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Translation competence: what's your list?
Thread poster: Mario Chavez

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
NEW THINGS Dec 7, 2017

Tina Vonhof wrote:

.....curiosity and a desire to learn new things.


Thanks to the job I finished yesterday, I now know everything about how a wood pellet-fired stove works and how to clean it. I am sure this has enriched the sum total of my knowledge.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That raises another very important requirement Dec 7, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:
market realities often take us to be bidirectional in our translations. And I'm not talking about current market realities. Translation bidirectionality has existed since men and women started to translate.

Any translator worth their salt will know, or quickly learn, how and when to say no to clients. Whatever the "market reality" might be, the "individual reality" is that nobody can force you to do anything you don't want to do, and certainly shouldn't be able to force you to do things you don't think you can do well enough. Of course it's good to expand your horizons and do things tomorrow that you couldn't do yesterday, but just because a state of affairs exists doesn't make it right for each and every translator.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 23:59
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
De-languaging Dec 7, 2017

This is probably at the top of my list. After all these years I take it for granted, it has become like breathing, yet I see it constantly violated in virtually ALL translations I happen to stumble upon for one reason or another.

This skill consists in forming for a brief moment a concept in your mind that is independent from the source language (or any language) and only then convey it into your target. Somebody called it freeing yourself from the tyranny of the source language, or something like that, and it's by far the hardest competence in translation, and also the one that is most frequently neglected.

One obvious manifestation of this phenomenon is going word-by-word. They see one word, open the dictionary, find one approximate equivalent, and that's it. Another manifestation is not turning sentences around to account for differences in grammar or style (example: turning frequent passive forms in English into impersonal forms in Italian). Again, I see it all the time, in "professionals" with "20 years experience", "ISO-certified" and all the usual important-sounding stuff. The result is distorted, barely readable, machine-looking, plain incorrect translated texts.

Well, if you are not able to take a concept or a full sentence for a quick ride to that place where there is no language, you are no better than Google Translator or whatever other similar tools are used nowadays. I estimate that at least 80% of translators are regular victims of the "tyranny", another 10% is on the verge of escaping but never really free, 10% are free (give or take an occasional slip).

As a corollary, about 80% of people reading this won't even know what I am talking about.


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Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:59
Member (2015)
English to French
+ ...
Deverbalization Dec 7, 2017

Yes Daniel,

De-languaging or indeed “deverbalization" as formulated by The Interpretive Theory of Translation (Jean Delisle, whom I have cited before, being one of its representatives).

This invisible step between comprehension and reformulation is probably the single most useful concept in translation theory that I have come across so far.

I don’t consider your point contradictory to the one you’ve made above (“knowing what you are translating about, either from theory or practice, and preferably both”), but you may want to reconsider the part about: “anything but translation”.

Wouldn’t specialized knowledge and experience need to be combined with the knowledge and know-how of the interlinguistic transfer? Can the one be successful without the other when it comes to translation?

Translating well may feel more or less innate to some, but, like breathing well, it may also help to learn how-to do it, perform breathing exercises and/or gain experience in the breathing practice. So that it becomes like a second nature (although you still never stop learning).

My point being that translation theory can serve translation practice, being itself a deverbalization or de-languaging, if you will, of its processes.

Jean


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The Misha
Local time: 17:59
Russian to English
+ ...
Be my guest, have my slice too... Dec 7, 2017

Jean Dimitriadis wrote:


Wouldn’t specialized knowledge and experience need to be combined with the knowledge and know-how of the interlinguistic transfer? Can the one be successful without the other when it comes to translation?

Translating well may feel more or less innate to some, but, like breathing well, it may also help to learn how-to do it, perform breathing exercises and/or gain experience in the breathing practice. So that it becomes like a second nature (although you still never stop learning).

My point being that translation theory can serve translation practice, being itself a deverbalization or de-languaging, if you will, of its processes.

Jean


Imagine this "translation theory" thing, breathing exercises, deverbialization and all, were a pizza pie cut into as many slices as there's translators out there. You seem like a real pizza lover, so please, be my guest and have my slice too. It's free. No strings attached. Something is telling me Daniel will be more than happy to give up his slice too. Hello, Daniel?

I don't eat pizza. It clogs your heart and mind. It's junk food.


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Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:59
Member (2015)
English to French
+ ...
? Dec 7, 2017

Sorry, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the pizza metaphor, is it that you don’t like translation theory and pizza? By the way, Daniel did not say anything about theory, on the contrary: "Get a degree in anything but translation".

Anyway, I’m self-taught myself, so I guess I can bake my pizza and eat it too.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Deverbalization II Dec 7, 2017

Jean Dimitriadis wrote:

Yes Daniel,

De-languaging or indeed “deverbalization" as formulated by The Interpretive Theory of Translation (Jean Delisle, whom I have cited before, being one of its representatives).

