Linguists or Translators?

One thing all good translators know is that accurate terminology is really important. It’s why translators usually list what domains they have experience in – because the ability to use the correct terminology is of utmost importance. Inside a particular domain, what otherwise would be normal words/phrases in a language can be claimed for precise terminology. For example, a few months ago I was talking to a business development guy at a company about translation software. He came from a military background and referred to himself as a linguist. I mentioned that I was also a linguist. I was referring to the fact that I have a B.A. in Linguistics. He, however, thought that meant that I had been a military translator/interpreter. In his domain, linguist and military translator/interpreter were synonymous. Usage, I think, tends toward making every linguist either a accent guru, or a translator who picks up languages for fun. Familiarity with the fields of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, pragmatics, etc. are not what people think of when they think ‘linguist’, just someone who knows other languages.
This terminology domain overlap brings me to issues that we run into all the time here and, I think, are common terminology errors or conflicts in our domain of translation. Let me enumerate a few. Please let me know if any need to be modified or additional ones you think are often mischaracterized.
Translation Tool (translation software)– In our field, this term is too ambiguous. We either need to refer to CAT (computer aided translation) or MT (machine translation).
Translator – This is understood inside our world as a document translator. Outside our domain, I think the tendency is to assume this means interpreter, and while these skills overlap, they are not the same.
Fluent – There is a whole spectrum of potential adjectives you could assign to your non-native language. ‘Fluent’ I think is the most abused/ambiguous. It’s useful to communicate general competence; it’s too nebulous to base a reputation on.
Linguist – As I stated above, this means someone with knowledge in the fields of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, pragmatics, etc.  A translator is not necessarily a linguist nor a linguist a translator.
PDF – This is a curse word. You shouldn’t use it nor allow others to. If you must, please specify whether it is a ‘live’ (created from an electronic document) or ‘dead’ (scanned or image-based) PDF.
Terminology/Glossary – Some people get very religious about how to label a list of words/phrases with other language equivalents. Some of the problem here is that Terminology and Glossary have monolingual meanings as well that overlap in many ways. The jury still is out on what we should go with on this one – Wikipedia describes glossary and terminology VERY similarly as do their dictionary definitions.  Glossary on the whole seems to connote less structure, terminology more.
Localization – This term has largely been commandeered by the software industry. Localization and Internationalization (L10n and i18n) have specific meanings, but have now come to mean just translation of software (and occasionally websites) . But the word ‘localization’ also means to translate any content for a specific locale.
Computer literate – One of the main reasons for the burgeoning CAT market is that clients expect translators or LSPs to understand everything about electronic content regardless of format, structure (or lack thereof), etc. As unfair as this might be, a good rule of thumb is to error on the side of conservative about what you know and can handle for computer skills.
Let me know what other terms I’m missing.


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