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How long does one search for one term before giving up?
Thread poster: Elisabeth Maurland

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Apr 20, 2015

I translated a technical text pretty quickly, not much to research, except for one 4-word incomplete sentence.
I started wracking my brain over it last night and sent an email to the agency to ask for clarification (they had told me the client would answer any question), but the answer was a link to where a similar term had been used, but not otherwise related to the product or text in question. It wasn't very helpful, and I have spent the better part of the day trying to figure out what was meant. I have asked in the KudoZ section too, but no answer.
All the words are simple, but I can't make them make sense in the context. I think it's a very vague direction for something pretty simple and not even very technical, but I can't understand what they mean, and I think that no amount of googling will help me.
So when do I stop? I have just decided to go from part time to full time translating, and the first thing I do is spend hours on one single, incomplete sentence. Not very encouraging....


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:57
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It happens.. Apr 20, 2015

Elisabeth Maurland wrote:

..... and the first thing I do is spend hours on one single, incomplete sentence. Not very encouraging....



That happens !

I often find that if I just leave that bit and translate the rest of the document, the meaning becomes clear. Occasionally our dear colleagues come up with good suggestions in Kudoz. Or sometimes if you just sleep on it and come back to it the next day, the meaning suddenly dawns on you. Sometimes it's a misspelled word and you don't realise.

You need to be quite clever with Google. I've been to the most amazing places in the Internet, voyaging through faraway, mysterious lands in search of that one little term I just can't translate.....


 

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yeah, I know... Apr 20, 2015

You need to be quite clever with Google. I've been to the most amazing places in the Internet, voyaging through faraway, mysterious lands in search of that one little term I just can't translate.....

That's what I love about translating! I do love the searching and the challenge and find myself a bit bored with easy translations. I have been all over with this one too, till my head started spinning. In this case, the words are so everyday, so the wracking of my brain has been to find ways to frame the search term so that I get some results I can use. I have slept on it too, and tried to look at it from different angles with emphasis on different words, with different meanings and different contexts. Nothing. I have considered misspellings, or a missing word, but I would need the client to help me there, because I can't make sense of it from that tack either.
I have finished the rest of the document, and that didn't help either. Is quitting even an option? Do you tell the agency that you have done everything you can with this sentence, and there is nothing you can do? I want to keep working for them...



[Edited at 2015-04-20 20:33 GMT]


 

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I didn't quote it right.... Apr 20, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

You need to be quite clever with Google. I've been to the most amazing places in the Internet, voyaging through faraway, mysterious lands in search of that one little term I just can't translate.....


I meant to put this in a block inside my comment above. I hope this works.


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:57
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I looked at your Kudoz post ... Apr 20, 2015

... and if it makes you feel any better, I don't know what it means either (I'm assuming it's the "bridge the wall only" one?).

Sometimes people write things that genuinely don't make sense and however much you try to make sense of it, it just doesn't. If you've asked and got no help I would submit the work with a note that this sentence needs rewriting or clarifying before you can translate it. You're a translator, not a magician.


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ask an English-English question Apr 20, 2015

You might get lucky!

Having looked at your post too, I've got an inkling of what it might be but it would be "Just guessing". The width - ie the length of each fold - of the door when folded up should not exceed the thickness of the wall. Does that make any sense?


 

Neptunia
Local time: 23:57
Italian to English
hmmm... Apr 20, 2015

does span the wall make more sense?

 

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, that is my post Apr 20, 2015

And it makes me feel better that I am not the only one! Finally I searched in the most old-fashioned way: I asked my husband. With fresh eyes, and a non-translator's eyes, he understood it, and using hand gestures and our wall, he was able to give me a pretty good idea, one that seems to fit pretty well with some of my online search results (none of which quite seemed to fit until he explained it).
I have been able to come up with a translation, albeit a pretty vague one. But I don't think it's wrong.
I will ask in the English-English forum as well (I didn't know that existed), and thanks, Rachel, for the tip on how to deal with situations like this.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:57
Chinese to English
You know you're a translator when you... Apr 20, 2015

Elisabeth Maurland wrote:

...spend hours on one single, incomplete sentence.

Never feel bad about being a stickler for doing your job right!

