I've been a MyGengo translator for a while now, but there are still a lot of jobs that I end up skipping because I don't feel confident. I would like to become a better translator and be able to work on more jobs, but it's difficult to learn when we can't challenge ourselves (since it wouldn't be right to give inferior work to a customer just to further our own skills). So how can we practice to become better translators?

Sometimes, I see a job that I'm not confident about translating, and then I wonder what a successful translator would've done with some of the grammatical points that confused me. I feel like if we kept files on jobs that translators could access, it might be a big help. Then, after you've declined a job because of some tricky grammatical points, you could look and see how another translator handled the issue, and learn from it. Is this possible? If not, how can I learn to deal with some of these tricky grammatical aspects?


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    Hi, translatrix,

    This is a really great point, and I'm glad you brought it up.

    You're right--you shouldn't take a translation that you can tell is over your head just for a chance to practice. I applaud your discernment! But I definitely sympathize with the desire to practice--how else can you get better?

    Your suggestion is a great one, but I don't know how feasible it is from the development side. To improve as a translator, in general, you should be doing two things: consuming as much Japanese media as possible, and translating as much as possible, even outside of Gengo. The only way you'll develop a sharper sense for what Japanese means is to get as much exposure to it as possible--to improve your listening and reading comprehension. Watch television and movies, read online articles and print material, books especially, if you can. Focus on material that's relatively fun for you (fiction? pop stars? current events?). Then, translate for fun--song lyrics, scenes from a drama, an op-ed. This gives you a chance to engage with translation on your own time and in your own way, and it's safe to experiment, since it isn't professional work. You can also read other peoples' translations: find English versions of Japanese short stories or novels and compare them to the original (many, many older words are on Aozora Bunkō, for instance). See what other translators did, what you like, and what you dislike about their styles.

    That probably seems like a lot, but you don't have to spend all your time and energy on it; treat it like a hobby, for instance. It will definitely pay off over time!

    I'd also like to point out the forums as a resource. When you're looking at a job on the queue (or Japanese anywhere you see it!) and notice something it that's beyond your skill level, make a note of it, and hop over to ask about it here, or on the Translators Only thread in the Translator forums. That way you can pick other translators' brains and get feedback on your own suggestions.

    Is any of this helpful? 


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    Most of these are things I already do, but when I encounter grammatical combinations that are rarely used or that I don't understand, it can be difficult. I have no trouble translating ordinary speech, letters, or narrative, but when it comes to things like legal documents, technical documents or elliptical/abbreviated speech taken out of context, it can be very difficult. It isn't easy to find translated legal documents and things like that online to practice with. I suppose next time I'll cut and paste to the Translators Only forum.

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    Natalia Manidis

    Hi translatrix

    That's a clever idea. Your thinking is along the same lines as filarono's and Mirko's expressed here. We really appreciate your feedback and suggestions but unfortunately, as Bailey mentioned, we're not in a position to implement a feature like this at this stage.

    In the meantime, please do share your translations in the Translators Only forum — the more people use it, the more useful it will become. We look forward to you starting the ball rolling soon! :)



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    That's true--I myself have only come across those things working for Gengo. I'd definitely copy and paste them to the Translator forum.

    The only other tip I have is one that seems almost stupidly basic, but bears repeating: lean hard on grammar. A really common problem, especially with the sort of dense texts you mention, is the temptation to smooth it into English prose that sounds plausible at the expense of strict adherence to the nuts and bolts of the sentence at hand. It's really easy to mentally skip over a particular particle, for instance, when you're sort of buried in that kind of sentence, so it's vital to make really careful note of what's supposed to be doing what.

    Elliptical speech! A constant companion. That can be actually impossible without context, and it's something for which the only recourse may be asking the customer for clarification.


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    Speak of the devil...


    Actually, I think that filarono's idea (and mine) was more about being able to search through our own translations, rather than others', in order to (try to) improve consistency across translations, especially those carried out for the same customer (for instance, a couple days ago I translated a "job group" for a customer for which I had already translated similar copy several months ago, and in that case I sorely missed that feature, as I was unable to check how I had previously translated some of those terms...).


    As for the specific topic of this thread, I sympathize with translatrix' approach, as I've found myself declining some projects as well, as I didn't feel confident enough to carry them out (or sometimes because the customer asked the translator to squeeze the translation in a character limit I thought impossible, or because of other requests that also seemed either impossible or too time consuming to adhere to).


    As for her suggestion, I don't know how feasible that would be, not just technically, but also with regard to confidentiality concerns, and also considering that even though a translation may have been submitted and/or accepted, that alone doesn't guarantee that it is also 'right'. However, there already are some similar platforms on the net, like http://mymemory.translated.net/english/ or http://www.linguee.com/ (which however doesn't cover JP), that are basically online TU databases (although reliability remains an issue). This could be an interesting approach, but there would be a lot of things to consider.


    Other than that, many websites are localized in several languages, and sometimes they even provide document downloads in (at least some of) those languages, so that could be a good place to start, once you find reliable and relevant sources for the specific topic(s) you are interested in (I suppose one of the easiest things to find translated in several languages are EULA agreements and user manuals, for instance, and you could even start building a reference TM by aligning some of those docs...).


    As a general remark about the whole matter, however, I think we shouldn't forget that the people translating on Gengo are 'formally' qualified to do so, and that Gengo's own quality policy clearly states “Do not use Gengo’s Standard, Business or Ultra levels for specialized or safety-critical material.”, in which cases only a 'gist' translation is guaranteed, and I believe that legal and technical copy falls under this category (IF I understood those disclaimers correctly).



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    As always, I appreciate the forum activity. I too sympathize with Translatrix.

    I understand that it would be difficult for us translators to peek at each other's work, and I value the individuality of translators as a unique trait of Gengo, but I sometimes wonder about overall consistency. For example, I usually avoid requests for "cute girly" language because I don't know where to draw the line between emoticons and proper sentence construction. I imagine I'll almost always leave this sort of translation for other folks, but I feel it involves one of many judgment calls that are hard to make without knowing the customer's audience.

    Could a few sample/archetype translations dealing with common situations be posted, including examples of when it is appropriate to comment or flag a job?

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