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Real-world acquisition of a specialization
Thread poster: Mario Chavez

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nov 22, 2017

Not long ago, I had opined on a different topic saying that itemizing terminology tasks (glossary building, or research of specialized terms), proposed by Dr. Lynne Bowker in an paper I researched for my PhD work recently.

Some considered it an impractical thing to do. Well, I'm currently working on my first translation project that includes terminology research, which will be itemized on my invoice by hours of work.

Now, this particular project involves metalworking fluids, a subspecialization of, I think, metalworking or metallurgy. I'm not happy with just building a glossary of terms. So I've been educating myself on different new concepts (new to me) on metalworking.

That drove me to ask rhetorically: how does a translator typically develop a new specialization? The answer has to be detailed and include method, a process, a series of steps, which can be 2, 3 or 20 depending on your preference and priorities. Whatever the steps or the details of the process (feel free to share), I think that the current climate of speed translation to meet almost impossible deadlines conspire against the proper development of a specialization.

What do you think?


 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 14:01
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
I don't understand Nov 22, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

I'm currently working on my first translation project that includes terminology research.



At least 90% of my projects involve terminology research and glossary building, and I consider myself lucky that I work almost exclusively with patents. You mean you've NEVER done that before?

For each single project, research and glossary building can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to a full day, and simplify immensely the translation process - non to mention the improvement in consistency and overall correctness and fluency: once the glossary is done, you hardly need to bother with terminology, and you can focus on meaning and style.

[Edited at 2017-11-22 23:01 GMT]


 

The Misha
Local time: 08:01
Russian to English
+ ...
A think you are overthinking it. And it serves no purpose. Nov 22, 2017

Naturally, the best way to develop a specialization in a particular subject matter area would be to go and work in that field for a while. In the context of your project, it would mean getting a metalworker job (if anybody would hire you, of course) or getting trained and then working as a mechanical engineer for a while. There is indeed a reason why for most successful translators, this is a second, if not third career. Short of that, you try to educate yourself using whatever means available, such as reading instructional materials and textbooks, comparing texts about the subject matter in your two languages, drinking with metalworking professionals after hours, etc. Little by little, you get the knack of it, and when you are comfortable enough with your knowledge, you start accepting small translation jobs dealing with such matters, than larger jobs and still larger ones. Over the years, you become the go-to wizard. Or guru. Or bwana, or whatever it is they will want to call you:)

To be sure, this is all very long, tedious and time consuming - but what did you expect? A magic pill? Some miraculous learning-in-your sleep method? Ahem, I don't think so. I am afraid the humanity has not come up with anything better over thousands of years than learning by doing, and it's anticlimactic and takes long, whether we like it or not.

Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to be a critic. Who am I to tell anyone what to research or get PhDs in? Yet, if you think that any of this "linguistic" or "translation" research adds any value to the process of making a living by way of converting words in one language into words in a different language, you are probably deluding yourself and, worse still, possibly confusing others.

BTW, the first sentence of your original post is apparently missing something you intended to put there, and that omission makes it ungrammatical. You may want to fix that.

P.S. As a disclaimer, unlike many (if not most) in this business, I actually am a formally trained linguist and did plenty of "linguistic research" back in my time. That's how I know.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification Nov 22, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Mario Chavez wrote:

I'm currently working on my first translation project that includes terminology research.



At least 90% of my projects involve terminology research and glossary building, and I consider myself lucky that I work almost exclusively with patents. You mean you've NEVER done that before?

For each single project, research and glossary building can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to a full day, and simplify immensely the translation process - non to mention the improvement in consistency and overall correctness and fluency: once the glossary is done, you hardly need to bother with terminology, and you can focus on meaning and style.

[Edited at 2017-11-22 23:01 GMT]


Naturally, I do research for all my translation projects, but this is the first time I can itemize that activity in an invoice to the client.


 

CARL HARRIS
United States
Local time: 07:01
Member (2013)
English to French
+ ...
Real-world acquisition of a specialization Nov 22, 2017

Hello Mario,
I started work as an apprentice machinist and learned the required skill sets to become a machinist; it’s during that time I learned about and used various metalworking fluids. In each case it is required to select the metalworking fluid based on the metal alloy and the type of operation.

I gained a B.Sc. in industrial engineering, and immediately started translating ‘work instructions’ from English into French at a major aerospace company in Québec. As such, the specialization process was developed prior to becoming a translator.


