Saturday, August 18, 2012

Comments on Positive Marking and on Fansubbers

To those of you who have commented on the post about positive marking...

I ought to have acknowledged that even before I heard about propositional analysis from David Gerver, I'd learnt about positive marking from Daniel Gouadec, a well-known French translation teacher who came to teach for a couple of years at the University of Ottawa in the late seventies (see References). He was working at the time on a marking system for the Canadian government Translation Bureau's quality assessment section, but I don't know whether they ever used it.

I'm glad of course that Julie found the post helpful. Let's see how it works out.

In reply to SEO Translator: the deductive method is usually applied to short texts, say 300-500 words. For purposes of comparison, texts of about the same length as one another are used; and also, obviously, of the same level of difficulty. The 'pass mark' varies according to the expectations of the markers or examiners, taking account of the purpose of the exercise (professional examination, translation school assignment, etc.), the institution, the difficulty of the text, the level of the examinees, and so on. I've seen pass marks of 60% to 90%. Logically, tests for Expert Translators should have a high pass mark.

In the CILISAT tests, using positive scoring, we actually had two pass marks: one for 'ready to work' and a lower one for 'shows promise but needs training'. As I recall, they were 80 and 60 respectively, but that was after combining with the separate assessment for quality of target language. I haven't thought about automating these or other scorings. Possibly.

It's true that in certain cases, translation mistakes could kill people. One thinks of instructions for pharmaceuticals, aircraft maintenance manuals, and so on. For texts where that might result, only Expert Translators should be used.

And on fansubbing...

To n: Good point that the fansubbers too are constrained by demands and have to work fast. Thank you. And I like your blogs.

To Anonymous: Good point also that it's the industry rather than the translators who need to innovate.

Speed is an important factor in all translation quality. This is something many, perhaps most, users fail to appreciate. Recently a client offered me more money to get an important translation of his done faster. I replied, "It's not a question of money, it's a question of quality. I need time to revise." But often users will tolerate a drop in quality, even a big drop, if they can get it done faster. It's a trade-off. My client found another translator.

Daniel Gouadec. Comprendre et Traduire. Bordas, Paris 1974, 160 p. This is the book that led me to invite him to Ottawa. Like his other publications, it can be downloaded from here.


  1. I agree with you...It's true that in certain cases, translation mistakes could kill people. Specially on pharmaceuticals, aircraft maintenance or manuals.