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The work of a "beginner" translator must be 100% up to standard
Thread poster: Tom in London

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Beginner schwinner... Jan 13, 2017

I'm more concerned by the fact that many educational institutions like universities (in my ES-EN pair) are apparently offering translation courses which teach translation into the L2 of the students rather than into their native tongue.
So, you not only get tyro translators, but non-native speakers of the target language to boot, some of whom we can see in the kudoz section on an almost daily basis painfully doing (what are claimed to be) homework assignments in what are already tough area
... See more
I'm more concerned by the fact that many educational institutions like universities (in my ES-EN pair) are apparently offering translation courses which teach translation into the L2 of the students rather than into their native tongue.
So, you not only get tyro translators, but non-native speakers of the target language to boot, some of whom we can see in the kudoz section on an almost daily basis painfully doing (what are claimed to be) homework assignments in what are already tough areas for seasoned professional native speaker translations, i.e. legal, medical, pharmaceutical, technical...

OK, rant over, better get back to work now...
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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
apologies Jan 13, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

Let's try not to personalise this. I haven't made any critical personal remarks about anyone and I would recommend that others do likewise.


Tom - please accept my apologies; I never intended to personalise it. It was just an argument to support my stance that nobody's perfect.

Again, I do apologise if my message was interpreted in a personal way.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:01
Member (2018)
French to English
tolerance is perhaps the greatest of virtues Jan 13, 2017

I was lucky, early on in my career, to be hired in a top-notch agency where an experienced translator proofed every one of my translations before delivery.
I'm pretty sure that even with proofreading, my translations lacked that authorative ring that I believe they now have, although they were more or less fit for purpose.
I took much longer and the result was surely tackier. By dint of much hard work, after maybe ten years or so I started producing the type of stuff that I can now
... See more
I was lucky, early on in my career, to be hired in a top-notch agency where an experienced translator proofed every one of my translations before delivery.
I'm pretty sure that even with proofreading, my translations lacked that authorative ring that I believe they now have, although they were more or less fit for purpose.
I took much longer and the result was surely tackier. By dint of much hard work, after maybe ten years or so I started producing the type of stuff that I can now produce without even turning my brain on.

Everyone has to start somewhere, everyone makes mistakes, tolerance is perhaps the greatest of virtues.
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Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:01
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
In the beginning... Jan 13, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

I often see "beginner translators" mentioned in these forums.

A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is **a translation that cannot be used**.

In that sense there is no such thing as a "beginner" translator. You're either 100% or you're 0%.

Your thoughts?


When someone calls themselves a beginner, it usually means they are starting their career as a translator.

Your next statement, about the quality of translations, may or may not be related to beginners, and is, therefore, not related to being a beginner. You are comparing apples and, let's say, bicycles.

And then of course there is such a thing as experience. I am sure that more experienced translators are, generally, better than inexperienced ones. I would at least hope so.

The image of that bag with poor text is just that, a poor text, and might not have anything to do with translators. The company who produced that product is responsible for the quality of that text.



[Edited at 2017-01-13 19:58 GMT]


Jonathan S.
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Seriously? Jan 13, 2017

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones...

 

Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:01
German to English
+ ...
Observation nicely put, Neil, so why are you/we still here? Entertainment value? :) Jan 14, 2017

neilmac wrote:

I'm more concerned by the fact that many educational institutions like universities (in my ES-EN pair) are apparently offering translation courses which teach translation into the L2 of the students rather than into their native tongue.
So, you not only get tyro translators, but non-native speakers of the target language to boot, some of whom we can see in the kudoz section on an almost daily basis painfully doing (what are claimed to be) homework assignments in what are already tough areas for seasoned professional native speaker translations, i.e. legal, medical, pharmaceutical, technical...

OK, rant over, better get back to work now...


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Blame translators who have lost the ability to care Jan 14, 2017

Tom in London wrote:
A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is a translation that cannot be used.


When I was still a translation student, I had the impression that the final quality of a translation is the translator's responsibility, and that if he uses a proofreader/editor to check his work, the purpose of the proofreader is to catch tiny mistakes, not big errors. By the time the translation goes to the proofreader, there should not be any big mistakes. By the time the translation goes to the proofreader, the translator himself should have checked and double-checked his translation already. In such a scenario, it makes sense that the proofreader charges 1/5 or 1/4 of the translation rate.

