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Off topic: Disagreement with translation professor
מפרסם התגובה: artspan

artspan
ארצות הברית
Local time: 21:42
מספרדית לאנגלית
TOPIC STARTER
Appreciate your feedback. Feb 27

Michael Wetzel wrote:

The phrasing of your original attempt at dealing with this issue seemed awkward to me and beating this sentence into shape might be a nice exercise, even if your professor doesn't care and seems to have overlooked the issue that led you to push the boundaries of English syntax in the first place.


For some reason the original in Spanish didn't seem awkward to me and I didn't catch that my attempt at translating it was either. My professor's specific comment on my translation "no words are needed to understand one another" was "This sounds too formal." (And then she suggested "pilgrims don't need words to understand one another.") Do you think the following solution would work?

"Here rocks (ring, speak, whatever) and water (sings, whispers, whatever). (end sentence, start new one) Like the pilgrims who walk the trail, they need no words to understand one another."


Michael Wetzel wrote:

In my experience, it is very rare (once per at least several dozen clients) that someone engages in the kind of thing your professor is doing. And generally, when something tending in that direction occurs, their comments include a substantial number of genuinely helpful insights or clarifications to accompany the headscratchers.


I'm genuinely so relieved to hear this.

I'm in complete agreement with your thoughts on the "rules of editing." No arguments there.

Michael Wetzel wrote:
And in a translation studies program, it seems like having everyone translate the same text and then going through issues like this and discussing alternative solutions as a whole class (or in smaller groups) would be a much more productive way of doing things. It would also be much more efficient for your professor, who is clearly very dedicated to her work, but who is probably killing herself trying to provide far less productive individual comments on a never-ending pile of exercises.


Actually this course is in an online format so that's why there really are no class-wide or group discussions (other than forums dedicated to restricted topics). I hadn't considered that as a possible disadvantage. Many of my courses at this university so far have been on-campus, in-person courses, but it just so happens that all of the translation courses are completely web-based. I think you're right that this teacher is very dedicated and probably massively overworked at the moment considering the thoroughness of her feedback.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
צרפת
Local time: 04:42
חבר (2018)
מצרפתית לאנגלית
. Feb 27

Vera Schoen wrote:

I don’t want to hijack this thread, but since you asked:

I always start by thanking the client fort his/her input. That relaxes them and shows I’m open for discussions. Then I explain my choices by providing examples to prove my point. I always use “genuine” sources (i.e. the Swedish National Encyclopaedia or, like your example, a well-known text). I try to be as pedagogical as possible to make sure the client gets my point. And to be honest, that almost always does the trick, and the client appreciates that I took the time to explain. Then there are those who don’t want to change their view. That, thankfully, happens very seldom (twice in my 15 years long career). In those cases, I let the client know, that I’m perfectly willing to make the change, but that I advise strongly against it. If that doesn’t work, I make the changes but add a statement (in bold text), that I only did the change on the clients expressed request.

And don’t worry, this doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough to require a strategy. 😊


Vera, I see we are very much on the same page on dealing with clients!

Yes, diplomacy is key. I usually try to find at least one "correction" that I can let stand - usually a minor point or a preference for "perhaps" rather than "maybe". I will point out that it's pure preference but that I will make a note of it for future projects (I actually have a "peculiarities" section in my glossary for certain clients!). This shows that I'm not automatically rejecting all their corrections out of hand, and I'm prepared to take their feelings into account.
If ever they change jargon, I obviously bow to their superior knowledge in their field - they like that and after all it's true!

This usually "softens them up" enough to them to then be prepared to acknowledge my expert knowledge in my field.

Another, unrelated point is that you must always pay particular attention to the first paragraph/page and titles - the most visible parts. If they find a mistake right at the beginning, they go into "tear this apart" mode and will look out for anything remotely criticisable.


artspan
Vera Schoen
 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
גרמניה
Local time: 04:42
מגרמנית לאנגלית
Appreciate the discussion you've started Feb 27

I still see no reason to question your original proposal for the first half of the sentence, it seems good to me and your professor's critique would only be right if rocks and water really do an awful lot of speaking and singing in Spanish:
"Here stones speak, water sings, ..."

Back on page 1, Robert made a suggestion to stick to the original without being afraid of deviating from it. I think that can also be expressed in the form of a simple principle:
Translate more
... See more
I still see no reason to question your original proposal for the first half of the sentence, it seems good to me and your professor's critique would only be right if rocks and water really do an awful lot of speaking and singing in Spanish:
"Here stones speak, water sings, ..."

Back on page 1, Robert made a suggestion to stick to the original without being afraid of deviating from it. I think that can also be expressed in the form of a simple principle:
Translate more or less literally, unless there is a (clearly and significantly) good reason not to.
Any time we deviate from or "improve upon" the original or doubt our authors' ability to say what they mean, we increase our chances of missing or distorting something. That is not always a bad bet, but it usually is, because we generally gain a lot less by going from good to great than we lose by going from good to bad.

Here, for example, if we take "ringing rocks," then the second half of the sentence suddenly makes far less sense, because "ringing" is not about using words to communicate (to a lesser extent, "babbling" is also less about communicating than "singing"). If you have to take your professor's suggestions into account, then maybe the rocks or stones can "echo." I think that is a worse solution than your "speak," but at least it fits into the categories of rock sounds and communication through words.

