Rubric for evaluating difficulty of translations
Thread poster: ojala_inshallah
ojala_inshallah
United States
Local time: 04:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 5

Hello fellow translators and language enthusiasts:

At my job, our boss has asked us to create a rubric to evaluate the difficulty of our translations (please note, this is NOT a rubric for assessing translator performance, but rather the source text itself).

Does anyone know of any good templates or resources that might help us develop one?

Thanks so much!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:37
Member (2008)
French to English
Source text difficulty Apr 5

How do you separate the translator and the translation? A source document can be impossibly difficult to one translator who has no experience in the field the source text covers, or very easy to a translator who has years of experience in the topic at hand.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That seems a fairly complete answer to me Apr 6

John Fossey wrote:
How do you separate the translator and the translation? A source document can be impossibly difficult to one translator who has no experience in the field the source text covers, or very easy to a translator who has years of experience in the topic at hand.

Even in my specialisation of marketing, it's the translator's own skills that determine whether the text is difficult or straightforward. A technical text may be gobbledegook to a non-specialist but straightforward for a technical translator. On the other hand, a marketing text may be extremely easy for anyone to understand, so it may appear "easy" to a non-marketing translator. However, this translator probably doesn't appreciate that delivering an accurate translation of the words is not going to please the end client (if the end client is in a position to judge) and it's certainly not going to be good for its purpose..

I'm not really sure what you want from us here. I suppose in the examples I give above, the difficulties would involve simply understanding the text and correctly translating the technical jargon on the one hand, and maybe there would by loads of acronyms too. On the other hand, you'll encounter idioms, word play and colloquial expressions that can't simply be translated, and you have to take into account the cultural differences in the two readerships, the marketing effect of each word, branding...,


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Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:37
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
specialisation Apr 6

While agreeing with Sheila and John, even within a field, the level of specialisation of a text is often an indication for its difficulty.
As a medical translator, even fairly general IT or legal texts are often beyond me, but some medical texts are also more difficult than others.

Very detailed anatomical descriptions, or descriptions of how exactly a particular drug works, may require more research than a more global description of a disease or a clinical trial. As for how to measure this, I have no ready answer I am afraid...


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:37
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Some useful parameters Apr 6

As a philologist, I can tell you that a text may increase, not its difficulty, because it's a subjective feature (as our colleagues John and Sheila are pointing out) but its complexity:

1. Vocabulary (semantics / specialization: Marjolein is hitting the nail),
2. Grammar (e.g. verb tenses and modes).
3. Syntax as part of the grammar: complex or non-complex sentences (number of verbs involved).
4. Pragmatics: use of the language.

Maybe I'm missing things, but that's how we may split up a text to evaluate its complexity.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It depends what this "rubric" is for. Apr 6

Who is rating whose translations? If I'd just done a translation, I'd fine it fairly easy to give it a mark out of ten depending on how difficult I found it.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
No idea Apr 6

I've just finished revising/correcting an article written in English by Spanish authors about something I know absolutely nothing about (Fuzzy Rules for Linguistic Fuzzy Regression). However, it would have been easier for me to translate than to revise. As Sheila says, what is really difficult and impenetrable for some people may be much easier for others. If the text is properly drafted in the source language, it shouldn't be too difficult for a seasoned translator. My problem is that I tend to expect people to write better than what 90% of them actually do...

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Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:37
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends on how it's written Apr 6

neilmac wrote:

My problem is that I tend to expect people to write better than what 90% of them actually do...


Some people express themselves in a very roundabout way and it takes ages to decipher what they're trying to say.

philgoddard wrote:

Who is rating whose translations? If I'd just done a translation, I'd fine it fairly easy to give it a mark out of ten depending on how difficult I found it.


I quite agree. There are translations that should be quite easy but I can get stuck on a sentence or a paragraph but, on the other hand, I can do a translation that's actually a lot easier than I had expected.


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Rubric for evaluating difficulty of translations

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