 

Sumit1970  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:31
English to Bengali
+ ...
Specialists hardly translate Nov 23, 2017

Hi,
I guess translation industry have very few translators who used to be experts in subjects apart from language.
A specialist would not bother wasting time for translating texts, only retired persons may. Then again, they may not have enough competence in any language.
Generally speaking, Doctors don't translate medical texts.
Engineers don't translate technical texts.
Advocates don't translate legal texts.
Translators do it, who are nothing but people having good knowledge on two or more languages.
However, while translating we do have to do little bit of study of different specialized matters. That is how it is and that is how it should be.
We are not true specialists in any field apart from languages. No client will pay you for or give enough time for becoming a specialist in metallurgy while you translate metallurgy texts.
Hope I didn't overstate anything.
Carl, I appropriate your hard working attitude. That finally yields result in the long run.
Thanking you.
Sumit1970

[Edited at 2017-11-23 02:25 GMT]


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Work-based specialization Nov 23, 2017

CARL HARRIS wrote:

Hello Mario,
I started work as an apprentice machinist and learned the required skill sets to become a machinist; it’s during that time I learned about and used various metalworking fluids. In each case it is required to select the metalworking fluid based on the metal alloy and the type of operation.

I gained a B.Sc. in industrial engineering, and immediately started translating ‘work instructions’ from English into French at a major aerospace company in Québec. As such, the specialization process was developed prior to becoming a translator.


That kind of experience is enviable. There are many translators who leverage that experience into specialized knowledge useful for translation and interpreting. Thanks!


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Guesses Nov 23, 2017

Sumit1970 wrote:

Hi,
I guess translation industry have very few translators who used to be experts in subjects apart from language.
A specialist would not bother wasting time for translating texts, only retired persons may. Then again, they may not have enough competence in any language.
Generally speaking, Doctors don't translate medical texts.
Engineers don't translate technical texts.
Advocates don't translate legal texts.
Translators do it, who are nothing but people having good knowledge on two or more languages.
However, while translating we do have to do little bit of study of different specialized matters. That is how it is and that is how it should be.
We are not true specialists in any field apart from languages. No client will pay you for or give enough time for becoming a specialist in metallurgy while you translate metallurgy texts.
Hope I didn't overstate anything.
Carl, I appropriate your hard working attitude. That finally yields result in the long run.
Thanking you.
Sumit1970

[Edited at 2017-11-23 02:25 GMT]


Your guess is wide off the mark, sir. How have you arrived at those conclusions? Your opinion seems to be based on a smattering of generalizations. I take particular issue with your statement “We are not true specialists [sic] in any field apart from languages.” Speak for yourself, sir.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Generalising and specialising Nov 23, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

Your opinion seems to be based on a smattering of generalizations. I take particular issue with your statement “We are not true specialists [sic] in any field apart from languages.” Speak for yourself, sir.


I think it's a fair generalisation, though, Mario. If you're working full-time as a translator you won't by definition have time to specialise in anything else to the same extent as someone who works full-time in that field.

(Which is not to say that you need that level of expertise to translate.)

There's something a bit suspect about a doctor or financial analyst or lawyer who turns translator, given that this means a major cut in pay and prestige. Yes, there may be a sound reason in some cases, but my instinct is that very often they will have failed in that career. And, of course, not having specialised in languages, they may also make very poor translators.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at with your original question, Mario. I'm not convinced by your claim (an unsupported generalisation no less; shock, horror!) that deadlines are shorter these days, but either way, I would imagine that metalworking fluids aren't something you should just dive straight into without any prior experience in the field, whatever your method.


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 14:01
Member (2016)
English to German
Both variants work Nov 23, 2017

Sumit1970 wrote:

Hi,
I guess translation industry have very few translators who used to be experts in subjects apart from language.
A specialist would not bother wasting time for translating texts, only retired persons may. Then again, they may not have enough competence in any language.
Generally speaking, Doctors don't translate medical texts.
Engineers don't translate technical texts.
Advocates don't translate legal texts.
Translators do it, who are nothing but people having good knowledge on two or more languages.
However, while translating we do have to do little bit of study of different specialized matters. That is how it is and that is how it should be.
We are not true specialists in any field apart from languages. No client will pay you for or give enough time for becoming a specialist in metallurgy while you translate metallurgy texts.
Hope I didn't overstate anything.
Carl, I appropriate your hard working attitude. That finally yields result in the long run.
Thanking you.
Sumit1970

[Edited at 2017-11-23 02:25 GMT]


I think that there are many translators who originally came from another field and will naturally bring their knowledge of this field into their new profession. I'm actually a software developer (and still do some work in this field besides translating). Both variants work, you can be a translator specializing in a field, or you can be a specialist and become a translator. Either way, you never stop learning.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:01
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
The ones I know are not failures Nov 23, 2017

Chris S wrote:

There's something a bit suspect about a doctor or financial analyst or lawyer who turns translator, given that this means a major cut in pay and prestige. Yes, there may be a sound reason in some cases, but my instinct is that very often they will have failed in that career. And, of course, not having specialised in languages, they may also make very poor translators.



