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Translator career path

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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 21:56
English to German
+ ...
@ Inge - Jan 27, 2011

Inge Luus wrote:

I have to agree with Thomas and Patricia. I don't see where the article lives up to to its title at all. After reading it I felt quite depressed about the translation profession for the reasons Patricia mentions. I was therefore truly pleased to read Herbert's article, which has pulled me out of the momentary depression and is spurring me on to continue with my studies. Thank you Herbert for an article written to keep my interest for the entire length of the article and beyond!


Is it not curious how differently people can read and perceive the same texts? -

I consider the ProZ Wiki article as a very reasonable short description of how many people have come and others will come or may wish to come to take up translation as a profession. I did not consider the article boring at all but competently written and well reading.

The "bore" on the other hand comes for me when reading Herbert's article. Indeed I had only cared to go for it after having read your eulogy and praise. - I was surprised by the tone of self-complacent bombast in that article. And at least what the author says about swinging between native language and foreign language both as source and target causes me certainly to raise both eyebrows.

[Edited at 2011-01-29 22:51 GMT]


 

Lucia Leszinsky
SITE STAFF
This article should be taken as a work in progress Jan 27, 2011

I just wanted to bring to your attention that this article, just as many other articles in the ProZ.com wiki, is a work in progress. This means that what has been posted here is just a skeleton of what a complete article on the translator career path should be.

Any of you may agree or disagree with what has been posted by others and edit the article to include your opinions and ideas. This is what the wiki is about: a web site produced by a community of people who continuously edit, u
... See more
I just wanted to bring to your attention that this article, just as many other articles in the ProZ.com wiki, is a work in progress. This means that what has been posted here is just a skeleton of what a complete article on the translator career path should be.

Any of you may agree or disagree with what has been posted by others and edit the article to include your opinions and ideas. This is what the wiki is about: a web site produced by a community of people who continuously edit, update, add and improve the knowledge on the web site.

Everyone is welcome to contribute to it freely by clicking on the "Edit" option to the right of each section.

Your help to build a complete, interesting article on the translator career path will be highly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance to all, and thanks to the ones that have already contributed.

Kind regards,

Lucía
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Federico Moncini
Italy
Local time: 21:56
English to Italian
+ ...
CAT Tools Jan 27, 2011

I agree with the use of Cat tools. Are they always important or more important is our professionalism? Sometimes agencies and outsourcers are too demanding for these kind of computer-aided assistance. Remember a real translator was born with a pen and accuracy with a little imagination..

[Edited at 2011-01-27 19:29 GMT]


 

Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 21:56
English to German
+ ...
Wikipedia in general and ProZ.com Wiki - Jan 28, 2011

Lucia Leszinsky wrote:

I just wanted to bring to your attention that this article, just as many other articles in the ProZ.com wiki, is a work in progress. This means that what has been posted here is just a skeleton of what a complete article on the translator career path should be.

Any of you may agree or disagree with what has been posted by others and edit the article to include your opinions and ideas. This is what the wiki is about: a web site produced by a community of people who continuously edit, update, add and improve the knowledge on the web site.

Everyone is welcome to contribute to it freely by clicking on the "Edit" option to the right of each section.

Your help to build a complete, interesting article on the translator career path will be highly appreciated.


I am of course an enthusiastic user of the general Wikipedia, together with hundreds of millions in the world.

One is of course aware of the risk to come occasionally across imprecise, doubtful or even false information, but I think that at least for the "bigger" languages there are sufficient administrative and supervisory structures in place that can guarantee a very high degree of reliability.

Personally I have so far only applied some minor changes to some, mostly De, articles in the general Wikipedia. And I have to say that it is only in this case, regarding the article "Translator career path" - [could it be that the title should better be "Translator's career path" or "Path to a translator's career" or even better "Paths to a translator's career"?] - that I see some problems with the very concept of "a work in progress" or a snowballing undertaking, in which everybody is free to throw their 1, 2, 3, 4 and more pennies or copecks in. Such a procedure might be practicable as long as the concept in itself is clear and unquestioned. But it is evident already with the not very intensive discussion in this thread what anyone with some experience in the profession long knows, i.e. that there are wide differences of view and perception in the translators' community about the definition of "translators" and "translation" and even more of "good or professional translators" and "good or professional translations". The views and perceptions for these ground concepts are sometimes not only differing but even diametrically opposed. Which is probably something hardly to be seen in any other craft or activity. There can hardly be much arguing about what makes a professional work of masonry or engineering, and also not about professional surgery, or interpreting of music. Specialists other than me and particularly painters themselves can even say what kind of a painting is done by a professional painter and which not. Why is this so for these activities and not for translating?