However, that is not the only way a translator could work. There would be nothing wrong with a translator+proofreader team deciding that the proofreader should take care of both the translator's own proofreading and his own, or that a second proofreader should be brought on board, if that is what the team feels comfortable with and if it produces quality work in the end. This could mean higher profits, as the translator can churn out translations quicker. The translator produces not a near-complete final translation but a near-final draft translation, which is rendered error-free by the first proofreader, and finally polished to perfection by either the translator or the second proofreader. That would be one possibility.

I recall that when I worked in a production environment (newspaper translation, fast turnarounds, high accuracy, high purism, etc), we initially did it the traditional say: one translator would translate, then proofread his own work, then another translator would proofread it (on paper), and then the original translator would fix the mistakes (on the computer). Then, a change in newspaper policy resulted in an uneven workload, which made the deadlines unreasonable, which meant that we had no time to do things the traditional way. So we changed, and it worked well.

When most of one's clients are direct clients, the traditional way works best. But when working with agencies, a lot of the quality checking is out of one's hands. Couple that with the unrealistic deadlines and the low rates, and it becomes clear why some translators are happy to just translate at a low level of quality. They know that there are two or three other translators down the line who will pick up any errors that they had made, and after all, they think, the final liability lies with the agency, right?

I see a lot of bad translations not by beginner translators but by translators who have given up on the direct-client way of doing things, i.e. who now work as if they are not the main producer of the translation but simply the first one in a series of producers who are supposed to refine a rough draft down to a fine product.

Your gripe, Tom, seems to be with bad translations. Don't blame beginners for that. Blame translators who have lost the ability to care.


[Edited at 2017-01-14 10:13 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:01
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Beginners Jan 14, 2017

Maybe so, but my focus here is on people who call themselves "beginner translators".

 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:01
Member
English to Italian
No such thing as a "beginner"? Jan 14, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

I often see "beginner translators" mentioned in these forums.

A translation that contains mistakes, poor command of the source and target languages, or demonstrates a low literacy level, inadequate terminology research, spelling or typographical errors, etc., or that is delivered late, incomplete, etc. is **a translation that cannot be used**.

In that sense there is no such thing as a "beginner" translator. You're either 100% or you're 0%.

Your thoughts?


I don't see a causality link between your first two statements above, that is to say, someone who has just started their translation career (aka a "beginner") isn't necessarily going to produce a translation marred by all or some of the issues you mention.

That said, I believe the same argument could be made about different professions. Maybe a green lawyer is going to make more mistakes than a seasoned one, same goes for a plumber, a musician, etc. So, are those lawyers, plumbers, musicians, etc. who make mistakes actually not lawyers, plumbers, musicians, etc., or rather, aren't they just inexperienced (or why not, just plain "bad") lawyers, plumbers, musicians, etc.?

And, by the way... it's not like there's a mass of veteran and "battle-tested" translators (those who are "100%" in your reasoning) who only produce flawless translations without fail, time and time again...
If that were the case, I wouldn't probably be so circumspect about accepting editing/proofing tasks, BTW.

Probably the "real" issue here is the fact that translation is mostly unregulated, so basically anyone can wake up in the morning and decide they're a "beginner translator" (and yes, I too have noticed several such threads lately), but I believe you can't really see this in terms of "0%" becoming (or not) "100%" overnight... (and it's probably also a matter of where you're starting from, and how)


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:01
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
The client's POV Jan 14, 2017

If I were a client I would not want to pay a "beginner translator" to do a job that might not be usable in a business environment. How many laughably poor translations have we seen, full of basic mistakes, that give a very bad impression of the company represented? A badly translated website, for example, could make or break the success of a new venture.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:01
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree with Tom. There is no such a thing as a beginner translator, Jan 14, 2017

exactly the same way as there are no beginner surgeons, practicing on their patients, no beginner hairdressers who practice cutting hair on their customers, no beginner bus drivers who have no idea how to operate a bus and would endanger the passengers when trying to train. There are translators who just happen to be at the initial stage of their career--individuals who posses full command of both language--the target and the source, very good writing skills in the target language, and have som... See more
exactly the same way as there are no beginner surgeons, practicing on their patients, no beginner hairdressers who practice cutting hair on their customers, no beginner bus drivers who have no idea how to operate a bus and would endanger the passengers when trying to train. There are translators who just happen to be at the initial stage of their career--individuals who posses full command of both language--the target and the source, very good writing skills in the target language, and have some type of training in the field of translation. I imagine those beginning individuals would have to produce multiple quality translations as a part of their training, be it official or even self-training, without pay, which would have to be checked and commented on by a very experienced translator who does work in their language pairs and specialization. Fully equipped with all of the above, you are ready to go, with full swing, just slightly touching the ground.