This invisible step between comprehension and reformulation is probably the single most useful concept in translation theory that I have come across so far.

I don’t consider your point contradictory to the one you’ve made above (“knowing what you are translating about, either from theory or practice, and preferably both”), but you may want to reconsider the part about: “anything but translation”.

Wouldn’t specialized knowledge and experience need to be combined with the knowledge and know-how of the interlinguistic transfer? Can the one be successful without the other when it comes to translation?

Translating well may feel more or less innate to some, but, like breathing well, it may also help to learn how-to do it, perform breathing exercises and/or gain experience in the breathing practice. So that it becomes like a second nature (although you still never stop learning).

My point being that translation theory can serve translation practice, being itself a deverbalization or de-languaging, if you will, of its processes.

Jean


I remember a bit about deverbalization written by the Spanish scholar Amparo Hurtado Albir, which I interpreted as looking behind and beyond the wordface. I think most people who translate word-for-word do it because the phonetic effect, the sound emphasis that is typical of any language. The same condition plagues monolingual people when they consult dictionaries, so it is, I think, a deeper problem with formal education, the way people learn to see dictionaries, languages and, of course, translations.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 23:59
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
@Jean Dec 7, 2017

Great to know that this concept already exists! Deverbalization is a much meaningful name than my attempt.

I realize that, yes, my two posts seem to contradict each other: 1) study and practice anything but translation, and 2) know translation theory.

Now, the paradox is that among all the (very few) good "deverbalizers" I have known, personally or via professional collaboration, no one had an education as a translator. For some reason it seems to come easy to technical-oriented individuals (engineers etc.); then again, I work mostly in the technical field, so my sample is probably biased, and certainly too small to reach any meaningful conclusion.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Uh? Dec 8, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:
As a corollary, about 80% of people reading this won't even know what I am talking about.


Dude, what are you talking about?!

Surely this "deverbalising" is what anyone with two languages does all the time. Even people with just one. Every time someone asks you what someone else said, you paraphrase.

PS "Deverbalise", lol. People earn a living from this?


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Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:59
Member (2015)
English to French
+ ...
Clarifications Dec 8, 2017

This was not addressed to me, but some clarifications are in order as I have introduced the term to the discussion.

There is nothing elitist about “deverbalization”, we all experience it in everyday communication, it is a cognitive process. In translation and interpretation, this level of abstraction helps getting free from the interference of the source text and its linguistic forms, so that you can choose equivalents which are natural in the target language, enhancing creativity in the reformulation of the original meaning and its forms. We don’t translate words but their meaning in context. Deverbalization is this invisible step that strips the meaning from its original form, before reformulating it in a new one.

However, I can relate to the observation that not many translators are using this step successfully (or extensively).

As to whether coming up with such terms is a way to earn a living, I would ask in return: what do you expect from translation studies and theory? To describe things that are totally inapplicable and alien to your everyday practice? On the contrary, I would tend to agree that “practice enriches theory, which in turn enlightens professional translators, both oral and written, who know what they are doing and why”.

It seems obvious to me from what I have seen in this forum that Daniel, but you as well Chris, and many others “don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

That does not mean that attempting to make the processes which are second nature to you more explicit and conscious to others (through translation theory, studies, training, etc.) is pointless.

@Daniel, I guess many roads lead to Rome. It makes sense that technical-oriented individuals with good linguistic and translation skills (even if not having a format cursus in translation) are successful in the technical fields you work on. Domain competence is often as important as translation competence. The Interpretive Theory of Translation has been developed and is still being used by the ESIT (École Supérieure d'Interprètes et de Traducteurs) in France (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3), so you may come across “deverbalizers” who come from the opposite direction in your FR-IT language pair. At least I hope so! And judging by the amazing similarity of the process you described with deverbalization, you might enjoy “Interpéter pour traduire” and other works from the authors that contributed to that theory.

I’ve saved one general remark on these forums for last:

I often find it appalling how much people can be dismissive in their judgments and quick in their assumptions. It certainly does not make one eager to participate. Careful with our words, careful with others.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 23:59
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
We are all on the same boat. Let's keep it sailing! Dec 8, 2017

Jean Dimitriadis wrote:

(...) you may come across “deverbalizers” who come from the opposite direction (...)



I sure hope so!

Egoistically, I should be happy that most of my "competitors" are inept, but if I look at the larger picture, I see that our profession is in bad need of more competent providers. Then we will be able to sell our collective product with confidence, leverage our skills when dealing with clients, and not see ourselves (nor be seen) as victims of the system anymore, forced to accept whatever conditions are imposed to us.


