Skopos theory in modern practice: the translation brief/commission
Thread poster: BabsSpicer
BabsSpicer
United Kingdom
Aug 1

As an MA in Translation student, I'm researching an essay on the use of cloud-based translation management systems and the impact on translators' working practices.

I'm keen to find out from freelance or in-house translators how they feel about the translation briefs they receive. Are they too prescriptive? Do they allow the translator any opportunity to exercise their role as an expert?

I'm considering the relevance of skopos theory in modern collaborative translation environments and it would be fantastic to have opinions of how the brief may have changed with the increase in MT and CAT tools.

I would like to gather authentic translation briefs for analysis and would appreciate help with this. All data would be anonymised.

Barbara


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
First things first Aug 2

Please fill out your Proz profile as we don't know who you are.

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philgoddard
United States
German to English
+ ...
I'll tell you one thing for free... Aug 2

I detest cloud-based translation management systems. They make life much more complicated for me, and possibly for my customers too. But they haven't changed the nature of the briefs I receive - some are good, some bad, some nonexistent.

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 01:24
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Don't know these things Aug 2

I only know that clients always think they know better than we translators. As long as clients don't understand skopos theory, it stays utopia.

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BabsSpicer
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your replies so far Aug 2

Thank you for replying, Heinrich and Phil. As a student without actual experience, it is good to hear from professionals in the industry. Do you mind if I use your comments in my essay? (it's for academic purposes only).

Mario, I will complete my profile as soon as possible. I wanted to test if my research question topic was relevant and to get some opinions.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
My 2p Aug 2

Collaborative translation will by definition limit the freedom and creativity of the individual translator, resulting in a bland end-product whatever the brief.

This may not matter in areas like engineering.

Elsewhere, collective translation memories are a godsend for the unskilled translator, but restrictive and soul-destroying for the skilled translator.

Hence many of us dinosaurs continue to avoid them like the plague.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Potentially causes more problems than it resolves Aug 2

BabsSpicer wrote:
I'm considering the relevance of skopos theory in modern collaborative translation environments

My feeling about collaborative translation is that the overhead imposed by communicating opinions or questions on terminology and other project issues can become a problem very quickly. I haven't done much of this, but I worked with two other competent translators on a large job last year and consistency of terminology became an issue very early on.

It's all very well to say "make an entry in the termbase and use that", but who decides which entry of up to (in this case) three candidate entries is the correct entry? Who adjudicates? And how much time should they spend adjudicating? If all the translators work in the same room it may be somewhat easier, but there is still a genuine cost attached.

In some situations, where very large projects need to be delivered fairly quickly, dividing a project between multiple translators may be the only reasonable solution, but I would hypothesise that project efficiency declines dramatically. (Of course, if the approach is effective, efficiency may not be an issue. If you're trying to get out of the way of a careering double-decker bus, it doesn't matter how efficiently you remove yourself from its path, only that you do so before it hits you.)

Incidentally, this problem of communicative burden is not unique to translation but is inherent to any modern collaborative effort. Fred Brooks covered it more than 40 years ago in his software development classic "The Mythical Man Month", hence "Brook's Law".

Regarding "authentic briefs", I can't imagine any of my clients consenting to share their information with a third party, anonymised or not. It's a big ask.

Dan


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Relevance Aug 2

BabsSpicer wrote:

Thank you for replying, Heinrich and Phil. As a student without actual experience, it is good to hear from professionals in the industry. Do you mind if I use your comments in my essay? (it's for academic purposes only).

Mario, I will complete my profile as soon as possible. I wanted to test if my research question topic was relevant and to get some opinions.


If your own university professors haven't done it already, I strongly suggest you search the published literature on skopos theory first. Shooting in the dark is hardly a bona fide academic research method.


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BabsSpicer
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Mario Aug 2

Hi Mario

Thank you for your reply.

I've looked at a number of books and papers on skopos theory but wondered how relevant the concept is in modern online collaborative environments where the traditional notion of a single intermediary/translator between sender and receiver has changed working practices. The TMS-enabled practice of multiple translators working on large projects raises interesting questions and Dan Lucas' reply (thank you!) included really useful comments on who is the 'expert' with the final decision when there are differences of opinions.

This is my first year essay and not the final dissertation, two years away.

I really appreciate the time that everyone's taken to reply. The impact of technology on translators' working practices is of huge personal and academic interest.

Kind regards

Barbara


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BabsSpicer
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Aug 2

My tutor suggested using Proz.com and I'm glad I did. Thank you for taking the time to reply, Dan and for your very helpful comments.

Dan Lucas wrote:

BabsSpicer wrote:
I'm considering the relevance of skopos theory in modern collaborative translation environments

My feeling about collaborative translation is that the overhead imposed by communicating opinions or questions on terminology and other project issues can become a problem very quickly. I haven't done much of this, but I worked with two other competent translators on a large job last year and consistency of terminology became an issue very early on.

It's all very well to say "make an entry in the termbase and use that", but who decides which entry of up to (in this case) three candidate entries is the correct entry? Who adjudicates? And how much time should they spend adjudicating? If all the translators work in the same room it may be somewhat easier, but there is still a genuine cost attached.

In some situations, where very large projects need to be delivered fairly quickly, dividing a project between multiple translators may be the only reasonable solution, but I would hypothesise that project efficiency declines dramatically. (Of course, if the approach is effective, efficiency may not be an issue. If you're trying to get out of the way of a careering double-decker bus, it doesn't matter how efficiently you remove yourself from its path, only that you do so before it hits you.)

Incidentally, this problem of communicative burden is not unique to translation but is inherent to any modern collaborative effort. Fred Brooks covered it more than 40 years ago in his software development classic "The Mythical Man Month", hence "Brook's Law".

Regarding "authentic briefs", I can't imagine any of my clients consenting to share their information with a third party, anonymised or not. It's a big ask.

Dan


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Scary... Aug 3

BabsSpicer wrote:

... in modern online collaborative environments ...


As an old school, 20th-century translator, I am very wary of the entire notion of all things "cloudy". I prefer to know exactly who I'm sharing my TMs and other stuff with.


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