Re: Preparing a translator test

Subject: Re: Preparing a translator test
From: "Nickell Traduction" <nickelltrad -at- autoroute -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 23:34:08 -0500

Well, that's the problem with translation in general. It's very subjective,
and there are many "correct" answers if you are looking just at
word-for-word translation, but modern translation theory has little to do
with "words"; it's has everything to do with concepts, context, target
audience and culture, and any good translator knows that.

You have to translate a text so that it reads as if it were originally
written in the target language, and often that involves adapting it. What
you did with the potholder text was clever, but that is also exactly what
would be expected of any good professional marketing translator. But since
this list is dedicated to technical writing, people should maybe tune into
LANTRA (the translation mailing list) to discover that there's very few
professional translators out there who only look at the "words", and I'm not
talking about writers who dabble in translation or people who are so-called
bilingual who do it just to make a buck, but people who literally live and
breathe translation and get high on it.

Unfortunately, of course, there are tons of non-professional translators out
there (the ones who just figure you need a dictionary to translate and
that's it). A teacher of mine (who is a brilliant translator) once said,
"In Montreal, only about 30% of translators are mediocre to excellent; the
other 70% are the ones who give real translators a bad name." I definitely
don't think you need a degree to be a good translator (it does help to
understand the theory though), but you do have to have a real interest in
language, localization and cross-cultural communication, as well as a true
interest in the topics you're translating, to the point that you read about
them in your spare time. Of course, a lot of this could be said about
technical writers too, although I've met many technical writers who are poor
translators, and many translators who probably couldn't write a manual well
enough from scratch, so there are different skill sets involved.


-----Original Message-----
From: H.Durstling <sinico -at- nbnet -dot- nb -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 8:41 PM
Subject: Re: Preparing a translator test

|Hi Folks,
|As has been suggested by others a test probably is most useful as a first
|stage selection tool to weed out the obviously unqualified.
|Real-world translation is full of grey areas. These require judgement on
|the aprt of the translator. which is a quality that does not lend itself to
|identification by testing.
|For example I once translated a consumer goods catalogue from German into
|English. One item was a set of insulated oven mitts. The German headline
|read something like "These Colourful Potholders..."
|I translated that as "Come To Grips With a Hot Pot"
|That would have certainly failed the test, but, as a catalogue headline, it
|Similarly, the German technical brochure for a medical gas system used the
|English language term "ARDS - Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome." I didn't
|think that was right, but the client said that it had to be, having come
|directly from their medical science department. I still thought it should
|be "Distress Syndrome" rather than "Disease Syndrome", and suggested a few
|phonecalls to make quite sure. As it turned out, "Distress Syndrome" was
|indeed the proper designation.
|Again, what test is going to reveal that kind of disposition to go one step
|further & make sure it's exactly right, even in the original?
|Hans Durstling
|Moncton, Canada
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