Any language interpretors here?

Are there any language interpretors in this forum? Anyone has a job as a translator or interpretor?

Robert Biegler (“lovelanguagesIII”) is a top professional interpreter with 4 working languages plus his native language.

Another talented guy is @alsuvi. He works as a translator, not sure whether he also trained as an interpreter.

(Aside @MediumCORE: do stop confusing me with your names, please…)

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I nearly forgot @MikeBond, he is an Italian translator (and perhaps interpreter, too?)

@SanneT

I though he was only a tutor. Well… I guess he might do some translating and interpreting too, for some extra cash. I would work as an interpreter for some extra money, if I had the chance.

I am a professional translator. I took a few “liaison interpretation” exams at university with contrasting results: good marks in French-Italian-French, not so good ones in German-Italian-German exams. My German interpretation teachers dissuaded me from pursuing a career as an interpreter. It was neither what I wanted to do nor what I could do best, but a posteriori I admit it may have brought me more job opportunities.
Anyway, I would be able to perform as an interpreter in rather simple contexts.

@mikebond, thanks for your notice. It’s great to meet a professional translator. I have a passion for becoming one as well. Could you recommend me some books you feel can shine and make more realistic on the idea of becoming a professional translator or interpretor?

@OzzyHellBack, @SanneT, @MediumCORE , thank you for your reply.

@Eric

“Robert Bigler talks about his experience, working as an interpreter and translator at the Polyglot Conference in Budapest. This videos gives a good insight into the work and life of someone working in this field.”

j:-)

I think Robert is a bit of a language compiler as well as a language interpreter!

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mmmm :wink:

I would say: he has the right nick name: lovelanguages or sprachbegeistert.

j;-)

ad Colin and Jolanda: Looking forward to our next “language compiling session” so we can express our love for languages :wink:

By the way, my previous post was a joke, just in case you missed it (which I’m sure you did). Spatterson would get it.

ad Colin: (…) …By the way, my previous post was a joke, just in case you missed it (which I’m sure you did). (…)

Ah, bad, bad, little Colin always making terrible assumptions :wink:

P.S. I know that “to compile” means “to gather, to collect” and I’m aware of compilers as software programs. But, of course, it is possible that you meant something else :wink:

@ Robb

You are on the right track withthe software program thing. Anyway, I spent most of the day today teaching your little brothers and sisters how to do scientific ‘visualisation’ with IDL. I didn’t teach them about Python because I know jack about it, but i told them to check it out if they want a free alternative to IDL.

By the way, I wrote a long Robert style post on this thread

One thing that I was wondering about when I wrote it was whether or not it is possible to simultaneously interpret a technical scientfic talk. Given that most of these talks are understood usually by a small fraction of the audience, do you think it would be possible for a professional to interpret them? My guess is no.

ad Colin: (…)
By the way, I wrote a long Robert style post on this thread
(…)

I read it. You learn quickly (I’m referring to the length of your article not to its content).

There are some things where I agree with you and others where I don’t. No big surprise, here, I guesss.

I don’t think it is a “good thing” as you put it that English is used for most scientific publications. And, as a matter of fact, it is not, at least not in the way you suggested.

I also believe that a lot of content and information gets lost due to poorly written documents. They are poorly written because a scientist might be an expert in his field but this does not automatically make him an expert in the English language. Porsche is one of the big companies where people have understood that forcing English as a “lingua franca” upon its non-English speaking employees is extremely counterproductive.

I have had the same experience at many conferences. People who would have loved to participate in discussions remained silent because they felt uncomfortable speaking in English. Many misunderstandings result from the use of poor English, both written and spoken English.

Much of my work with legal translations results from the fact that people fight over contracts which were originally written in “English” (with both of the parties of the agreement speaking another language as their native tongue) and obviously contain numerous linguistic mistakes which give rise to a lot of misinterpretations. Of course, this can also happen if you sign a contract with someone who drafted the document in your mother tongue. I’m not talking about legal tricks here, however, but about true misunderstandings and believe me, there are many of them.

As for articles published in English by non-native speakers, the vast majority of them are proof-read by native speaking experts or an expert in the field and a linguistic expert toghether. People don’t save as much money as you think. My friend works at an EBM (Evidenced Based Medicine) centre where he has to deal with many studies written in poor English. A large number of them are often simply discarded because they are so imprecise linguistically speaking that they don’t meet the required scientific standards.

(…) One thing that I was wondering about when I wrote it was whether or not it is possible to simultaneously interpret a technical scientfic talk. (…)

Of course, it is possible. It happens all the time. As long as you provide the interpreter with material he can use to prepare himself beforehand, things should be fine.