Well. The main reason is that for the given examples, that could be complemented by many others, one sees - or hears - the product and can easily judge whether it is functional and good or not. Such a judgement can be given for a translation only if one sees source and target together - and is capable of understanding and evaluating both. Such a judgement is not so easily to be got. Nowadays there is a fast progress in implementing certification standards like EN 15038 that are setting up assessment criteria for the quality of the workflow of agencies and also individual providers, particularly with regard to the application of the "four eyes principle". That is all nice and fine. But the essential question - What is a professional translation? has not even been attempted to be tackled by such certification procedures.

Translation is possibly the only industry or at least one of very few for which a "professional quality standard" simply does not exist and is nowhere to be seen on the horizon". So far any agency and any translator, not to mention the academic wiseacres and pundits, have their own definition of what a "professional translation" is.

In such a situation it is a bit problematic that anybody is free to add their own ideas to a skeleton of an article about the "Paths to a translator's career". It does not really make sense that for the many critical aspects of this somewhat undefined and certainly unregulated profession, successive contributors just click on the "Edit" button and overwrite completely what has been stated before, maybe even in a seesaw manner, with A saying yes, B saying no, C saying yes again and D getting back to no etc. And all this, and that is a crucial point, without any indication about who had been saying what.

As I said before. I had not seen such a problem before in my honey sucking happiness in the general Wikipedia so far. And I could also imagine that for ProZ.com Wiki there might be many topics more suitable to this snowballing text production. But for regretfully rather controversial subjects like the "Paths to translator's careers" the Wikipedia approach could definitely have some shortcomings.


Roland Nienerza

[Edited at 2011-01-29 23:18 GMT]


 

MacLeod Cushing
Canada
Local time: 12:56
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ya gotta love it Jan 28, 2011

That's the main thing.

 

Herbert Eppel  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:56
German to English
+ ...
Lighten up Jan 28, 2011

Roland Nienerza wrote:

The "bore" on the other hand comes for me when reading Herbert's article. Indeed I had only cared to go for it after having read your eulogy and praise. - I was surprised by the tone of self-complacent bombast in that article. And at least what the author says about swinging between native language and foreign language as source causes me certainly to raise both eyebrows.


Oh dear, oh dear - how about lightening up a bit?


 

Marc Rizkallah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:56
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
Something for everyone Jan 28, 2011

First of all I just want to say I like the two last comments the most. Thanks guys!

As I'm relatively new to the industry, I've been thinking a lot about where the sacred line lies exactly between "professionals" and "amateurs" (those incompetent pests trying to make a quick buck and giving a bad name to the whole industry!). Is it a question of education? Performance on test translations? Years of experience? Profe
... See more
First of all I just want to say I like the two last comments the most. Thanks guys!

As I'm relatively new to the industry, I've been thinking a lot about where the sacred line lies exactly between "professionals" and "amateurs" (those incompetent pests trying to make a quick buck and giving a bad name to the whole industry!). Is it a question of education? Performance on test translations? Years of experience? Professional qualifications? Specializations? Mother tongue? Proficient use of CAT tools? Number of KudoZ entries? I've noticed that each of these can be highly controversial topics!

Like most things in life, I think translation quality/professionalism is more of a spectrum, based on an intricate combination of these factors rather than a black and white dichotomy dividing the respected, proud, established professionals from "the rest". I agree with what's been mentioned above - the most important defining characteristic is the passion for it! (And doesn't that go for everything?)

Of course, like any profession, there's something to be said for giving credit where credit is due, and I can wholly appreciate it takes a lot of time, effort, talent, and dedication to become a real professional competent translator. I can see the frustration resulting from clients or agencies asking for unreasonable rates, or from proofreading an obviously unprofessional poor-quality translation littered with mistakes, and thinking, "How on earth can this person possibly call themselves a translator?"