The medical translators I know are people who have quit the medical profession either after serious burn-out or to be able to work from home to make parenting easier. Ah, and a nurse who had to quit because of an accident that left them wheelchair bound.


 

CARL HARRIS
United States
Local time: 07:01
Member (2013)
English to French
+ ...
Both variants work Nov 23, 2017

This is Mario’s poster, and I gave a hint that I may be able to help with information on metalworking fluids if required. My thanks to Mario and Kay-Viktor for their comments.

 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Mixed signals Nov 23, 2017

The Misha wrote:

Naturally, the best way to develop a specialization in a particular subject matter area would be to go and work in that field for a while. In the context of your project, it would mean getting a metalworker job (if anybody would hire you, of course) or getting trained and then working as a mechanical engineer for a while. There is indeed a reason why for most successful translators, this is a second, if not third career. Short of that, you try to educate yourself using whatever means available, such as reading instructional materials and textbooks, comparing texts about the subject matter in your two languages, drinking with metalworking professionals after hours, etc. Little by little, you get the knack of it, and when you are comfortable enough with your knowledge, you start accepting small translation jobs dealing with such matters, than larger jobs and still larger ones. Over the years, you become the go-to wizard. Or guru. Or bwana, or whatever it is they will want to call you:)

To be sure, this is all very long, tedious and time consuming - but what did you expect? A magic pill? Some miraculous learning-in-your sleep method? Ahem, I don't think so. I am afraid the humanity has not come up with anything better over thousands of years than learning by doing, and it's anticlimactic and takes long, whether we like it or not.

Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to be a critic. Who am I to tell anyone what to research or get PhDs in? Yet, if you think that any of this "linguistic" or "translation" research adds any value to the process of making a living by way of converting words in one language into words in a different language, you are probably deluding yourself and, worse still, possibly confusing others.

BTW, the first sentence of your original post is apparently missing something you intended to put there, and that omission makes it ungrammatical. You may want to fix that.

P.S. As a disclaimer, unlike many (if not most) in this business, I actually am a formally trained linguist and did plenty of "linguistic research" back in my time. That's how I know.


On one hand, you say you're not trying to be a critic. Then you go on with unwarranted criticism on certain areas that, to me, serve little purpose. I asked everyone what they thought about the topic, not about how rightly or wrongly I went about acquiring my own knowledge. Please measure your approach next time as it comes as aggressive, presumptuous and impolite.

Your explanation about how to learn a specialization is well conceived. It's what Carl actually described in fewer words.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No time to specialize in everything Nov 23, 2017

Chris S wrote:

Mario Chavez wrote:

Your opinion seems to be based on a smattering of generalizations. I take particular issue with your statement “We are not true specialists [sic] in any field apart from languages.” Speak for yourself, sir.


I think it's a fair generalisation, though, Mario. If you're working full-time as a translator you won't by definition have time to specialise in anything else to the same extent as someone who works full-time in that field.

(Which is not to say that you need that level of expertise to translate.)

There's something a bit suspect about a doctor or financial analyst or lawyer who turns translator, given that this means a major cut in pay and prestige. Yes, there may be a sound reason in some cases, but my instinct is that very often they will have failed in that career. And, of course, not having specialised in languages, they may also make very poor translators.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at with your original question, Mario. I'm not convinced by your claim (an unsupported generalisation no less; shock, horror!) that deadlines are shorter these days, but either way, I would imagine that metalworking fluids aren't something you should just dive straight into without any prior experience in the field, whatever your method.


True, even if a translator chose to specialize in just two fields, say welding and wire manufacturing, he wouldn't have much time left to practice good writing, learning equivalent expressions and comparative texts for the languages he offers translations in.

I tend to admire doctors, scientists or carpenters who become translators and take advantage of their specialized knowledge and expertise, provided they're also very good writers in both languages. I haven't thought about why they would choose to change careers, though.

As for my generalization that deadlines are getting shorter these days, I admit it is a biased generalization based on partial observations and comments from many translators throughout the years. One reason for that generalization is that many young translation graduates or new translators (2-4 years of experience) offer high-speed translation services (not rush, mind you). I've read in several Proz profiles how they offer fast translations. That factor feeds into the shorter deadlines reasoning in my view.

Finally, I intuitively know and accept that some specializations choose the translator, not the other way around. How? Why? Consider this: a longtime customer you do accounting translations offers you new projects in bank investment, a different area. The deadlines are reasonable and the projects go on for 2 years or more. That's how I have built new knowledge and new specializations without being an accountant or a bank investor.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Offer accepted Nov 23, 2017

CARL HARRIS wrote:

This is Mario’s poster, and I gave a hint that I may be able to help with information on metalworking fluids if required. My thanks to Mario and Kay-Viktor for their comments.


Carl, I might reach out and contact you privately regarding my project as doubts appear. Thanks.


 
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