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Pattern-building (induction)

Less perhaps needs to be said in defense, let alone explanation, of the inductive

process of building patterns through exposure to numerous individual cases, than

about the more controversial process of abduction; it is generally recognized that

induction is how translators most typically proceed with any given translation task

or series of translation tasks, and thus also how translators are most effectively

"trained" (or train themselves). Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly helps;

the more words, phrases, and whole texts a person has translated, the better a

translator that person is likely to be.

But a few comments are in order. One is that "experience" or "practice" conceived

as induction is more than sheer mindless exposure to masses of material. It is a process

of sifting mindfully through that material, constantly looking for regularities,

patterns, generalities that can bring some degree of order and thus predictability

and even control to the swirl of experience. To some extent this "mindfulness" can

be subconscious, subliminal — but only if one has sublimated an analytical spirit,

a searching contrast-and-compare mentality that never quite takes things exactly

as they come but must always be asking "why?" and "why not?" and "haven't I seen

something like this before?"

To put that differently, the "mindfulness" that raises experience to an inductive

process is an attentiveness, a readiness to notice and reflect upon words and phrases

and register shifts and all the other linguistic and nonlinguistic material to which a

translator is constantly being exposed — striking or unusual words and phrases,

certainly, but also ordinary ones that might have escaped earlier attention, familiar

ones that might have shifted in usage or meaning, etc. You hear a word that sounds

as if it might work as an equivalent for some source-language word that has bothered

you in the past, and you immediately stop and ask questions: you hear someone in

Spain using the word "empoderamiento" casually in conversation, for example, and

you begin pestering the speaker with questions designed to establish whether that

word really works as a Spanish equivalent of the English "empowerment," or whether

its parallel Latin derivation is a mere misleading coincidence (making it a "false

friend"). Working inductively, translators are always "collecting" words and phrases

that might some day be useful, some on note cards or in computer files, others only

in their heads; and that sort of collection process requires that the translator have

her or his "feelers" out most or all of the time, sorting out the really interesting and

potentially useful and important words and phrases from the flood of language that

we hear around us every day.

It is also significant that, while the inductive process of finding patterns in large

quantities of experience has the power to transform our subliminal habits, it is

ultimately only effective once it is incorporated into those subliminal habits. In fact,

the process of sublimating inductive discoveries can help explain why inductive

experience is so much more useful for the practicing translator than deduction, the

learning and application of general rules and theories. There is a natural movement

from ongoing discoveries and insights to subliminal habit that is enhanced by

induction — especially when induction is conceived as becoming conscious of

something just long enough to recognize its interesting characteristics and then

storing it — and can actually be hindered or blocked by deduction. But more of that

in the next section.