I guess I just don't think the situation is as dire for the industry as some people claim, because like food (three-star Michelin rating vs. McDonalds), drink (1787 Chateau Lafite vs. Coca-Cola), or every other imaginable product, there's a range of supply and demand of quality. Some people want and can afford the best quality stuff and others can't. So it becomes, for the most part, a question of value-for-your-money. In the context of translations, some clients (e.g. a medical equipment manufacturer, or the author of a novel) demand the highest-quality, most professional translations, understand the time it takes, and pay accordingly - and others (e.g. a mom&pop restaurant, my uncle's blog, a modem made-in-China) might be in a rush, and they'll still need a translation that's at least correct and coherent, but need not be perfect poetry.

Patricia Lane wrote:
Hey, I speak more than one language and can make some pocket money, neat! And that sums up nicely the number One problem in the profession today.


The number One problem? Why exactly? Indeed, "wannabe translators" might have to content themselves with lower rates and less challenging projects, until they build enough expertise and experience to aim higher. But they're operating in a wholly different area of the translation market that they can't really be a threat to you. Just like a restaurant that serves horrible food, if someone serves bad translations, they won't get repeat business, they won't get references, and they'll eventually get weeded out.

I guess my point is, just because a translator starts out as a wannabe translator, and just because their translations aren't as good as yours, doesn't necessarily mean they can't harmlessly carve their own little niche in the industry. I'm no Cordon Bleu yet - but I'm working on it - and I'm encouraged because my clients, at least so far, seem to like what I serve.
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Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 21:56
English to German
+ ...
Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue - Jan 28, 2011

Marc Rizkallah wrote:

I agree with what's been mentioned above - the most important defining characteristic is the passion for it! (And doesn't that go for everything?)


That goes for perfectly nothing as far as the distinctive characteristics for a "professional translation" are concerned. A botched work done with passion isn't anything but a botched work done with passion - and no better than a botched work done without passion.

And here is a confusion between the concepts of a "professional translation" and a "professional translator". - To say it very bluntly. There can be, and actually are, a lot of really "professional translators", i.e. people making a living out of translation, who occasionally or even habitually produce "unprofessional translations".


I guess I just don't think the situation is as dire for the industry as some people claim, because like food (three-star Michelin rating vs. McDonalds), drink (1787 Chateau Lafite vs. Coca-Cola), or every other imaginable product, there's a range of supply and demand of quality. Some people want and can afford the best quality stuff and others can't. So it becomes, for the most part, a question of value-for-your-money. In the context of translations, some clients (e.g. a medical equipment manufacturer, or the author of a novel) demand the highest-quality, most professional translations, understand the time it takes, and pay accordingly - and others (e.g. a mom&pop restaurant, my uncle's blog, a modem made-in-China) might be in a rush, and they'll still need a translation that's at least correct and coherent, but need not be perfect poetry.


This is a very reasonable and sound statement, particularly for a beginner in the craft. Sure, there are people outside there that want fast food and cheap drink, and they have a right to get it. But, and here comes the difference, one should not try to run a high end restaurant and charge high end prices, but serve McDonald's quality.

Patricia Lane wrote:
Hey, I speak more than one language and can make some pocket money, neat! And that sums up nicely the number One problem in the profession today.


Marc Rizkallah wrote:
The number One problem? Why exactly? Indeed, "wannabe translators" might have to content themselves with lower rates and less challenging projects, until they build enough expertise and experience to aim higher. But they're operating in a wholly different area of the translation market that they can't really be a threat to you.


This is only partially true.


Just like a restaurant that serves horrible food, if someone serves bad translations, they won't get repeat business, they won't get references, and they'll eventually get weeded out.


Bad restaurants will quite soon get no or rather bad references and get weeded out.

With translation services things are rather different. One sees in KudoZ strange contributions and looking for the profiles of the authors one can find an impressive array of highly appreciative references. Why? I had said this before. Because many clients cannot do better than judging on the target version they get. And if that is not complete nonsense and they like the style of writing, and also the style of communication, they write a nice reference - for many things, including a "nice, professional translation", but not necessarily for a "professional translation".


I guess my point is, just because a translator starts out as a wannabe translator, and just because their translations aren't as good as yours, doesn't necessarily mean they can't harmlessly carve their own little niche in the industry. I'm no Cordon Bleu yet - but I'm working on it - and I'm encouraged because my clients, at least so far, seem to like what I serve.