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Guofei_LIN  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:59
Chinese
Who will be the judge? Dec 8, 2017

Ildiko Santana wrote:

Hello Mario,
I think the below list is a good start, see ISO17100:

Linguist competences as defined by ISO17100:
a) Translation competence: the ability to translate content in accordance with:
a) compliance with specific domain and client terminology and/or any other reference material provided and ensuring terminological consistency during translation;
b) semantic accuracy of the target language content;
c) appropriate syntax, spelling, punctuation, diacritical marks, and other orthographical conventions of the target language;
d) lexical cohesion and phraseology;
e) compliance with any proprietary and/or client style guide (including domain, language register, and language variants);
f) locale and any applicable standards;
g) formatting;
h) target audience and purpose of the target language content, including the ability to address the problems of language content comprehension and language content production and the ability to render the target language content in accordance with project specifications.
b) Linguistic and textual competence in the source language and the target language: the ability to understand the source language, fluency in the target language, and general or specialized knowledge of text-type conventions. This linguistic and textual competence includes the ability to apply this knowledge when producing translation or other target language content.
c) Competence in research, information acquisition, and processing: the ability to efficiently acquire the additional linguistic and specialized knowledge necessary to understand the source language content and to produce the target language content. Research competence also requires experience in the use of research tools and the ability to develop suitable strategies for the efficient use of the information sources available.
d) Cultural competence: ability to make use of information on the behavioural standards, up-to-date terminology, value systems, and locale that characterize both source and target language cultures.
e) Technical competence: the knowledge, abilities, and skills required to perform the technical tasks in the translation process by employing technical resources including the tools and IT systems that support the whole translation process.
f) Domain competence: the ability to understand content produced in the source language and to reproduce it in the target language using the appropriate style and terminology.



Who will be the judge?


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Suspicious minds Dec 9, 2017

This question sounds somewhat like what I would do if I was tasked with drawing up a similar list - i.e. brainstorm translator colleagues. I can't help wondering if that's what's going on here…icon_smile.gif

Whatever the case, no biggie, and anyway, I'm too busy to start thinking about answering questions like this right now.


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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:59
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
techies Dec 10, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Great to know that this concept already exists! Deverbalization is a much meaningful name than my attempt.

I realize that, yes, my two posts seem to contradict each other: 1) study and practice anything but translation, and 2) know translation theory.

Now, the paradox is that among all the (very few) good "deverbalizers" I have known, personally or via professional collaboration, no one had an education as a translator. For some reason it seems to come easy to technical-oriented individuals (engineers etc.); then again, I work mostly in the technical field, so my sample is probably biased, and certainly too small to reach any meaningful conclusion.


Actually, looking back at my experience working in-house, I would say I had far more trouble hiring technical translators than any others, precisely because most technical translators seemed content to just get the text to the point where Word didn't underline any of the words, at which point they seemed to consider the job done. Very few would ever bother to polish their work and make it sound natural. Whereas the translators working in more creative fields and marketing would do a much better job of making the text flow naturally. This really bugged me because when there was too much work, I ended up outsourcing the creative stuff, because I had decent translators available, and I had to do the technical stuff myself, because nobody else could.


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Sharon James
Australia
My list of translation competencies Dec 19, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

Hello, pragmatic and theory-minded colleagues:

The concept of translation competence (the skills that a person needs to acquire or develop to call himself a professional translator) has been on my mind in recent months. For once, I'm not after a theoretical model (got those already) but I want to ask you: If you were tasked with making a list of these skills that a person should possess at a minimum in order to be called a professional translator, what would you include in that list?

Good descriptions, not single-word lists, would be quite helpful to our conversation here. Thank you.


Competencies that a good translator must have should be -

1. Language competence - Language competence is the basic competence a translator must have. It departs from the definition of translation as has been mentioned with some considerations above. Without mastering languages, someone is disabled to translate a text from source language to target language.

2. Textual Competence - Textual competence is knowledge of regularities and convention of texts, genres and text types. It is important to distinguish texts; this is closely related to how a text is translated. For instance, translating a narrative text is different from translating expository text, because the structures of those texts are different. Having competence to distinguish texts is very crucial for a translator.

3. Subject Competence - Subject specific or domain competence is knowledge or relevant subject, the area of expertise; for specialist translator, this amounts to a working knowledge of domain. The person who is translating any document, must have a keen knowledge about the subject. For example if someone translate medical documents he/she should know what will be the terms that will be used to convert document which is correct with medical terms.

4. Cultural Competence - Language is one of the culture elements, and nothing to be translated but language. As a culture element, language contains a good number of social conventions in using and understanding words and cultural identities. As well as text that is actually information, intention and ideas those are packaging in language itself. It (text) contains social conventions and cultural identity.

5. Transfer Competence - Transfer competence is an ability of transferring message from source text to target text communicatively. The word ‘transfer’ itself means to carry over or across. According to Pym (1992) there are three relationships between transfer and translation, they are: (1) transferring of process which is “not-exist” to “exist” that is done by the translator based on the knowledge he have; (2) translating that is the process of message transformation from source to target text; and (3) translated text that is the text produced by the translation process.


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