And I have no idea if the original Spanish text sounds awkward here, I didn't mean to imply that. I just wanted to mention this as an interesting phenomenon that sometimes occurs.

Subjectively speaking, I do think the original version of the second phrase ("... and no words are needed to understand one another") seems unnecessarily awkward, in the sense that I don't think an author writing in English would use this wording for this content.

artspan wrote:

Do you think the following solution would work?

"Here rocks (ring, speak, whatever) and water (sings, whispers, whatever). (end sentence, start new one) Like the pilgrims who walk the trail, they need no words to understand one another."


I think that is an ingenious solution: It incorporates the teacher's suggestion while also eliminating the error involved in that suggestion. (The only possible problem might be if the professor remembered to set requirements on the length of your subtitles, which is a key issue in the real world.)

In a real translation project, my tendency would be to favor something like this: "Here stones speak, water sings, and there is understanding without words": The phrase may still be slightly awkward, but then you've opened up the stones and water understanding each other, the pilgrims understanding each other, and the pilgrims understanding the stones and water.

If all that understanding isn't really necessary, then you can just shorten your suggestion above: "Here rocks (ring, speak, whatever)[,] water (sings, whispers, whatever) [, and] they need no words to understand one another."
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artspan
 

artspan
ארצות הברית
Local time: 21:42
מספרדית לאנגלית
TOPIC STARTER
I finished it, as much to her liking as possible. Feb 27

Michael Wetzel wrote:


Back on page 1, Robert made a suggestion to stick to the original without being afraid of deviating from it. I think that can also be expressed in the form of a simple principle:
Translate more or less literally, unless there is a (clearly and significantly) good reason not to.
Any time we deviate from or "improve upon" the original or doubt our authors' ability to say what they mean, we increase our chances of missing or distorting something. That is not always a bad bet, but it usually is, because we generally gain a lot less by going from good to great than we lose by going from good to bad.


I couldn't agree more with this principle. Apparently my teacher is from the complete opposite school of thought.

Michael Wetzel wrote:
Here, for example, if we take "ringing rocks," then the second half of the sentence suddenly makes far less sense, because "ringing" is not about using words to communicate (to a lesser extent, "babbling" is also less about communicating than "singing"). If you have to take your professor's suggestions into account, then maybe the rocks or stones can "echo." I think that is a worse solution than your "speak," but at least it fits into the categories of rock sounds and communication through words.


Yeah, that's exactly the problem with "ringing rocks." I have changed it to "rocks rumble" for two reasons. One, because at least I have found "rumble" on a list of synonyms with "murmur" so it might imply communication even though I personally don't think of it that way, and because it maintains the alliteration that she liked so much with "rocks ring." "Rumble" has its own major drawback - it implies there might be an avalanche coming! Oh no! For that reason I really like your suggestion of "echo." But I'm going to go with "rumble" which I think stands a little better chance of being accepted by the teacher.

I'm finished with this project and I have changed every single subtitle away from what I wanted and toward what my teacher wanted. I can tell that if I stood my ground further I would just get a bad grade. I made a lot of arguments to her which I thought were overwhelmingly convincing and she didn't budge even a tiny bit on anything. As this project comes to a close, I feel sad that none if it is mine and that every idea I had was rejected, and that I strongly dislike the final product. It hurts both my confidence and my enjoyment as a budding translator.

But I am taking great comfort in the fact that people who have responded on this thread are saying that it is fairly rare for a client to want so many drastic changes and to remain unconvinced by any of the translator's reasoning.

If resolving arguments in the work world often comes down to appealing to who has the most expertise in their given field, clearly I just don't have a chance at winning here. She's the expert and I'm just a student. I think my ideas stand on their own merit but that's apparently not how the world works and human ego won't back down to anything other than someone higher on some imagined hierarchy. Logic and evidence are irrelevant. What I don't understand is how a field that is widely acknowledged to be highly subjective, has so many people/teachers that basically say, "Here, write this. This is the only correct way."

For what it's worth, here is my final solution to that troublesome spot:

"Here, the rocks rumble, the water whispers, and like the travelers themselves, they don't need words to understand one another." (I dislike it strongly for a plethora of reasons but I think it's as close as I can get to what my teacher wants without using "rocks ring," which I think would be straight up confusing).

BTW subtitle length doesn't come into that much because that situation is messed up anyway. We are having to use YouTube Studio for this project, which doesn't allow proper/intentional segmentation of two-line subtitles, so if I have an awkward length, I either have to begin a new subtitle (and have only one line per subtitle) or in some cases I am stuck with a very asymmetrical two-line subtitle. With that I just have to do the best I can with the tool I have, and it can't be helped.


 

artspan
ארצות הברית
Local time: 21:42
מספרדית לאנגלית
TOPIC STARTER
good suggestion, didn't get to use it Feb 27

Michael Wetzel wrote:


In a real translation project, my tendency would be to favor something like this: "Here stones speak, water sings, and there is understanding without words": The phrase may still be slightly awkward, but then you've opened up the stones and water understanding each other, the pilgrims understanding each other, and the pilgrims understanding the stones and water.



BTW, I really liked your suggestion "and there is understanding without words." I would have used it if I were free to use my own judgment, but I went with "they don't need words..." because I knew she would accept that wording, since she suggested it. And because she said my previous wording was "too formal" I think she might also think "there is understanding without words" is also too formal. I bet she has the rigid idea that the word "don't" is the magical English word that ensures that you're not being too formal.


 
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