Archive for the ‘Translatorspeak’ Category

Translatorspeak – Part II

March 24, 2011

As explained in part one of this series, the translation industry uses its very own jargon.

Some more technical terms have accumulated in the entries since Translatorspeak – Part I:



The SME and the Translator

June 23, 2010

Many texts to be translated are originally written by specialists in a certain technical field, in the translating world often referred to as the SME, or subject-matter expert. Often these texts are then used or published in both language versions.

Specialists usually look back on many years of experience in the subject area that they write about. So, where and how do you find a translator to match?


What is Simplified English?

June 16, 2010

Simplified English is a term used largely in connection with machine translation. More generally, it is also called Controlled Language, since the principles can be applied to any natural language.

Controlled language was first used in aerospace technical documentation, i.e. for the manuals of airplanes and other flying craft , which often comprise several thousand pages. In essence, a controlled language is a subset of terms taken from a natural language and stripped in their possible meanings to one single meaning. Throughout such documentations, therefore, a certain word always means the same thing.

With these limitations, machine translation works fairly well: In a limited context, such as a specific technical field with limited meanings of individual words. It is evident that in these cases very restrictive rules must be applied up front to the source text. These rules aim at reducing the ambiguity of terms to establish a clear-cut terminology. The result is the controlled language, which consists of a certain limited set of approved words, each with a single defined meaning.

Another reason why such controlled languages have been developed is to render texts easier to read for non-native speakers of the language (mostly English, hence the name). Of course, both the author of such texts and the reader/translator/machine must be familiar with the approved terms and their meanings. In both languages, when it comes to translation.

clipped to work

What is a Translation Memory and How Does it Work?

February 4, 2010

Luckily, a translation memory is not a mental ability that translators must develop to be able to do their jobs. Rather, it is a computer based software tool that facilitates and supports translation work.

Working with translation memories does not mean machine translation. This is something entirely different. A translation memory retains the translations done by a human translator along with the original text and stores both in its database for later reuse. The tool itself is not actively involved in the translation process. A human translator still does all the job.

The screenshot shows how translation memories work: They chop up the text in little segments (sentences mostly), which are translated consecutively by the human translator. When the translator is satisfied with the solution, s/he confirms the segment by selecting the corresponding function and proceeds to the next segment. Both, the sentence of the source document and the translated sentence of the target document are stored in a database.

The advantage of translation memories clearly lies in the faster and easier processing of texts with a large number of recurring or similar sentences and phrases. This is the case in technical texts of all sorts, such as contracts, user manuals, process documentations, and so on. For creative, artistic or aesthetically pleasing texts, however, translation memories must be used with excessive care to keep the unique and original nature of such texts alive.

keep it in mind

Translatorspeak – Part I

November 18, 2009

Like most industries the language service providers have their own terminology and language. Such types of technical language are called jargon or sometimes technical jargon.

I often use translation related terms in this blog. In response to some questions I have been asked I will start to clarify some of these terms. If you want to look them up, blog entries containing such terms will be grouped in the ‘Translatorspeak’ category in the right-hand side navigation.

If you don’t find a term I use explained in one of the entries in the Translatorspeak category, leave a comment and I will explain it in a later entry.


Using CAT Tools

October 21, 2009

009_CAT_ToolsAs a translator you don’t have to like cats, but it helps. In translation, CAT stands for computer aided translation. This is not machine translation. I will cover that topic another time.

CAT tools basically are databases that store a translator’s work and terminology for later reuse. The translation is made by the human translator. Only the result is then commited to the database. Most translators today use two types of CAT tools: translation memories and term bases.