Translating Reality

In a world caught between reality and virtuality where is the place of the translator? Translators nowadays work in a space somewhere between the two, flitting from the real world to the virtual world. Modern professional translators are some of the most capable internet users around.  Paper-based dictionaries have been joined by internet and electronic dictionaries. Soon we will be in a situation where the days of bound dictionaries will be a thing of the past. However, can we be sure that our reliance on everything that is electronic is well-founded?

Corpus work was discussed previously and this gives us an ideal stepping stone for additional commentary on electronic translation tools. Many translators do not rely on the corpus but spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the ether to find adequate translations and appropriate equivalents for words, phrases or sentences that they find particularly perplexing. In this there is no harm.

However, a misguided reliance on the internet may lead to serious translational damage. An example might be in order at this point. Excessive internet use brings on the belief that the world wide web is a fountain of knowledge, a reference tool which provides accurate data at the click of a mouse. This, unfortunately, is not the case. The internet by its very nature is perverted, warped and often idiosyncratic. Much of the reference work on the internet is user-created. Take, for instance, the marvellous Wikipedia which is one of the best reference pedias on the internet. However, this does not mean that it can be relied on by the translator. Wikipedia is user-maintained and the ideas, thoughts and concepts within the site are created by those who use it, not experts.

The internet is a good example of this. Take the Polish województwo and a veritable deluge of equivalents will rain down on the translator: voivodeship, province, palatinate, region, office and many others. Which is correct? Here the translator becomes interpreter. When striding between the world of dictionary definitions and language use, the translator needs to be able to interpret the data at his/her disposal and only then make his/her judgement and choice.

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6 Responses to “Translating Reality”

  1. Agnieszka K.K. Says:

    “Modern professional translators are some of the most capable internet users around. Paper-based dictionaries have been joined by internet and electronic dictionaries. Soon we will be in a situation where the days of bound dictionaries will be a thing of the past. However, can we be sure that our reliance on everything that is electronic is well-founded?”

    i suppose the character of a translator’s job makes us researchers of a sort. Most often we are dealing with texts in fields we are not experts at, and so internet proves the most convenient tool (at least in the preliminary stages)
    still, i dont think ‘traditional’ dictionaries ‘will be a thing of the past’, at least not too soon i hope. Same discussion was held on books/newspapers and internet. Not exactly the same, right. Undoubtedly, using electronic resources is far less time-consuming, but lets face it, as long as we dont have an instant access to those electronic devices we have to cope somehow. We should know how to make use of them, of course, but not rely on them completely. My point is, given an advanced calculating machine, even a mathematic ignorant can calculate, the thing is to get to the result no matter what you have at your disposal. I might be exaggerating…
    and then:

    “(…) a misguided reliance on the internet may lead to serious translational damage. (…) The internet by its very nature is perverted, warped and often idiosyncratic. Much of the reference work on the internet is user-created.”

    exactly, that’s why we should be “picky” in a way. It’s important to examine the source. Is the author credible to us? As with the “województwo” equivalent, if possible, it’s best to look for an acknowledged translation. The problem is there are more than one, depending on which “województwo” we are talking about 😐 how to generalise would be up to a translator then…

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    Your comment – “…it’s best to look for an acknowledged translation” – is very interesting. Both dictionaries, corpora and the internet are all useful tools if we can be sure that we can rely on them. Hence, your comment. Both know-how and experience are vital.

  3. Ania Mulica Says:

    The very essence of our work is to be critical.We are obliged to contradict things and ask qiestions. Therfore, we have to have a close look at resources we use. One of the principles, I guess, is to be carefull and think over a thing twice, three times before making a decission. Sometimes resources are not enough and we are left with our intuition only. Experience is very helpul, if not vital.

  4. transubstantiation Says:

    Decision-making is essential to what we do, but what happesn when little time is left? Are we left only to our intuition?

  5. Kasia Szukała Says:

    Nowadays we live surrounded by media and internet.Internet may serve as avaluable help for translarors but is it really so?Internet provides us with many translations of a given word but translators are the people to choose and interpret the data.Much of the reference work on the internet is created by its users.If we are too trustworthy and do not check the data proprely it may lead to serious translatonal damage.However i think it is always better to have more sources to check information and internet is one of them.We should also remember to take advantage of corpora -the most recent and contemporary source in the field of translation.

  6. transubstantiation Says:

    Kasia Szukała, Most certainly this is the case. The internet ‘serves’ as a valuable resource. The choice of the word ‘serves’ is very apt. The internet is a tool and we are its master and NOT the other way around. We can have thousands of translations of one phrase but in the end, the translator makes the choice. Yes, we can use statistical information, but WE make the final choice.


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