Archive for the ‘Terminology’ Category

Translation is (Not) a Team Sport

October 25, 2012

Usually, translators sit alone at their desks while reading a text in one language and hammering it down on their keyboards in another language. Of course, they use their terminology databases, reference texts, background material, etc., etc. But, essentially, a translator receives her/his text from a client, gets it done and sends it back. All necessary clarifications happen between two people.

But what if the text is too long for one person to translate within the given time constraints? For example, a user documentation of 3000 pages or more? Almost a year’s work for one person. So, what to do?

Easy: hack the text in small chunks and distribute it among, say, fifteen translators. They get it done in a couple of weeks.

But, wait a minute. What about consistency? What about terminology? Will all of them use the same word for the same thing?

In all projects where more than one translator is involved some preparatory work is necessary before the text is split up between the members of the translation team:

  • Terminology analysis of the complete text
  • Research and definition of consistent terms and words
  • Identification of repeated phrases and sentences
  • Prior translation of repeated phrases and sentences to avoid inconsistencies
  • Careful segmentation of the text to avoid logical overlaps

Such translation projects are best managed by an experienced translator, who takes care of the up-front analysis and segmentation.

Consistent terminology increases usability and translation quality


Translation Strategies

November 16, 2010

Over the past 20 years of my translation work I have discovered that there are the following strategies* to convert a text from one language into another:

Literal Translation
This is what most of us had to do in school, where we sat with our dictionaries, looking up every other word and getting increasingly frustrated. Never mind. Real translation doesn’t work like that. Results of this approach are texts copied word by word, which are not at all idiomatic in the target language. Such texts lack fluency and are generally eyed with suspicion by most professional translators. Besides, they will be immediately recognized as translations by native speakers of the target language.

You can forget this strategy right away. No one should have to suffer under literal translation.

Exact Translation (One-on-One Translation)
Well, one could point out that every translation should be exact. Yes, but how do we define exact in this case? Think about it!


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

The Dictionary Myth

February 24, 2010

Many people believe that a good dictionary makes half a translation. Well, actually, most translators don’t even use conventional dictionaries in their work, except perhaps to verify a few general technical terms. And only if the proper term in the other language doesn’t pop into their minds right away.

Why is that so? And what do professional translators use instead?


International English

February 19, 2010

You probably heard about this type of English. You will probably be surprised to read that no one speaks this language.


Terminology Matters

January 28, 2010

In translation it is very important to use the right terms. Terms are words that have a certain meaning in a certain context. For example, when I say “coil” what do you think I mean? Right. It might be an electromagnetic coil, or an inductor, a winding of any kind, a poetic word for troubles, or even a contraceptive. It depends entirely on the context you are putting it in.

Therefore, a translator must know the exact context of a text to be able to pick the correct terms. Otherwise, communication fails.

Many translators use terminology databases to collect technical terms of different subject areas and for disambiguation.

always pick the right words

Legalese and Other Jargons

January 11, 2010

Jargon: A set of words to define the meaning and relationship between objects, persons and actions in a specific environment or context. Not to be confused with slang.

The best known type of jargon is the special form of communication used by lawyers. In English it has its own name. It’s called “legalese”. In German they say “Juristendeutsch” and I’m certain equivalents exist in almost any language spoken on this world. Hardly anybody else understands these people when they talk business. Interestingly enough, this is true to some extent for most specialized professions and for all special interest groups, such as for example, physicians, software developers, personal coaches, zoologists, dairy farmers, model aircraft enthusiasts, or amateur astronomers (you can add entries to this list forever, if you like).