos in my document.

Rather than concentrating on the emotional part of the issue, I simply started analysing the root cause. I discovered that:

- Trados has very poor spell check capabilities and its built in dictionaries are largely flawed (Spanish, at least). It is incredible, though, since it costs quite some chunk of money.

- I discovered that if I ran spell check and grammar check in Word, after I have exported the target document, this would fix all possible typos; stupid things, such as missing "¿" signs, spaces, etc.).

As a result, I thanked the customer for the feedback, apologised, promised that would not happen again and kept my promise.

We still collaborate and they shoot, time to time, track changes, so I can see what the possible improvements are (they have very good editors, in my opinion). I see it as a win-win situation. Our work is edited anyway. So, no extra effort to just share it?

I refer to this kind of feedback, so it helps us to implement improvements.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree, it is a tradeoff, but "natural flow" wins Oct 29, 2014

Tom in London wrote:


YOu should not even know that you are reading a translation.


I'd rather use slightly different term or construction than the source text uses (so long it conveys the same meaning), and let the language "flow" naturally.

I have edited some documents where the "translator" simply kept the word order and the meaning of almost all and every word in the phrase. Sure, it was "faithful" to the original, but boy, I had hard time reading it.


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
My ideal would be not to receive this: Oct 29, 2014

A job consisting of 8000 words, deadline is comfortable, so no complaints there, but with these reductions:
Repetition-275
101% - 137
100% - 68
95%-99%-490
85%-94%-370
75%-84%-692
50%-74%-1396
No match-5271
Total payment expected €212.57, which works out at €0.0265 per word. Thanks, no thanks, but someone must have accepted these rates, together with the responsibility and refused other jobs. Besides, this was from a company that has a l
... See more
A job consisting of 8000 words, deadline is comfortable, so no complaints there, but with these reductions:
Repetition-275
101% - 137
100% - 68
95%-99%-490
85%-94%-370
75%-84%-692
50%-74%-1396
No match-5271
Total payment expected €212.57, which works out at €0.0265 per word. Thanks, no thanks, but someone must have accepted these rates, together with the responsibility and refused other jobs. Besides, this was from a company that has a lot of 5s in the BB entries, though there were some complaints about late payments.
Concerning feedback, I meant when one has not received any complaints or comments that the text needs reviewing. Taking feedback in a positive way always helps one develop or see alternatives one might not have considered, too.


[Edited at 2014-10-29 15:37 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-10-29 15:37 GMT]
Collapse


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

What is the ideal for translation?

Advanced search







SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running, helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features.

More info »
Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search