I am not a technician myself but I have translated thousands of technical patents covering many different fields. I have been working at conferences where they talked about highly specific surgery, nano technology and I’m sure many of my colleagues would be able to properly interpret any presentation you or any other expert in your field give, as long as you provide them with material to prepare beforehand.

I have done similar work too. There are areas where I feel that it is better somebody else does the job. But there are interpreters out there who have studied law, physics, chemistry etc. or who have had many years of experiences working for experts in these fields.

The problem with interpreting is not so much any potential lack of knowledge of the matter at hand on the part of the interpreter, but the poor presentations. I have been at many conferences where even renowned experts failed to follow the entire presentation because of the terrible English it was presented in.

If I have time enough to prepare for a specific topic I am confident I can interpret a technical presentation. It is not necessary for me to be able to give the same speech as you. Besides, you can always give a presentation in a way which won’t be understood by anybody but yourself :wink:

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A convincing rebuttal of Colin’s English-only plea.

@ Robert

I will take your word for it that technical scientific talks can be interpreted. I have never seen it tried. Such talks usually have lots of very speciallised vocabulary that means nothing outside of a small circle of experts and often can’t be found explained in any dictionary or website. It took me years to learn most of the technical vocabulary of my own field and I still come across in any talk that is slightly outside of my own focus within this field, I can’t understand a huge amount of their vocabulary. The only way I would be able to learn the vocabulary would be to spend months or years reading their publications and talking about these subjects with them.

“You learn quickly (I’m referring to the length of your article not to its content).”

Ouch! You may not be improving your English by posting in this forum much, but you are certainly learning some good trash talking skills.

“that English is used for most scientific publications. And, as a matter of fact, it is not, at least not in the way you suggested.”

In which science are most of the publications not written in English? I should be more clear that I am only really talking here about the natural sciences within academia. I should have been more clear about this.

I am interested in what kind of scientific conferences you go to. None of the conferences I have been to would ever have had the resources to hire a team of expert interpreters.

“As for articles published in English by non-native speakers, the vast majority of them are proof-read by native speaking experts or an expert in the field and a linguistic expert toghether.”

Well you would have to ask the scientific journals what they do during the editing process, but I don’t think most scientists who publish in journals like Annalan der Physik pay for their work to be proof read before submitting. I have never heard og anybody doing this. I proof read a lot of stuff because I am one of two native speakers working in my intitute, but I have never been paid. It doesn’t take so much time to proof read something and correct the English, even when the English is pretty bad. The journals themselves proof read all articles and make quite a few changes to fix the language in them.

“People don’t save as much money as you think. My friend works at an EBM (Evidenced Based Medicine) centre where he has to deal with many studies written in poor English. A large number of them are often simply discarded because they are so imprecise linguistically speaking that they don’t meet the required scientific standards.”

I have never seen such a paper in astronomy, but I don’t read medical papers so I don’t know.

@ Robert

You have discussed inaccuracies in the literature caused by the person writing not having a high level of English, but what about inaccuracies caused by the translator not understanding the thing they are translating, which if they were translating physics papers would be about 99.9% of the time?

I have no experience translating, but I do have a lot of experience correcting English for technical writing. It doesn’t usually take much time and isn’t usually so difficult, but I do usually need to consult the author of the work several times about what they mean in certain sentences that I can’t correct because I don’t understand them. I recently corrected large parts of an Italian guy’s PhD thesis in Vienna. The thesis was about numerical simulations of how meteors and comets fly about the solar system. This is outside of my own expertise and in the end, the only way I could correct it was by actually sitting with the guy and discussing with him what he meant in the bits I didn’t understand. If it is this hard going from from English to English, I wonder how hard it is going between languages.

Another good example is a paper I recently published in the British astronomy journal MNRAS. These papers are all proof read and edited after being accepted and before being published by the journal. After the proof reading, they send back the edited version for the authors to check. In my paper, despite being written by a native speaker (me) and proof read by many times by three other native speakers (and a French guy), there were still typos to be fixed that they found. However, they also added mistakes to two sentences that they clearly didn’t understand properly, usually in the form of changing the verb from the thrid-peson singular to the third-person plural or the other way round.

ad Colin: (…) I will take your word for it that technical scientific talks can be interpreted. I have never seen it tried. …I am interested in what kind of scientific conferences you go to. (…)

How do you think such talks are handled by the UN? :wink:

I have worked for the UNIDO quite a few times and believe me, they have some pretty technical talks there too.

Conferences of the “European Association of Nuclear Medicine” also get quite scientific, so do meetings organised by Greenpeace since they too invite scientists to give speeches (including natural scientists).