[Edited at 2017-01-14 16:43 GMT]
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:01
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Hat Jan 14, 2017

Chapeau to Lilian !

 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:01
German to English
+ ...
"productive translator" Jan 14, 2017

I couldn't relate to the points made in this post at all.
[quote]John Di Rico wrote:
I agree that you are either a translator or something else. Fake it till you make, and in any event you’re only as good as your last translation.
Yes, we need to strive towards excellence and perfection, but does the latter really exist?
You get diminishing returns after a certain amount of time spent on a translation.
A highly productive translator can spend more time tending towards perfection (aka revision) as opposed to a less productive translator.
Starting with the "highly productive" translator. I had to figure out what that meant. First I thought it was a translator who produces lots of translations for various customers or high volumes for a few. I could not figure out how the amount of work you do affects your ability to properly check your work. Then I guessed it means that if you accept tight deadlines, you won't have time to check your work much. I know some translators allow customers to dictate deadlines, and said customers (agencies) compete against each other on price and quick turnaround, but to me this is backward. If a translator determines how much time is needed to do a proper job, then that translator will have the time.
I also don't agree with "diminishing returns". One adopts a certain routine, for example doing the necessary research, checking once for translation, once for quality, and it's done.
“Beginner” translators usually suffer from low productivity because they have to research terminology, build TMs and glossaries, and don’t know how to use productivity boosting tools. So they either make less money or provide poorer translations.

I've been translating for some 30 years and I don't know what a "productivity boosting tool" is either. I still research terminology, and have never seen a TM up front in my life.

Yes, a beginner will make less money, because it takes longer to produce a complete and sufficiently accurate translation. That is why they should not charge lower fees. I think the main point of the OP goes in the direction of agencies asking for "beginner" translators as an excuse to pay a lower fee, but any translation must meet some basic standards of quality. An inaccurate or unreadable translation is a useless translation.


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:01
Russian to English
+ ...
Editor's view: there are different kinds of errors Jan 14, 2017

I generally agree with Tom and Lilian, though I'd probably define it in a mellower way. Being occasionally engaged to edit others' translations, I rarely see very good ones, but sometimes I silently fix the errors, sometimes I ask the project manager to keep this translator on a diet of easy jobs, and sometimes I suggest to drop the translator from the vendor list as professionally unfit.

I don't see any problem if a translator occasionally (but only occasionally) misunderstands a
... See more
I generally agree with Tom and Lilian, though I'd probably define it in a mellower way. Being occasionally engaged to edit others' translations, I rarely see very good ones, but sometimes I silently fix the errors, sometimes I ask the project manager to keep this translator on a diet of easy jobs, and sometimes I suggest to drop the translator from the vendor list as professionally unfit.

I don't see any problem if a translator occasionally (but only occasionally) misunderstands a complex phrase, or accidentally inverts its meaning, or misreads a word, or misses a phrase altogether, or constructs a long clumsy sentence where a simple one would do. Even very experienced translators make such mistakes, and this is exactly what editors are for.

A hallmark of an inexperienced translator is staying too close to the source text. In a better case, the translator is simply afraid to reformulate the content and produces a poorly readable translation. Somewhat more pathological is the use of source language syntax in the target language. Nevertheless, either is curable with regular feedback from the editor.

Finally, there are transgressions I refuse to tolerate from anyone - most of them have to do with the outright lack of diligence or total cluelessness. While accepting a job clearly beyond one's abilities certainly falls among these, the project manager is often to share the blame - in an ideal world, all translators should work into their native language and should have a reasonable background in the subject field, and it's a PM's duty to ensure that. On the other hand, sometimes (way too often, if you ask me) the translator is the sole party at fault. The most obvious example is failing to do research - and I don't mean hunting down a mysterious word for the whole day, sometimes the answer appears conspicuously on the first page of Google search output. Unfortunately, this kind of cluelessness is appearing in KudoZ increasingly more often.
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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:01
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Have you guys ever seen translations worse than machine translated versions? Jan 14, 2017

I did see about 10 percent of the files sent to me for "proofreading" are worse than machine translated versions. I don't know if they have been produced by beginners or not, though.

"Proofreading" these files would take more time than editing machine translated versions.



[Edited at 2017-01-14 23:04 GMT]


 
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