And that is ok in many ways. It is right to say that one has to develop one's capacity.

But it might be useful to have other criteria for a "professional translation" than just the applause of clients who mostly do not know the difference themselves.


Roland Nienerza

[Edited at 2011-01-28 17:09 GMT]


 

Roland Nienerza  Identity Verified

Local time: 21:56
English to German
+ ...
Lighten up 2 - Jan 28, 2011

Herbert Eppel wrote:

Roland Nienerza wrote:

The "bore" on the other hand comes for me when reading Herbert's article. Indeed I had only cared to go for it after having read your eulogy and praise. - I was surprised by the tone of self-complacent bombast in that article. And at least what the author says about swinging between native language and foreign language as source causes me certainly to raise both eyebrows.


Oh dear, oh dear - how about lightening up a bit?


You mean "grinning up"? Or maybe even "grinning down", to be sure?


Roland Nienerza

[Edited at 2011-01-28 21:21 GMT]


 

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:56
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Wikipedia and strange KudoZ contributions Jan 28, 2011

Roland Nienerza wrote:

In such a situation it is a bit problematic that anybody is free to add their own ideas to a skeleton of an article about the "Paths to a translator's career". It does not really make sense that for the many critical aspects of this somewhat undefined and certainly unregulated profession, successive contributors just click on the "Edit" button and overwrite completely what has been stated before, maybe even in a seesaw manner, with A saying yes, B saying no, C saying yes again and D getting back to no etc. And all this, and that is a crucial point, without any indication about who had been saying what.

As I said before. I had not seen such a problem before in my honey sucking happiness in the general Wikipedia so far. And I could also imagine that for ProZ.com Wiki there might be many topics more suitable to this snowballing text production. But for regretfully rather controversial subjects like the "Paths to translator's careers" the Wikipedia approach could definitely have some shortcomings.
This sort of problem does happen, usually when the subject matter is controversial in some way. Or maybe it can be something so “common sense” that there is zero or very little printed or (especially) online references. I’ve personally got into such an “edit war” before, for the latter reason.

Roland Nienerza wrote:

With translation services things are rather different. One sees in KudoZ strange contributions and looking for the profiles of the authors one can find an impressive array of highly appreciative references. Why? I had said this before. Because many clients cannot do better than judging on the target version they get. And if that is not complete nonsense and they like the style of writing, and also the style of communication, they write a nice reference - for many things, including a "nice, professional translation", but not necessarily for a "professional translation".
Strange contributions. Indeed.

I’ve been on the site for only a week but I don’t think I’ll trust the KudoZ glossaries as very reliable. Not for some language pairs, anyway.

[Modifié le 2011-01-28 20:59 GMT]


 

rhclayto
Spanish to English
De gustibus non disputandum est Jan 28, 2011

But it is clear already with the not very intensive discussion in this thread what anyone with some experience in the profession long knows, i.e. that there are wide differences of view and perception in the translators' community about the definition of "translators" and "translation" and even more of "good or professional translators" and "good or professional translations". The views and perceptions for these ground concepts are sometimes not only differing but even diametrically opposed. Which is probably something hardly to be seen in any other craft or activity. There can hardly be much arguing about what makes a professional work of masonry or engineering, and also not about professional surgery, or interpreting of music. Specialists other than me and particularly painters themselves can even say what kind of a painting is done by a professional painter and which not. Why is this so for these activities and not for translating?

...

Translation is possibly the only industry or at least one of very few for which a "professional quality standard" simply does not exist and is nowhere to be seen on the horizon". So far any agency and any translator, not to mention the academic wiseacres and pundits, have their own definition of what a "professional translation" is.

Roland Nienerza

[Edited at 2011-01-28 01:58 GMT]


Nobody can deny that, to take one example, Thomas Kinkade is a producer of 'professional' paintings, but ask an art specialist what they think of his paintings as art. What to make of the wholly unprofessional yet inspired Henry Darger? Who counts as a professional writer, Stephen King or Thomas Pynchon--or, somehow, both? Not too long ago standards of professionalism dictated that surgeons drain off the lifeblood of ailing patients, thereby finishing the work started by the illness, & psychiatrists professionally mutilated the brains of their patients with icepicks & gave diagnoses for 'diseases' that, as if by magic, no longer exist (homosexuality, hysteria) in the sacred book of the profession. Stonemasons built temples in antiquity that still stand, & are revered, but could never be built today because professional building practices & codes would forbid them.