But what Rachel said is absolutely correct, and you can look at it another way: many texts come to us without having been properly edited and proofread. Often we are the first person to really rip a text apart, and when we find errors or poor phrasing, it can be useful for the client to know. So don't think of it as a failed translation, think of it as a value added service, letting the client know that this bit of the source text could really do with another look.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 03:27
English to Hindi
+ ...
That is where experience steps in Apr 21, 2015

All of us would have found ourselves in such a spot. As you gain more experience (I am not implying that you are not experienced, just that even the most experienced translator can gain further experience by translating more) you learn the knack of tackling such situations.

The first thing to keep in mind is that as a translator we work under certain rigid constraints - we are limited by the communicability of the source text. In some cases, we do produce better translated documents than the source, particularly if the latter is badly done, but there are clear limits to what can be achieved in translation - the source document.

So don't feel bad if a term or a sentence foxes you. The problem is in the source, and there is only so much we as translators can do to rectify this. You have already done what most of us would have done under similar circumstances - do a rigorous and honest research on the term by referring to available resources (kudoz, google, internet, etc.) and asking the client himself.

Where you seem to have faltered is in not knowing when to stop and turn in the translation. I would have send in the translation in the best form I could bring it under the circumstances and may be with a note on the particular area where the source is deficient and how I have dealt with it, and would retain a clear conscience after doing that.


 

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:57
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
40 minutes Apr 21, 2015

I spend 40 mins at most on looking up a term using Internet or other references. If this term is correctly used, 20 mins is usually enough to find out the meaning of the word or validate my judgment. In case that I can't figure it out in as long as 40 mins, I will turn to outsourcer to get some help.

 

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
True Apr 21, 2015

I was realizing that it was getting ridiculous, but I didn't know how to stop. Now I know, and I appreciate all the very helpful and encouraging comments here!
I have decided I still really don't have a good enough translation, but now I know what to ask/tell the agency.
And I am grateful for all new experiences, even though some of them are a little more costly than I had plannedicon_smile.gif


 

p1q01
Malaysia
Local time: 05:57
Member (2015)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Never thought of giving up :D Apr 21, 2015

It might be a hard time, and sometimes it takes longer time than I expected to get a phrase being translated correctly/appropriately, but never thought of giving up, perhaps this is the so called passion.

I agree with Phil, most of the time, the source content I received was rather a kind of rough draft or not edited context. It might be very frustrating, but think this way, it is another chance which can prove your skills (communication, responsibility, problem-solving etc) to your client.icon_smile.gif

My point of view is, I would still prefer to give some opinions (as a remark) regarding the rough draft/not edited context even some clients might not appreciate that, because it might help to prevent some arguments in the future.

Here is how I do after years of trial-and-error:
(i) when come to a phrase that looks completely meaningless, don't start to get panic, just leave it (I usually put few question marks for the unknown phrases) and continue to translate the next parts (believe me, this would save you a lot of time). Once the whole the content is (roughly) translated, from there I would get better picture of what the content is talking about (read a few times or read at least once for big project before translating could be a good habit too).

Now, the main topic of the content is clear, the next step is go back to those unknown phrases and analyze the phrases. Combine with previous and next sentences of the unknown phrase, I usually would ask myself a question: how would I write this part if I were the author/writer. For example, is the phrase describing the previous sentences? Then adjective might works. Or, is the phrase a statement for next sentence?

(ii) You mentioned that "All the words are simple, but I can't make them make sense in the context." In this case, I would suggest not to translate those "simple words", on the other hand, think of the meaning/message behind those simple words (what is the author/writer trying to tell the reader?).

There is the case that, the client might not be the author/writer, so even the client would like to help, but he/she could only provides some examples instead of giving an explanation.

Hope this might help to solve your problemicon_smile.gif


 

Norskpro
Sweden
Local time: 23:57
Member
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Where is it? Apr 21, 2015

Elisabeth Maurland wrote:

I have asked in the KudoZ section too, but no answer.



How can I see the kudos post? I went to kudos, but could not see your name there.


 

Elisabeth Maurland
United States
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is my post: Apr 21, 2015

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/english_to_norwegianbokmal/construction_civil_engineering/5830456-bridge_the_wall.html

 
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