Wordly Matters: Paraphrasing Work For Conyac

Personal Reflections on Working with Conyac

In February and March, I participated in a paraphrasing project on Conyac.cc. It provided me with a steady, decent-paying source of work for about a month. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the work was the experience I gained from it; I don’t think I had ever done so much paraphrasing before. It expanded my awareness of how small the English language is. There are really only so many ways of saying the same thing without changing the meaning. One could even argue that it is impossible to change words without changing meanings, because the sounds themselves are tied to the meanings in a sometimes almost imperceptibly subtle way, and because even when two words have the same technical meaning, they must always have at least the tiniest, most subtle difference in connotation, and connotation is a part of the meaning of words. Without the usage of connotations in addition to rigid “dictionary” meanings, neither poetry nor beautiful prose could exist, and all language would be reduced to mere “legalism.” Thus, paraphrasing is, on the one hand, something perfectly natural that can communicate the same meanings in a different way with only the tiniest, most insignificant imaginable change in meaning, and on the other hand, it is sometimes a literally impossible task because there are only so many words in a language, and only so many ways to express a given meaning without resorting to innovation. And once in the realm of innovation, the language itself becomes at risk of being no longer used and paraphrased, but instead being deformed (or “evolved”) into an entirely new phenomenon.

These are the kinds of musings that result from my work with Conyac in hindsight, yet I don’t remember how much I thought about these things while doing my work – I was more preoccupied with doing as much work as I could before the project ended. One thing I wonder about now is the extent to which my paraphrasing experience and subsequent reflections have improved my skill in paraphrasing. I suppose will have to do more paraphrasing work of different kinds to find out.

All in all, this work was more enjoyable than much of the work I have done. I, like probably  many others who worked on the project, wish I could do more of the same.



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