So is translation, then, an art, partaking of the mysteries, or an applied science, content with the certainties offered by the latest Kuhnian paradigm in which it operates? Things are far more complex than you have painted them, & 'professionalism' is an inadequate concept for talking about what is desirable or useful in a translation or in the field of translation: in fact, it's a sure way of losing the essence of the whole thing. I'm more interested in 'good' translations (& art, music, & medicine, & buildings) than in 'professional' ones: & hence, more interested in the intellectual wrangle about what makes something 'good' rather than what makes it 'professional'.

[Edited at 2011-01-28 21:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-01-28 21:17 GMT]


 

PT Translati (X)
United States
Local time: 12:56
Japanese to English
There are some things that will never change... Jan 29, 2011


However, describing rather well the reasons why individuals become "wannabee translators" > hey, I speak more than one language and can make some pocket money, neat! And that sums up nicely the number One problem in the profession today.


This is going to sound crass and I'm not directing this at the above quote poster only, just my opinion regarding these two issues. Anyway...

I find that there are two things that translators complain about the most. Interestingly, these are two things that will never change.

1. "Wannabe" translators

If you want to be in a profession where only "qualified" people get work, then become a doctor. Decades ago, while in high school and long before I actually took the time to learn about the translation business/the craft, I made "pocket money" in translation & interpreting. This was way back when the Japanese economy was booming and people were throwing yen around. I'd go to trade shows and walk around and interpret all day for $400/day. Did it for years. No training and my language skills were about 30% of my current abilities.

This is no different in any profession. Someone with no experience and far less skill took your job, because he was in the right place at the right time, or knows the right people. It's called life.

2. Being underappreciated

Just my opinion, and generally speaking, but there are only few types of people who actually appreciate the skills required of a qualified translator. They are:

a. translators
b. people who tried to become translators and failed
c. people who learned the importance of quality translations the hard way

Conclusion: Regarding the two situations above, the only thing you can do is to put yourself in a position where these things don't affect you much, if at all.


















[Edited at 2011-01-29 01:55 GMT]


 

NickPalmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:56
German to English
+ ...
Know your own language first Jan 30, 2011

JOHN PENNEY wrote:

A thorough knowledge of one´s own language is a top priority for translators.


I think that's right. I do a lot of proof-reading and by far the largest number of what I think to be errors are poor English rather than poor translations. The temptation, especially with a new client, is to cling to word-for-word accuracy like a limpet, but a good translator will take the time (and courage) to review the translation once more without reference to the original to see if it sounds right in English.


 
No need to be harsh Jan 31, 2011

I'm astonished to see so much hostility towards this article. The intend was clearly to shed some light of guidance to people considering translation as a business and it did its job! For some, it's imperative to go to school;for others to "know" someone or be a computer geek. At the end, there's no such a thing as a magic formula to become a translator. Everyone has a different background and method to perform the job and at the end, a translation done accurately, on time and within the agreed ... See more
I'm astonished to see so much hostility towards this article. The intend was clearly to shed some light of guidance to people considering translation as a business and it did its job! For some, it's imperative to go to school;for others to "know" someone or be a computer geek. At the end, there's no such a thing as a magic formula to become a translator. Everyone has a different background and method to perform the job and at the end, a translation done accurately, on time and within the agreed terms is what matters. I don't even know what those CAT tools are, much less gone to college just for it, so how can I explain getting Government contracts? Simple! I CAN translate MEANING. For the "scholars", "geeks", and "entrepreneurs": you should be more respectful of your fellow translators methodology and approach, and of article writers who are just trying to help. Showing off your unique strengths will not make you look more fit for the job but cocky and arrogant for sure.

Sincerely,

Carlos
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Ana Escaleir (X)  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:56
French to Portuguese
+ ...
More than translation skills Jan 31, 2011

Hello

Besides a degree in Translation / Interpretation related courses,
I believe other factors are important to be a successful professional:

business skills;
networking;
pro-bono work;
availability of time;
membership to relevant professional bodies;
computer skills;
a CAT tool;
specialization;

and ... what else?
Please share your opinion.

Thank you.

Ana Escaleira


 
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