Monday, February 28, 2005


What does a leading machine-translation company uses to translate their own documentation and marketing material (where they boast of the high-quality translations produced by their own software)?
Human translators, of course, not their own much-publicized product.
But the irony doesn't stop there... the (human) translators that work on these texts may very well take advantage of some form of machine translation to help them in their task, in addition to the translation memory tools they use all the time.
I think that in the future most professional translators will complement their TM tools with some sort of MT tool. I've already started to do so, at least for certain specific types of text (e.g., software or hardware manuals).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

How the Internet and Google have changed the way we work

I was a full time free lance translators until ten years ago, then came my stint at J.D. Edwards, and now since last January I'm back working full time as a translator.

Yet, how changed is our profession, even in such a short span of time: there was already the Internet, and on-line fora where already active (I used to visit FLEFO regularly... it is still there, languishing with what's left of CompuServe) - but we still relied most of all on paper dictionaries, and on glossaries painstakingly compiled over the years, on paper resources of one type or another.

Now most of the time the information that I need I can find online: documents on all type of machinery, too many online glossaries to count, search engine that permit to verify our guesses with a few keystrokes.

Whole new techniques have evolved to find information on line, such as the way that by searching for the common name of some animal or plant plus the string "scientific name", we can most of the time use Latin, again, as the "universal translator", (albeit in a limited domain).

Still, we can drown in all this information, if we do not learn how to filter it, how to decide whether the page we have found with, seemingly, that hard to translate word we were looking for, is reliable or not.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Stages in a big localization project

Our company is about to start working on a big localization project. We are not the main contractor: we shall only be providing our services to a major translation and localization company.

Unlike many other projects I've seen in the past, this is very well organized, and includes, in the correct order, all the most important activities for such a project:
  1. Creation of a project glossary, translation of the SL glossary into the TLs, approval of the TL glossaries by the customer
  2. Creation of a style guide for each language
  3. Translation of the UI, and approval by the customer
  4. Testing the UI
  5. Translation and editing of the documentation
  6. Publication of the documentation and final proofreading
  7. Generation of the help system from the translated documentation
There are, of course, many more intermediate stages and activities: from the management of translation memories to organizing and implementing a system for answering translators' questions.

It is surprising, though, how many projects do not include some fundamental steps, or do them in the wrong order (such as translating the documentation before the software is translated... or at least stable enough not to cause too many problems during documentation translation).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Translating into a foreign language

Most everybody seem to think that translations only can be done from a foreign language into one's own native language.
Most translators pay at least lip service to this, and yet...
...there are entire countries where most translations are done, for one reason or another, from one's own native language into a foreign one.
I used to think that this happened only for technical or business translations, but apparently Camilleri has been translated into Portugese (at least in Portugal), by an Italian translator.
Of course, Camilleri's language is difficult enough to understand for non-Sicilian Italians, let alone someone for whom Italian is not even their native language.

What translation is not

Translation is not pairing words or phrases one to one: too many translators (and most customers) seem to think that there is always some word in the target language that is the "correct" translation for a certain word in the source language, and that the same is true for idioms, phrases, and longer pieces of text.

I think that there are various causes for this:
  • not reading and self-editing one's own translation (if translators did, they would more easily realize that it does not make sense, or at least that nobody would say it like that in the target language
  • not understanding what one is translating
  • insufficient knowledge of the industry terminology in the source or target language (or both)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A useful small program for highlighting corrections

ApSIC, a Spanish translation company, has developed a useful small program for highlighting corrections in translated files.

The program is ApSIC Comparator. It generates side-by-side reports of changes made to a translation. These reports can be edited to add comments, and can be very useful to provide feedback to a translator, and also to help evaluating the quality of the translation.

ApSIC Comparator is freeware. I believe that the only thing the company requires is to leave in the reports the name of their company and product, and a link to their website.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Big projects

The problem with big projects is keeping all the information straight: it is not just that there are a lot of words to translate... that, mostly, is the easy part.

The devil, as they say, is in the details: not only getting a glossary of the terminology for the project, but also making sure that the copy in use is the one that is up to date, and not obsolete.

Not only getting or organizing a time line for all the tasks to complete for the project, but also keeping it up to date and making sure that everybody is referring to the same version.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

When the "correct" translation is wrong

Translators should recognize an error in the source language and normally provide the correct translation just the same.

Many English speakers, for example, use "i.e." ("id est" = "that is") when they mean "e.g." ("exempli gratia" = "for instance").

When the meaning is clear, the "correct" translation may very well be the wrong one, so, for example it may be better to translate

"This can be a column title (i.e., 'Item')"


"Si può trattare del titolo di una colonna (per esempio, 'Elemento')",

and not as

"Si può trattare del titolo di una colonna (cioè, 'Elemento')".