(Fwd) RE: Translation?

Subject: (Fwd) RE: Translation?
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 12:17:44 -0600

Mike Huber, commenting on the notion that we techwhirlers are
translators of incomprehensible engineerese into normal English,
noted that this might be construed as insulting to our subject matter
experts... and he had a good point, if you take the definition to its
extreme. But the translation metaphor is still robust if you consider
it in a broader sense: communicating thoughts originally written in
one language (or a specialized subset thereof) into another language
(or subset thereof). If you accept (as I do) the fact that engineers
and other experts rarely speak precisely the same language as the
target audience (i.e., they're a different "discourse community",
with different vocabulary, jargon and communication style),
"translation" is a particularly good metaphor for what we do.

In fact, "translation" is an excellent metaphor for _any_ form of
competent writing: given that our perception of reality exists solely
within our own respective heads, and cannot be shared with anyone
else other than via the medium of spoken or written words, each of us
becomes a translator (from the language of our own thoughts to the
language of someone else's thoughts) every time we explain
something orally or put words on paper. If we're good at it, then we
ensure communication and have thus performed the translation; if
we're not, we fail to communicate, and simply become the oral or
printed equivalent of "white noise".
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hart's corollary to Murphy's law: "Occasionally, things really do work right."

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