Corpus Deficit

What is interesting and also surprising is the great number of uninformed translators in the world. It is amazing how many translators are stuck in their ways and unwilling to try new techniques, new methods that might improve the way they translate. What is surprising is the number of translators who are completely unaware of the existence of the computerised corpus. A small percentage may have heard of the corpus but a large proportion of these few have no idea how to put it to use.

Put in simple terms, the corpus is a collection of appropriately sampled and annotated texts selected for a specific purpose (most often for linguistic research). It seems that the corpus still functions primarily in the domain of academia and the universities. Linguists and language scholars are sometimes unaware of the fact that corpora still have to break into the world of the nomenclature of everyday language professionals like translators and teachers.

Corpus linguistics is now a subject in its own right with corpus courses and corpus degrees being run at all the major universities. Corpus linguistics has its own textbooks, reference works and premier experts yet it still has not filtered down to the average translator. Part of the reason is the ever-present divide between language practitioners and theorists. As much as corpus linguistics is a practical subject, it is still dominated by researchers who have little to do with the practical side of language work – they are not usually professional teachers or translators. It is no surprise then that there has not been more cross-over between the two.

This means that translators with some knowledge of corpora and corpus linguistics are responsible for bridging the knowledge gap between the world of translation, translatology and translation studies and the world of corpus linguistics.

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15 Responses to “Corpus Deficit”

  1. Hania Says:

    There is something even more surprising: corpus linguistics, the field that has been studied and developed for more than 50 years, and which thanks to linguists and computer scientists came to be a powerful translation and methodology tool, is unpopular (not to say unknown) among linguists in some countries. And I don’t mean the translators here, but the scholars. What have they been doing for so long?

    Nothing is more helpful than corpus. I’m sure that some translators use it; I have even heard about one who used to collect printed multilingual corpus (because at that time computers were a rarity) and browse it by hand in search of words and phrases while translating. This person did not even know that the collected stuff is a “corpus”.

    “It is amazing how many translators are stuck in their ways and unwilling to try new techniques, new methods that might improve the way they translate”

    I don’t agree! 🙂
    Good translators look for strategies that make their task easier; they are not afraid of new technologies;

    All in all, I think that there should be more interest in corpus linguistics; there should be more specialists in this field and courses or even whole studies devoted to this problem ,the courses which would show translators how to cope with their tasks quickly and effectively

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    To say that corpus linguistics (in its modern form) has been around for more than 50 years is a little exaggeration. Translators (like other professionals) tend to get used to working in a particular way and it is no surprise when they do not like other people telling them to change the way they work.

  3. Ania Mulica Says:

    I remember my first contact with corpus during the conference organised by DOS. I had never heared about it before that and I was surprised that many teachers who were present in the conference room were not familiar with the phenomenon as well.
    Corpus is one of the tools a translator or a teacher may use in their work. It is useful to be aware of the existence of the whole variety of theories and ways we can do things. This, I believe, applies to any profession. It is our choice what we consider to be the most useful. Different people use different techniques, which makes our work even more interesting. I would not critize anyone for using this or that technique, except the were ignorants.

  4. transubstantiation Says:

    Corpus studies are most certainly one of the newest and most useful techniques in linguistics and translation. For some reason, this field still seems to be quite slow in taking off in Poland, although there are several scholars, namely Agnieszka Lenko, Adam Przepiorkowski and Raf Uzar.

  5. Ania Mulica Says:

    Sorry for my spelling mistakes, but I guess I will never get rid of them… I feel like an ignorant now.

  6. Madzia Says:

    it is not the case that corpus is a widely known tool for translators. I have come across it just last year, and I have not started to use it from the start. A new technique does not have to be used from the spot if it is time-consuming or notworth-the-effort kind of thing, as some people would say. Yet, I personally am planning to create my own corpora for the sake of my MA thesis. Threfore, people may use a technique at some point, but first one has to know it well, and test it first. I personally know only one person to use a corpus; so, I do believe it is not a widely known tool, and I don’t think it will be ubiquitous for some time still.

  7. transubstantiation Says:

    Indeed, if you have not come into contact with corpora it may seem strange (and even difficult) to jump right in and start creating something which is still relatively new to you. The problem is also one of translators and linguists/academics/teachers not being entirely in tune with one another. Applied linguistics could perhaps do more to work with translators and both fields could exchange ideas and work. This would help bring the newest technologies to both fields by using the experience gained by both fields.

  8. Aureliusz Says:

    ‘Corpora still have to break into the world of the nomenclature of everyday language professionals like translators and teachers.’ I think that it’s the highest time for the language professionals to become aware of numerous merits of the corpus, and put it into life. Nevertheless, it should also be remembered that changing people’s attitudes and patterns of thought takes time.

  9. Aureliusz Says:

    ‘Corpora still have to break into the world of the nomenclature of everyday language professionals like translators and teachers.’ I think that it’s highest time for the language professionals to become aware of numerous merits of the corpus, and put it into life. Nevertheless, it should also be remembered that changing people’s attitudes and patterns of thought takes time.

  10. transubstantiation Says:

    So what can be done to entice people?

  11. Basia A. Says:

    Well, I never notice any information about corpora neither in the Internet nor enywhere else. I heard about it at SWPS :)Maybe the problem is that without knowing an exact webpage, or a person who uses corpora, it is almost impossible to find any mention about what it is or where to find it. So maybe it is good to, for example, put some banners on pages with dictionaries or on the ones devoted to translation.( because I think many translators do use the Internet)That’s only a suggestion 🙂

  12. Basia A. Says:

    P.s. Sorry for mistakes but there is no way to correct them. ;/

  13. transubstantiation Says:

    It is interesting that a large number of people still have difficulty finding information concerning corpora. It is simply enough to take a look at some of the links on the left-hand side of this website.


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