In my previous post I also mentioned a conference about nano technology where I interpreted.

The European Biomass Conference I worked at a few weeks ago also was fairly technical, with quite a few experts from the field of natural sciences.

(…) …The only way I would be able to learn the vocabulary would be to spend months or years reading their publications and talking about these subjects with them. (…)

You are confusing things here. First of all, I don’t think it will take you months or years to learn specific words. It may take you that much time to understand the underlying scientific concepts in detail, but this is a completely different matter.

While an interpreter needs to have some knowledge of the field he interprets in, it is YOU who gives the speech. I don’t need to actually comprehend the scientific concept of what you are saying. My job is to make sure that my interpretation renders exactly what you say and I can say things without being able to understand the scientific logic behind it. This does indeed require a good grasp of the language and some basic understanding of the matter at hand, but I need not be an expert.

As I said, preparation is the key. If I know the word for a specific scientific process I need not understand how that process works. Again, I’m not the one giving the speech, the content is your job. I also doubt that there are many words you won’t be able to find on the Internet.

Dictionaries are one, but definitely not the only source of information. Parallel texts are often a much better source and you’ll find plenty of them on practically any subject. I don’t think astronomy is that much of an exception here.

I would certainly not be able to interpret a speech given by you ad hoc but with proper preparation I see no reason why I or any other trained interpreter should not be able to do so.

(…) I have never heard og anybody doing this. (…)

These might the people who end up publishing incomprehensible articles :wink:

(…) …I proof read a lot of stuff because I am one of two native speakers working in my intitute, but I have never been paid. (…)

That’s what I meant. Articles need to be proof-read, you say so yourself (…I proof-read a lot of stuff…).

It doesn’t matter whether you get paid or not and as a matter of fact you are getting paid, if you do the proof-reading during your working hours (even if you are not paid a specific fee for the actual proof-reading job your employer pays for the time you spend at your place of work).

(…) …It doesn’t take so much time to proof read something and correct the English, even when the English is pretty bad. The journals themselves proof read all articles and make quite a few changes to fix the language in them. (…)

Exactly, now you even have two steps of proof-reading. This very much confirms what I said in my post. Editors would certainly also correct certain formulations if the text had been written by a native speaker but there is much more work involved if the writer is not a native speaker (unless he has reached a high level of proficiency in English and this is not as common as you seem to suggest).

(…) …I have never seen such a paper in astronomy, but I don’t read medical papers so I don’t know. (…)

Well, then your field of expertise seems to be an exception. Scientific papers written in poor English abound in many fields (unless they have been proof-read by native speakers and that is exactly what I said in my post).

ad Colin: (…) …but what about inaccuracies caused by the translator not understanding the thing they are translating, which if they were translating physics papers would be about 99.9% of the time? (…)

Of course, this is a potential source of mistakes. However, I think you extremely overestimate the “uniqueness” of your field of expertise and grossly underestimate the qualifications of trained translators. As I told you before, there are translators who have studied physics, medicine, law etc. and even if they haven’t, many of them have worked many years, sometimes decades, in their fields.

If what you said were true, there should not be a single professional paper on physics out there which was not originally written in English and I’m sure you know that this is not the case. There are good translations of highly scientific papers and books available and I don’t think that the people translating these works failed to understand 99.9 % of the content as you suggested.

(…) If it is this hard going from from English to English, I wonder how hard it is going between languages. (…)

Being a native speaker is not a qualification per se. I’m translating a German text right now which was written by a German attorney-at-law and, believe me, there is nothing “unique” or “excellent” about his command of the German language :wink:

As a matter of fact, it often is the lack of linguistic skills of an author that requires the interpreter/translator to make an even greater effort to ensure the accuracy of his translation/interpretation. And this applies mostly to cases where people have to give a presentation in English or write a text in English without possessing the necessary linguistic skills to do so.

When I work with a client, I always do so in close cooperation with him. Whenever I am in doubt, I will talk to him and ask him to explain things to me. Again, I need not be able to understand how X-rays work to be able to translate a text about them. After all, I’m not writing the text myself, I am translating and while this requires high linguistic skills and a basic understanding of the subject at hand, I don’t have to be an expert in the field.

One thing is true, however: The less accurate your presentations are, the bigger the challenge for the translator/interpreter.

I have worked for the European Patent Office for 12 years and many of the inventions patented naturally involved novelties people sometimes even had to find new words for. I still managed to translate these texts because I worked in close cooperation with the author.

Translating and interpreting are jobs for professionals but you need not be a rocket scientist to do a good job :wink: