Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Foundations of Translation - Lesson 4

(These are the notes for a course on Foundations of Translation I am teaching at the University College of the University of Denver. I'll be publishing the notes for the various lessons during the next few weeks. A short description of the course can be found here).

Translation in Practice

Translation Process

A - SL writing

B - Translation

  1. Read SL Text
    • Read to understand
    • Identify unknown words/terms
  2. Research terminology
    • Online
    • Reference works
    • Decide on competing usage (Google as large collection of corpora)
  3. Write translation
      Question yourself
    • Am I sure this is the best translation?
    • Does this sound right and familiar only because I always translated it like that?
      Different techniques
    • Use CAT tools
    • Write directly in word processor
    • Overwrite original
    • Write first draft with optional wording, to be self-edited later
      • Write first/rough draft using optional/preliminary/candidate terms/words...
  4. Self-edit translation
      Read your translation
    • Does it read like a similar document written by a native speaker of the TL would read?
      If it does not make sense, there is a problem (and "but the original did not make sense, either" or "but I used the same words as the original" are not good excuses)
    • If possible, set it aside after the first draft, to look at it with fresh eyes
    • Send translation to editor

C - Quality Control steps

  • Editing
      Review translation against SL text
    • Errors of meaning
    • Errors of form
    • Errors of compliance
    • Preferential changes
    Different methods
    • Track changes
    • Change translation directly
  • Proofing
    • Review only the TL text (checking the SL
      only if necessary)
  • Other quality control steps (These take place all during the process, from terminology work onwards)
    • Verification that translation is complete (all files translated)
    • Other QC steps

D - QA

Technology, tools, reference materials and publications


Computer: PC or Mac?
  • PC environment much more widespread
    • Greater availability of CAT tools
    • Easier to meet customers' requirements
    • Cheaper computers
  • Mac preferable when working with graphic designers
Desktop or laptop?
  • Laptop permits to work anywhere
  • Desktops
    • More powerful
    • Cheaper
    • More robust
  • Scanner (Necessary if much work is received as hardcopy)
  • Printer (Desktop lasers are the most economical choice)
  • External hard disk (For removable back-ups)
  • UPS (Uninterruptible power supply)
Fast Internet connection
  • Essential when working with large files
  • Useful when surfing the web for research purposes


  • Normal software tools (Office software)
    • MS Office
      • Specialized search techniques using wildcards (Regular Expressions)
      • Using Excel to create "ad hoc" translation tools for the translation of software strings (especially when there are size limitations and such)
      • Using Excel to create translation memories from text glossaries
    • Open Office
    • Star Office
  • CAT (Computer-Aided Translation) tools
    • SDL
      • Currently the market leader
      • Buggy
      • No free "lite" version
      • "Lite" version available (Works only with projects created by customer)
    • Déjà Vu
    • Omega T
      • Freeware
    • Wordfast
      • Mostly compatible with Trados
      • Cheaper than most other CAT tools
      • Works with the Mac
    • Transit
    • Other translation memory tools
  • Terminology management tools
    • Terminology management tools, such as MultiTerm (SDL)
    • Terminology extraction tools
      • Various different tools to aid in term extraction and terminology management, including expensive Trados and SDL programs
    • Concordancers
  • Additional software tools
    • Localization tools
    • Specialized search tools
    • Adobe Acrobat
      • Professional (Permits editing, annotating, etc.)
      • Reader (Freeware)
    • Text editors
    • DTP programs
      • Framemaker (Text-intensive documents)
      • Quark
      • InDesign
    • HTML editors
      • Front Page
      • DreamWeaver
      • Etc.
    • Graphic editing tools
      • Photoshop
      • Photoshop Elements (Cheaper alternative, permits editing text in Photoshop files)
      • Illustrator
    • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools, such as Omnipage (Useful when one receives documents to translate in hardcopy or pdf, and needs to transform them into editable files)
    • Word counting software
    • Translation project management tools (e.g., Translation Office 3000
    • Clipboard utilities (e.g., ClipMate)
    • Screen capture tools (e.g., Gadwin PrintScreen
  • Google and other online search aids
  • MT (Machine Translation)

Reference materials

Assignments for next class

Assignment: read chapters 6 and 7 in "Becoming a Translator", and Chapter 4 of "How To Succeed As A Freelance Translator"

Notes from the previous lessons in this course:

Foundations of Translation - Course Description
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 1: Difference between translation and interpreting
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 2: Jobs for translators
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 3: Characteristics of a good translator

Principles of translation

It is now pretty generally agreed, that translating the writings of the ancients is, if not the sole, at least the plainest, the shortest, and the surest means of becoming well acquainted with them and their language. It is also agreed, that a translation ought exactly to express the original; that it should neither be too free nor to servile; that it should neither deviate into long circumlocutions, which weaken the ideas, nor adhere to strictly to the letter, which debases the sentiment.

(M. Batteux, Principles of Translation, Edimburgh, 1760 - Originally written in French)

This is from a small digitized book you can download for free from Google books.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An advertising company gets it: Hispanic Marketing 101

Killian Advertising, a small advertising company from Chicago, has recently posted on their web site a white paper on marketing for the hispanic marker, Just Translate It? Hispanic Marketing 101.

According to Killian, rule number 1 is:
Advertising intended for Hispanic consumers should be written in Spanish, not translated to Spanish from English
By extension, this is true or advertising in other languages as well.

I believe this is substantially right: although it is possible to provide useful translations for advertising, these translations should only be used as a starting point for a good copywriter to re-create and adapt the campaign for the selected target market.

European Commission and universities towards a European Master's in Translation

(From Europa Press releases)

The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission will host in Brussels its first conference with universities offering a translation curriculum. They will discuss the development of translator training in the EU, as a first step towards a standard curriculum for a Master's degree in translation within the EU.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Foundations of Translation - Lesson 3

(These are the notes for a course on Foundations of Translation I am teaching at the University College of the University of Denver. I'll be publishing the notes for the various lessons during the next few weeks. A short description of the course can be found here).

Characteristics of a good translator

Linguistic knowledge

Source language(s) (SL)

Need to understand SL language as well as a native speaker
  • Nuances and subtleties
  • Slang and colloquial expressions
  • Cultural references (Including such things as sports, etc.)
  • Regional variations
  • Different registers
  • etc.

Target language (TL)

  • Native tongue of translator (normally - but see for instance Russian different take on this: emphasis on the need by the translator to fully understand the text)
    In the real world, in several countries, most translators translate by necessity from their native tongue into foreign languages
  • Ability to express oneself eloquently
    • Excellent knowledge of grammar
    • Rich vocabulary
    • Good style
    • An "ear" for one's own language
    • Ability to evolve with the evolving standard of one's language

Subject-matter knowledge

  • The translator needs to understand fully the source language text
  • The translator should have a deep knowledge of the appropriate terminology both in the SL and in the TL
  • Warning: the language component of subject-matter expertise depends also on the language in which such subject matter has been learned

Subject-matter areas

  • Financial statements
  • Web sites
  • Business letters
  • HR material
  • Promotional material
  • etc.
  • Agreements
  • Contracts
  • Certificates
  • Court documents
  • Patents
  • Laws
  • etc.
Industry and technology
  • Computers
    • Software
      • Translation
        • Translation of resource (rc) files
        • Translation directly in the source code
        • Translation of strings extracted to some other format
      • Localization (L10n)
        Localization (sometimes shortened to "l10n") is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local "look-and-feel." An internationalized product or service is therefore easier to localize. In localizing a product, in addition to idiomatic language translation, such details as time zones, money, national holidays, local color sensitivities, product or service names, gender roles, and geographic examples must all be considered. A successfully localized service or product is one that appears to have been developed within the local culture. (From SearchCIO.com)
      • Internationalization (I18n)
        Ideally, a product or service is developed so that localization is relatively easy to achieve - for example, by creating technical illustrations for manuals in which the text can easily be changed to another language and allowing some expansion room for this purpose. This enabling process is termed internationalization. (From SearchCIO.com)
      • Globalization (g11n)
        The process of first enabling a product to be localized and then localizing it for different national audiences is sometimes known as globalization. (From SearchCIO.com)
    • Documentation
      • MS Word files
      • Framemaker
      • Other DTP files (Quark, InDesign, etc.)
    • Help files and web sites
      • HTML
      • DHTML
      • Flash, and other dynamic files
      • XML
      • css and other style files
      • GIF, JPEG and other graphic files
  • Engineering
    • Industrial engineering
    • Plant engineering
    • Civil engineering
    • Examples
      • Railways
      • Steel mills
      • Specifications
      • Instructions
      • etc.
  • Biotechnology
  • etc.
  • Medical insurance documents
  • Consent Forms
  • Instructions & Brochures
  • Pharmaceutical documents
  • etc.
  • Astronomy
  • Physics
  • etc.
Social sciences
Arts & humanities
(Anything under the sun, really)

Professional knowledge

  • Tools available
  • Reference materials available
  • Where to ask for help
  • How to search for the information we need
  • Business knowledge (How to manage one's own job)


  • Knowing what one knows and what one does not know, always questioning ourselves
  • Knowing one's abilities, strengths and weaknesses
  • Knowing one's own learning style


  • Accuracy
  • Timeliness
  • Reliability

Assignments for next class

  1. Translate the text selected as part of your Class 2 assignment.
    • Write down the steps followed in creating the translation
    • Write down difficulties encountered and steps taken to overcome them
    • Write how the actual experience differed from your expectations (which you should have written as part of your Class 2 assignment)
    This test will be graded (not on the quality of the translation, but on the work done in externalizing the experience.
    About 250 words each person.
  2. Read chapter in "Becoming a Translator" about the process of translation, and Chapter 3 of "How To Succeed As A Freelance Translator"

Notes from the previous lessons in this course:

Foundations of Translation - Course Description
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 1: Difference between translation and interpreting
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 2: Jobs for translators

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Foundations of Translation - Lesson 2

(These are the notes for a course on Foundations of Translation I am teaching at the University College of the University of Denver. I'll be publishing the notes for the various lessons during the next few weeks. A short description of the course can be found here).

Jobs for translators


Good place to start

  • Acquires skills while mentored by more experienced colleagues
  • May accrue considerable experience in one (or more) specialistic
  • At the beginning of one's career, better pay, and better benefits

Needs to be a team player

  • Work well with other people
  • Able to compromise
  • Realize the end product is the team's translation, not an
    individual one

Danger of growing stale

(Not several years of experience, but one year of experience several times over - which is true of other professions, of course)

Free-lance translator

More experience needed

(although many translators start here, with no experience), and needs to be a self-starter

Translation agencies
  • Wide range of different companies, from concerns where only a very few people work (or even just the principal), through large international companies like SDL or Lionbridge
  • Some companies try to be everything for every customer, other specialize in many different ways
  • Example: our company specializes in providing higher quality services to other translation companies

    See pages 28-30 of "How To Succeed as A Freelance translator"
Direct customers
  • Private individuals (certificates, other documents, usually for consular or similar purposes)
  • Businesses
    • Software companies
    • Law offices
    • Manufacturing companies
    • Etc.

  • Public administration
    • Court system
    • Federal authorities (e.g., Department of State)

    See page 31 of "How To Succeed as A Freelance translator"
Translation rates
How to set one's rates
Various ways of setting one's rates
  • Know what one's overhead is
  • Determine what income one desires
  • See what the market will bear
  • Higher rates for more specialized work
  • Higher rates for higher-quality work (but not everybody really wants that)
See pages 33 and also Chapter 4 of "How To Succeed as A Freelance translator"
Useful links and material about translation rates

Translation editor

  • Task often given to inexperienced translators, should instead be reserved for experienced ones
  • Not every good translator has the skills or mindset for translation editing

Translation project manager

  • Organization
  • Contacts with customers
  • Contacts with vendors
  • Work may be very different in different organizations

Looking for a job as translator

Translation associations, communities and resources

Translation associations

  • Local organizations
    • ATA
      Translation certifications (Usefulness of)
    • CTA

  • Other national and international organizations
    • FIT
      Organization of translation association
    • Organizations in the various foreign countries
      • AITI (Italy)
      • etc.

Translation communities

Payment practice lists

(sites and lists where translators can check on the reputation and payment practices of translation companies)

Translation work

Work management

  • Marketing
  • Time management
  • Project management
    • Recording projects
    • Doing the work
    • Delivery
    • Software for project management
      • Translation Office 3000
      • Ad-hoc software
  • Accounting
    • Receiving orders
      • Purchase orders
      • Contracts
      • Other systems (both more informal or formal)
    • Invoicing
    • Payment reminders
    • Payment collection

Translation workflow

  • SL writing
  • Translation
  • Editing
  • Proofing
  • QA

Assignments for next class

  • Assignment: find a text that you'll translate as part of your Test for
    Class 3 (max 250 words).
    • Select business or technical article to translate (will be translated after 3rd class)
    • Indicate list of reference materials you intend to use to translate the text
    • Write down what difficulties you expect to encounter in translating this materials
    • Have this material ready before 3rd class, but do NOT yet translate the text
  • Assignment: read chapter in "Becoming a Translator" about Learning

Notes from the previous lessons in this course:
Foundations of Translation - Course Description
Foundations of Translation - Lesson 1: Difference between translation and interpreting

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Microsoft Glossaries RIP

As I mentioned in a previous post, Microsoft has released a new multi-language glossary of about 9000 terms.

Unfortunately, at the same time they have removed the old Microsoft glossaries that have been so useful to many IT translators: the only thing left on the old ftp site is a short readme file, which announces the new glossary as containing "more up-to-date terminology, [...] that is easier to use".

The old material is still available, but only to MSDN subscribers:
  1. Go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/subscriptions/
  2. Use the Sign In button to sign in to your MSDN account.
  3. Click the "Subscriber Downloads and Product Keys" link.
  4. Navigate to Tools, SDKs, and DDKs\Microsoft Glossaries.
I think it is a pity that the old, fuller glossaries are no longer available: it is true that some of the information there had to be taken with a grain of salt, as the glossaries contained many inconsistencies and even errors, but they were not really difficult to use (as Microsoft's readme file implies) - at least for people who knew something about software, or who used some of the various tools available on the web for making full use of the glossaries.

Several people knew about the impending demise of the old glossaries in advance, and I think many made full downloads to save their own copies of the most recent files.

Unfortunately, even those who have backup copies of the old glossaries will have to do without updated copies of the Windows and Office glossaries at the very moment when new and much updated copies of both are on the point of being released.

So no Windows Vista glossary, unless, as I believe, specific terminology information is going to be provided to the companies engaged in the localization of the newer Microsoft products. Even so, translators who would have relied on the updated Microsoft terminology to translate other software products will have to make do without.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Proof positive that Trados programmers should change job

I like to keep the matching settings of Trados fairly low: sometimes that way I get some useful suggestions (especially for long sentences where only part of the sentence matches), but often what I get is something like this:

That's right: "Do not submerge in water" is supposed to be a 53% match for "Unplug when not in use".

Trados' matching algorithms have long been known to be among the poorest of all translation memory tools, but this takes the cake!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Patches for Italian dictionaries on CD-Rom

Some time ago I bought a new computer, but until yesterday I hadn't needed to use any of my dictionaries on CD-Rom on it.
The operating system of the new computer is XP (SP2): of course, none of my dictionaries was running properly.
I knew that in the past I had downloaded the necessary patches and saved them in some backup, but I couldn't find the necessary files, so I had to search them again on the web. Fortunately, they are all still downloadable, and I thought that posting the links to the pages from which the patches can be downloaded might be useful for other colleagues:

Link for Zanichelli dictionaries (Ragazzini, Boch, Zingarelli, Morandini, McGraw Hill Zanichelli, Economics and Business, DELI)

Link for Hoepli dictionaries (Grande Dizionario di Inglese Picchi, Grande Dizionario di Spagnolo di L. Tam, Grande Dizionario Tecnico Francese, Grande Dizionario Tecnico Tedesco, Dizionario Tecnico Inglese Marolli)

Link for Sansoni/Rizzoli dictionaries (Dizionario Tedesco Sansoni, Dizionario Inglese Sansoni - also known as Grande Dizionario Rizzoli-Larousse)

I have personally tested the patches for the Picchi, Tam, Sansoni inglese and McGraw Hill Zanichelli, and they all work - I imagine that the patches for the other dictionaries also should work.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Foundations of Translation - Lesson 1

(These are the notes for a course on Foundations of Translation I am teaching at the University College of the University of Denver. I'll be publishing the notes for the various lessons during the next few weeks. A short description of the course can be found here).

Difference between translation and interpreting


Types of interpreting

Conference interpreting
  • First used at the Nuremberg trials
  • Ability to wait for complete sentences, remember them while translating and speaking the previous one
  • Need to summarize and shorten the oiginal
  • Notes as aid to memory
  • Note-taking techniques (Herbert)
  • NOT: use of shorthand
Business interpreting (Role in business negotiations and meetings)
Community interpreting
  • Court interpreting
  • Medical interpreting

Ethics of interpreting

  • Interpreter as the "voice" of others
  • Interpreter as cultural bridge


University degrees for translators

Usefulness of university degree in translation (Respect accorded to degrees in translation from the major translation schools)
University-level degrees in translation
  • MIIS
    Most prestigious / Oldest program in the USA
  • Kent
    Important center for Terminology studies
  • Geneva
    One of the best programs in Europe
  • Trieste
    My "Alma Mater", first school in Italy, excellent
    Other (beware of the quality of many non university-level courses)

Books and publications on translation

    Books for course
  • McKay, Corinne: How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, 2 Rat Press, 2006
  • Robinson, Douglas: Becoming a Translator, Routledge, 1997, 2003 (2nd ed.)
    Other interesting and useful books
  • Baker, Mona: In Other Words, Routledge, 1992
  • Hofstadter, Douglas R.: Le Ton beau de Marot , Basic Books, 1997
  • Chesterman, Andrew: Memes of Translation, Benjamins, 1997
  • Chesterman, Andrew and Wagner, Emma: Can Theory Help Translators?, St. Jerome, 2002
    Other publications
  • ATA Chronicle
  • Multilingual

Allied subjects

Translation quality control activities

  • Revision
  • Reviewing
  • Editing
  • Proofreading


Terminology management

  • Terminology extraction
  • Glossary creation

Translation studies (Theoretical discipline)

Media activities

  • Sub-titling
  • Voice-over

Technical writing


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Foundations of Translation

Last week I began teaching an introductory course on translation at the University College of the University of Denver.

The title of the course is "Foundations of Translation" (MODL 3950), and is described in the University College website as an
introductory course [that] addresses the essentials of translation theory, and basic translation skills that may apply to any language pair. Students will also learn how to address ethical issues that arise when translating sensitive and legal documents.
I will post here my lecture notes, please let me know if you are interested in receiving more information.


Here is a more complete description of the course:

This course is open to all languages, and will strive to provide to all students the foundations on which to build in order to become professional translators.

It will provide an introduction to translation, covering topics such as what translation is, how it differs from interpretation, what jobs are open to translators, and what resources are available to our profession.

It will concentrate on the fundamentals that all translators should know: A deep knowledge of one’s own native language and of at least one foreign language is a necessary prerequisite, but, alone, it is not sufficient. To become a translator one should also fully understand the subject-matter of the text to be translated, and have knowledge of things such as translation tools, reference materials, translation processes, and, above all, self-knowledge - knowing what one knows as well as an awareness of what one does not know.

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Microsoft glossary

Microsoft has released a new multilingual glossary, which can be freely downloaded from here.

According to Microsoft,
To provide users with more up-to-date terminology, Microsoft has replaced the glossary content that was previously posted to the Microsoft ftp site with a more concise document that is easier to use.
The new document is definitely more concise than those available before: 9000 lines instead of hundreds of thousands (the old XP glossary alone contained more than 100,000 lines).

I doubt that the new glossary is as complete as the previous ones, but I hope it will be at least more consistent. On the plus side, for those that have to manage multilingual projects, this glossary contains translations of the English terms into up to 45 different languages (not all English terms are translated into all available languages).

(Hat tip: Christof)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Index entries

I'm currently editing part of a large set of computer manuals. This documentation contains index entries, for example:
  • active links
  • links, active
My Italian colleague translated this as:
  • collegamenti attivi
  • collegamenti, attivi
This is technically correct, but useless: "collegamenti attivi" and "collegamenti, attivi" would appear close together in the index, thus making the index less helpful.

A better translation of the two index entries is:
  • collegamenti attivi
  • attivi, collegamenti
This way, the user will be able to find the reference both under "collegamenti" and under "attivi", as in the original English document.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

ASET update: "Just discard that contract"

ASET's Kevin Hendzel intervened in the ongoing chain of e-mails, stating that he didn't know about the contract, that it had been sent without his knowledge, and that it should be discarded, while ASET drafts something much more appropriate.

Some translators suggested that ASET should take into consideration the opinions expressed in the current exchange of opinions in drafting the new contract.
Also, several translators who know Kevin Hendzel wrote about his contributions to our profession and to ATA, so perhaps the current fracas could indeed be ascribed to internal miscommunications at ASET.

All the same, several aspects of the proposed contract were disturbing. We'll have to see what the new contract looks like.

In the meantime, I'm inclined to give ASET the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

ASET puts their foot in

ASET, a translation company who boasts of the quality of their work, seems to have just put their foot in: they sent to their existing suppliers a "new supplier package": W-9, W-8, and an 18-page contract.

For some reason, e-mails from translators who are answering to this rollout are forwarded to all other translators to whom the package was sent: so far I've received 16 of these e-mails, most very critical of the way ASET behaved (among other things, the e-mails complain of unreasonable demands and extended payment terms), with more than a few translators demanding to be removed from ASET's list of suppliers.

I've not had time to study the new contract myself, but this looks like a medium-sized PR fiasco for an otherwise fairly well-regarded translation company: they seem to have alienated at a stroke a number of good translators.


Probably more like a major fiasco: 48 messages and counting, not a single one of them positive, and many of them from excellent translators that no good agency could afford to lose.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Workshop for translators on corpus research

Mediterranean Editors and Translators has organized a workshop on "Meaning & Usage From Context—“corpus” research-based translation & editing of specialist texts".

From the workshop's prospectus:
Generalist translators or editors can extend their range into specialist knowledge fields by basing their new texts on insights gleaned from “corpora” or text collections that can be set up quickly for systematic analysis. Even specialists can gain a deeper understanding of language variation from studying context in a well-constructed target-genre corpus.
The workshop will take place in Canet de Mar (near Barcelona), on July 7th. For more information, write to: metmworkshops@gmail.com

Friday, June 23, 2006

Virtual Terminologist

Virtual-Terminologist is a website that offers customization and import services for Trados termbases.

Additionally, they make available for free download a few termbases (French-English language pair only, so far), and have an informative page on the Cardinal Virtues in Terminology Management.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poor technical support from SDL

This morning I received an answer to my support request concerning the "skipped segments in tables" bug (see Serious bug in Trados):
[...]The only workaround I can see is to use the option to Set Close after translation and place your cursor before the next segment in the table that needs translating and then use Open/Get to open this segment for translation.

I hope this helps.[...]
I consider this answer less than helpful, and said as much to the support person:
Your suggestion is totally unsatisfactory: having to manually open and close each single segment is part of the problem, not of the solution.

I use Trados in order to speed up translation. Having to manually open, then close each single segment is not conductive to that. Bear in mind that the real-world files in which I encounter this problem may have several hundred segments.

Please note:
  1. Trados 5.5 did not have this bug.
  2. This bug was introduced with version 6.5 (or possibly 6... I did not test it on that version), and is still present in version 7.1
  3. We paid good money for a program that is full of bugs.
What are SDL plans in order to resolve this issue? Your company should put some programmer at work and issue a free patch as soon as this serious problem is solved.

In the meantime, a better suggestion than the one you gave me is to use Tag Editor to translate the word files with the tables in them.

I discovered this yesterday by trial and error - you may want to suggest it to other people suffering this problem, while your company (hopefully) fixes the problem. Unfortunately, using Tag Editor will work for users of Trados 7, but not for those of Trados 6.5, since version 6.5 of Tag Editor could not open MS Word files.

Does any of you know if other programs (e.g. Wordfast) suffer the same problem? Does anybody know of any workaround better than using Tag Editor to translate the MS Word files? If so, please let me know.


New answer from SDL trados support: they agree that using Tag Editor is a better workaround, and say they are going to pass the issue on to the developers:
Please translate the file in TagEditor as a workaround and I will raise this as an issue with the developers. We recommend anyone to use TagEditor rather than MS Word as a translation enviroment as it enables them to use the verification tools on their file.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The qualities of a good translator

"Hélas les traductions restent confiées le plus souvent à des êtres subalternes, dont la bonne volonté ne supplée pas l'insuffisance. Un bon traducteur doit bien savoir la langue de l'auteur qu'il traduit, mais mieux encore la sienne propre, et j'entends par là : non point seulement être capable de l'écrire correctement, mais en connaître les subtilités, les souplesses, les ressources cachées, ce qui ne peut guère être le fait que d'un écrivain professionnel. On ne s'improvise pas traducteur." (André Gide)
Very true, but I think that a translator should first of all know the "subtilités, les souplesses, les ressources cachées" of his or her source language just as well as those of his or her native language.

(Hat tip: AS. Traductions)

How to drive away readers and prospects

I found an interesting post on another translation blog and wanted to comment on it. Unfortunately, in order to leave my comment I would have needed to allow Word Press to install cookies on my machine - which is something I normally don't do for security reasons.

So I went to the blog author's personal web site, to find a way to send him a message to politely request that he use a less restrictive commenting policy.

On this translator web site there was a nice "Contact Us" link. Almost done, I thought, and I clicked on it.

I was redirected to a "page not found" page.

No big deal in my case: I was just trying to leave a comment on the blog. But there are few surer ways to lose a prospect than preventing him or her from communicating with us.

Serious bug in Trados

We recently switched to version 7.1 of Trados, and discovered a new, and serious, bug.

Some of our customers send us software to translate in MS Word files. These files are formatted as tables with four columns, where the first, second and fourth column are protected from translation (formatted as external tags), and the third column is translatable text.

When you try to translate the file, you can open the first segment, translate it, and then close it normally. However, if you try to close it by clicking "Translate to Fuzzy" or "Set/Close Next Open/Get", Trados will not open the next segment or the next untranslated segment (depending on the command you clicked), as you would expect: it opens a segment much further down the table, or altogether outside the table. However, you can still manually open the next segment, manually close it, and so on (thus wasting a huge amount of time).

This bug was not present in Trados 5.5 (I reinstalled 5.5 on a spare machine and tested on the same files where I encountered the problem).

I already reported this bug to SDL, but, so far, with no satisfactory result: the first time I reported it I was told that version 7.5 probably didn't have it (thanks, but I had just paid quite a lot of money for several licenses of 7.1, and was not going to pay more for a new license that just might fix the problem), and that I could copy the text to be translated from the MS Word file, paste it in another file, translate it there, copy it again, and paste it back in the original file (which is a time consuming slapdash workaround that probably wastes more time than manually opening each segment).

The one good workaround I found so far is to translate the MS Word file in Tag Editor: there seem to be no problem when using Tag Editor to translate the MS Word files with the tables in them.

It is worth noting that I had to find this solution by myself, and that nobody at SDL either suggested it or, if they thought of it, bothered to communicate it to me. I think that tells quite a lot about the (poor) quality of SDL customer assistance.

Update (bad news for users of version 6.5)

I tested the issue also under version 6.5 of Trados.

Unfortunately, while the issue is already present in version 6.5, my workaround is not feasible, as version 6.5 of Tag Editor was still unable to open MS Word files.

Update 2 (unhelpful suggestions from SDL support)

I received some (unhelpful) suggestions from SDL technical support: see Poor technical support from SDL.

Things to pay attention to when localizing a web site

(From BtoBOnline.com)

According to this article, "localizing your Web site for international users requires more than hurdling a few language barriers".

The article describes many things to be considered and difficulties to be overcome for those who plan to have an international version of their web site.

While it concentrates on issues other than translation, I think this could be very useful to translators who are asked to quote for the localization of a web site: it gives us other factors to mention to our prospect, from planning for non-broadband connections to getting a local URL for the international site.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Found in Translation

(From marketWIRE)

The San Francisco Center for the Book presents "Found in Translation," an interactive exhibition in the Center's gallery through July 21, 2006.

The exhibition presents a far-reaching look into both the process and implications of translation: each exhibit turns an idea on its head by viewing it from two or more sides (languages, cultures, genders, points of view)[...].
Using text from many languages and in a variety of media, the exhibit also provides a hands-on interaction with the artwork.

New Book: How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator

Boulder-based freelance translator Corinne McKay has just published "How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator," a book for people who want to become translators.

According to this press release, this "is the book that author [...] Corinne McKay wishes she could have read when she launched her freelance translation business".

I've not read the book, yet, but from the description it might be useful for people starting out in our profession.

Translation is so much more than finding a true expression of a text in another language.

(From Times Online)

Interesting article from the Times Online, with an extract of the speech given by Ali Smith on the occasion of the Oxford Weidenfeld translation prize.

A short passage from the article:
Translation is so much more than the taking of a text and the finding of a true expression for it in another language. It’s an understanding of it in both languages, its original and its new form — and of the cultural shift between.

Translation Agency Introduces New Translation Tools

(From Express Pressrelease).

Lingo24 has made available from their website two new translation tools: Contextrans, which "uses statistical analysis of language to predict the most likely translations in a given context", and Parasaurus Rex, a thesaurus and paraphrasing tool.

Since Contextrans is currently only available for English>Arabic and Arabic>English, I've not been able to play with it.

I've tried the Parasaurus tool, but the English-only version, at least, does not look very useful (or maybe it still does not have enough data in its database). If you want to give it a try, you can find it here.

Problem of translating Shakespeare for the Japanese Stage

An article published a few days ago on the Sidney Morning Herald describes the problems faced by
Japanese translators in adapting the bard for the Japanese stage, especially considering time limitations.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I apologize for the the sparse posting since May (in fact, this is the first one in June).

I got very busy with some very large projects, and then I had to rush through with the preparatios for the most important event of the year in my second profession (click here if you are interested).

I have ideas for some new articles that I hope will be interesting. I hope to be able to start writing them in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Quality Control and Measurement

In Translation Quality Blog I have added a couple of new posts with links to articles that deal with translation and localization quality control and measurement:

Standards and Models


Translation Quality Measurement Approaches

Monday, May 22, 2006

OCR for Free

A fairly frequent question in translators' fora is "how do I convert a (jpg, or tif, or pdf) file", so that I can work on it in MS Word.

For pdf files, the solution is sometime as simple as opening the file in Acrobat, and saving it as a MS Word or rtf file. But often this approach doesn't work (for example because the pdf was created from a graphic file, and not a text one).

For graphic files such as jpg or tif files, of course, "saving as" a Word file is not an option.

So often the solution offered is to use some OCR package. Professional ones may give good results (if the quality of the original is good), but they cost money, and the free OCR applications that come with a scanner are usually very disappointing: they may not recognize accented letters, or fail to properly keep the layout of the page (after all, they are given away so as to induce customers to upgrade to the full version).

A better alternative, at least for users of the latest versions of MS Office, is to take advantage of Microsoft Office Document Imaging: it is better than most other "free" OCR applications, may be upgraded (if necessary) to one of the leading "pro" OCR packages, and, on its own, already recognizes things such as tables and accented characters.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Visual Thesaurus: a Gorgeous-Looking Tool

I had seen a beta version of the Visual Thesaurus some time ago.

Then when it was finally released I kept on coming back to their web site, like a child returning to the window of a toy store, but never purchased it (what's the use... I've already got several thesauri on paper plus more in my word processor and other applications).

Still, it kept tantalizing me: I never deleted the link from my favorites, and from time to time kept coming back to give it a new look.

Finally, a few days ago, I decided to try a monthly subscription (the tool comes either as a standalone installable application, or as a web subscription).

I think that I am going to upgrade both to a full yearly subscription and to the standalone version (just in case the web is down).

The web version includes a beta version of a multilingual thesaurus (click on screenshot above to get a bigger image) . Though the multilingual content is a bit patchy at the moment, it promises to become a great tool for translators. It already is a wonderful tool for anybody who writes in English, or who is in love with words.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Interesting Article on Quality Certification for LSPs

Common Sense Advisory has published an interesting article on quality certification programs for LSPs (Language Service Providers).

Among the interesting things mentioned in the article there is the fact that only 10% of LSPs have ISO 9000 certification.

MemoQ, a New Translation Tool, Launched

Kilgray has just launched MemoQ, a new translation memory tool. According to Kilgray's web site,
MemoQ is the first integrated translation environment, developed in Central Europe, which surpasses its competitors with its performance, savvy user interface and integration capability.
Among the features that look interesting is support for Trados .ttx files, as well as support for TMX 1.1 and 1.4 memories.

From the screen shots provided on Kilgray's web site, it looks more like DejaVu then either Trados or Wordfast. Of course, before forming a definite impression, it would be necessary to try the program on a real project.

One version of the program is free, others have prices that appear lower than comparable offerings from SDL/Trados.

(Hat tip to Christof)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Courses on Translation and Interpretation at the University of Denver

The University of Denver has recently started to offer courses on translation and interpretation, and plans to expand its curriculum in this field.

Registration for the clases given this summer (Introduction to Translation Software and Interpreter Training for K-12 Professionals) is already open.

You can dowload a brief pdf prospectus here, or you can call Holly Dunn at 303.871.3935 or e-mail her at hdunn@du.edu.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Italians" - Letter About Translation Bloopers

Beppe Severgnini's Italians today published a letter by Mauro Luglio ("Le traduzioni dei manuali d’istruzione") about translation errors, especially in instruction manuals.

Among the bloopers quoted: "Attenzione! Noi vogliamo farvi godere!" (on the user's manual of an electric shaver)
"Attenzione! L'orologio non deve mai essere messo sulla testa!" (from the instructions of a cuckoo clock)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Advice to Beginning Translators (4) - Translation Tests

Often when we contact a translation company (and sometimes when a translation company contacts us), we are asked to do a translation test, or sample translation, as a preliminary to possible collaboration with them.

Many translators object to doing translation tests for free, on various grounds, from the fact that other professionals do not do free tests (which is not exactly true, as many lawyers and other professionals do provide free consultations, after which you can decide whether to retain them or not), to the fact that translation tests are allegedly used by unscrupulous agencies to stitch together the translation of an entire book done for free (which I have always thought a translator's urban legend, as this is something people always hear but never actually see first hand, and also because any agency that would attempt a stunt like that would soon be out of business, as the resulting quality of such a patchwork would certainly be abysmal).

Another objection is that translation tests mean little, and that translation companies should rely instead on the work experience, education, or other indicators of a translator's worth, which is a valid objection, but would not help one gain work from an agency who has decided to use translation tests in their screening process: normally, if you don't do the test, you also don't work for them.

In my opinion, the best objection to doing free translation tests is that one has no time for that: if you already have enough work, doing a translation test for free is probably not the best investment of your time.

If one decides to do the translation tests, there are several things to consider:
  1. The test should be of an acceptable length (normally no more than 500 words or so).
  2. Read carefully, and follow any instructions given together with the test: when I worked as a manager in the translation department of a major business software company, we used translation tests as a part of our screening process. We never asked to translate more than 250 to 350 words, but we normally sent out tests in which the words to translated were clearly marked within longer texts. Failure to follow the instructions (by, for example translating more than we had asked) was a serious mark against our candidates, since it was indicative that these translators would not be good at following instructions in a real work environment, either.
  3. If you accept to do the test, do your best, and treat it as a real work assignment: put your best foot forward.
  4. Do not leave alternate translations: you would not do that in a real work assignment, and you should not do in a test (any alternate translations left in a test would normally be marked as an error).
  5. Do not add translator's notes, unless specifically requested to do so in the instructions: I've seen many apparently acceptable tests fail because the translation notes made clear that the translator had not, in fact, understood the meaning of some sentence or term.
  6. Do not have someone else translate the test for you: I've seen it done, and more often than not cheats are quickly found out, if not during the test evaluation, eventually with the first work assignment.


  7. Do not use Babelfish to do the test (happened: we once received a test which looked really terrible. We began to joke that Babelfish probably would not do it worse, so we run the test through Babelfish, just to see how much worse a free MT program would do it... turned out it did it exactly the same, as the would be translator had used it to do the test).

If you are interested in the previous posts in this series, you can find them here (Advice to Beginning Translators - 1 Résumés), here (Advice to beginning translators - 2 Seindg Out Your Résumé), and here (Advice to beginning Translators - 3 Contacting Prospects)

TagEditor Sundry Annoyances

I don't mind working in Trados' TagEditor - at least it is much better than translating Power Point files in the dread T-Window application, but TagEditor sure has more than its fair share of annoying quirks:
  1. Since this is basically a no-frill text editor, why does it attempt to display fonts in a half-assed WYSIWYG way? (especially since it does it in such a buggy way: text that changes sizes on screen for no understandable reason, or displays in bold and/or italic when it is neither). Admittedly, these display defects do not affect the translation, but why have them at all, since the preview function is just a click away (and works reasonably well)?
  2. Why do source string, translated string, etc. all are displayed in the same color, instead of using the colors one sets in Workbench?
  3. Trying to use the MS Word spell-checker still doesn't always work, and
  4. If you use the supplied spell checker, the Check Spelling window comes up, by default, with the focus on the "Not in dictionary" field, instead of the "Change to" field, as would be logical.
  5. Why such a puny internal search function: you can only specify a search string, a replacement string, whether to match whole words only or not, whether to match case or not, and (for the search function only) whether to search up or down: no regular expressions, not even the scaled down version one can find in MS Word's wildcard searches... and this when such functionality is easily available in text editors that sell for just a few bucks (such as Text Pad).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Googling Within a Site

One thing I'm frequently asked to do is to make sure the translation I'm doing or editing is consistent with the fairly large corpus of literature in the customer's web site.

Some of the consistency checking I can take care of by checking previous translation memories, or glossaries (if they exist), and some using the search functions within the site itself.

However, using the search box provided within a site is often not enough. A technique that I find very useful in these cases is to google within the site.

Say for example that I need to see within the Italian portion of my customer whether in the past they have used more often "implementazione dell'applicazione" or "deployment dell'applicazione".

If my customer's Italian web site is, for example http://www.xyz.com/IT, I just need to enter in the google search box
"deployment dell'applicazione" site:http://www.xyz.com/IT
and then repeat the operation for
"implementazione dell'applicazione" site:http://www.xyz.com/IT
Both searches will be limited to the customer's Italian web site, and the google search results could give me a good idea of the relative frequency of the terms used.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Version of Translator's Tool Box

The Translator's Tool Box is an e-book aimed at professional translators. It contains a wealth of information about software useful to translators: from useful information on how to use various features of the operating system and of Office application to a discussion of CAT tools and to information on more specialized "little" utilities such as Search & Replace or Clipmate, and much more.

We have just received the fourth edition, which adds information on how to translate complex file formats (such as XML).

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Another Useful Wildcard Search

(c) Riccardo Schiaffino 2006
When working with Trados and MS Word, I often take advantage of the fairly powerful wildcard search options of Word - which are really a scaled-down and non-standard version of regular expressions. In a previous article from last year (How to use wildcard and format searches in MSWord to make sure all your numbers are formatted correctly), I showed how wildcard searches could be used to make sure that numbers in a translation are formatted properly according to the target language rules. In this post we are going to see another way wildcard searches may be of use to translators when working with Trados.

One of the tasks I regularly use MS Word wildcard searches for is to make sure that index entries in Framemaker's .mif files that I'm translating as rtf (after conversion with S-tagger) are formatted correctly: according to the style guide I have to follow, index entries in Italian should normally start with a lower-case letter (unless they are the name of some program).

Problem is, index entries are, by their very nature, standalone segments (which normally start with an upper case letter), and also segments that are very likely to be used elsewhere: "Program Installation" may be a section title, and, at the same time, an index entry in English. In Italian, however, I need to have "Installazione programma" for the title, and "installazione programma" for the corresponding index entry.

Working in Trados with a large memory, with segments that come from other translators and other projects, it is often easy to have the various index entries already translated from perfect matches, and, likely with a mismatch of upper and lower cases.

I thought that the best solution would be some search string able to find only index entries that, in Italian, begin with an upper case letter. At that point I could manually make them lower case by pressing F3, or leave them as is when they actually needed to be upper case.

The first part of the search string was going to be easier, as all index entries begin with either the <il> or <ie> markup.

So I knew that my search string needed to begin with


This means:

  • \< - Find all the strings that begin with the "open markup" sign (the open angle bracket "<"; the backslash character "\" is used to indicate that the character that follows needs to be taken literally, and is necessary because the angle bracket characters otherwise have special meaning within wildcard searches.

  • i - Followed by an "i"

  • [el] - Followed by either an "e" or an "l" (the square brackets surrounding "el" group the alternate valid characters. <ie> and <il> are two markups that precede index entries in .mif files)

  • \> - Followed by the "close "markup" sign.

Now we need to search beyond the entire English source segment, whatever it contains, until we reach the first letter of the Italian one. In order to do this, we can take advantage of the Trados source segment delimiters "{0>" and "<}0{>".

Therefore the search strings needs to continue with

\{0\>[A-Za-z,;:\-\*\!\?\(\)\\\/"'=.£%&+\@#°_ 0-9]{1,255}\<\}[0-9]{1,3}\{\>

This looks quite complicated and unreadable (fine-tuning this part of the search string took quite a long time, and it probably is still not perfect). It means:

  • \{0\> - Trados markup to indicate the begin of the source language string (the first backslash character indicates that the open bracket "{" needs to be taken literally, since on its own it has other uses within the wildcard search, as we shall see presently)
  • [A-Za-z,;:\-\*\!\?\(\)\\\/"'=.£%&+\@#°_ 0-9] - All the characters that could be contained within the source language string. Again, backslashes precede characters that otherwise would have special meaning within the wildcard search. The square brackets are used again to group all the possible characters.

    Now, let's explain a little further these "all possible characters":

    • A-Za-z - All alphabetical characters
    • ,;: - Comma, semi-colon and colon
    • \-\*\!\?\(\) - Various punctuation and symbol marks (-*!?()each preceded by the backslash to indicate it has to be taken literally)
    • \\ - The backslash "\" symbol itself (when it is doubled thus, the first backslash indicates that the second one is to be taken literally)
    • \/ - The forward slash "/"
    • "'=.£%&+\@#°_ - Various other punctuation and other symbols (double-quote, single-quote, equal sign, full stop, etc., up to the underscore sign "_"
    • - The space " " (sorry, cannot show a space in red...)
    • 0-9 - All numerical characters
    Some of these "special characters" might not be necessary: it depends on whether they could actually be present within an index entry. however, if I have forgotten to include any character that actually occurred within an index entry, my search would not work properly, as it would stop at the first unrecognized character.
  • {1,255} - Here is one of the special uses of the brackets within wildcard searches: they are used to indicate how many characters (any combinations of the previously listed ones from "A-Z" through "0-9" can be contained in the previous part of the search. "1,255" means "from a single character through the maximum allowed (which unfortunately is only 255).
  • \<\}[0-9]{1,3}\{\> - Trados markup to indicate the end of the source language string and the beginning of the target language.

    • \<\} - Beginning of the markup used by Trados between SL and TL
    • [0-9] - Indicates that the markup may contain here any number
    • {1,3} - Indicates that the number contained in the markup may be between 1 and three digits (in fact, between 0 and 100)
    • \{\> - End of the markup used by Trados between SL and TL

Finally we need to indicate that we are looking only for those index entries in which the target language strings begins with an upper case:

[A-Z] - That is "All upper case alphabetical characters between 'A' and 'Z'"

Our complete search string will therefore be:

\<i[el]\>\{0\>[A-Za-z,;:\-\*\!\?\(\)\\\/"'=.£%&+\@#°_ 0-9]{1,255}\<\}[0-9]{1,3}\{\>[A-Z]

This needs to be typed exactly as is in Word's search dialog.

I keep a text file with all the wildcard search strings I know I'm going to use in the future, and when I need them I copy from the text file to Word's search dialog, and I suggest doing the same if you start using wildcard searches.

Wildcard searches are probably not for everybody: they look cryptic, may be very complicated, and usually take a fair amount of time to get right. On the other hand, as we have seen, they may help solving problems that may be difficult to solve any other way.

If you are interested in more information about wildcard searches, my previous post) contained some references. In addition to those, I suggest a book on regular expression that has been published recently, and that contains an entire chapter devoted to wildcard searches in MS Word: Andrew Watt's Beginning Regular Expression, published by Wrox.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Forecast Growth of the Translation Market

The New York Times published yesterday an article (Speaking in (Many) Tongues Can Be Profitable), on the growing importance of translation and interpreting, with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a 20% growth in the number of translators and interpreters between 2004 and 2014.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Forthcoming Article on Translation Quality

We worked quite hard on this article, which will be titled "Translation Quality Measurement: Using the Translation Quality Index to assess the quality of translations". The article deals with such questions as:
  • Why measure translation quality?

  • Why are translations so difficult to evaluate? What methods are available to help assess translation quality?

The article is scheduled to appear in the June 2006 issue of Multilingual, which should also contain other articles about translation quality.


The article will actually appear in the July/August issue, not in the June issue.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Advice to Beginning Translators (3) - Contacting Prospects

Today I received an unsolicited message with an attached résumé from a youger colleague.

The message was written in Italian (though our company is based in the United States), was not addressed to anybody in particular (in fact it just started with "I'm an interpreter and translator...", without any salutation, and was signed with the first name only (no surname) of the sender.

I think that when we approach our prospects we should put our best foot forward, and this clearly was not the way to do it. My advice to this younger colleague was:

  1. Draft your résumé to conform to the format used in the country where it is sent. For instance, since our company is in the United States, adding such personal data as your date of birth is really inapprpriate.

  2. The text of the cover letter (or e-mail message) also should take into account the preferred format(s) for the target country; therefore, in this instance, the message should have been written in English, should have begun with a salutation, and should have been more formal (hence, no first name only as a signature).

  3. Do not send unsolicited résumés as file attachments, because, unfortunately, doing otherwise might mean that the attachment is automatically deleted by the security settings of the e-mail client or antivirus program. On the other hand, a text-only version of the résumé could be appended at the end of the message.

  4. Do not set the message to send an automatic read confirmation: in the case of unsolicited messages many people prefer not to reveal to the sender whether the message actually arrived or not (this helps preventing spam).

My previous posts on this subject are:

Advice to Beginning Translators (1) - Résumés


Advice to Beginning Translators (2) - Sending Out Your Résumé

Friday, April 14, 2006

If You Do Something, Do it Right

From the Daily News Record online.

This paper started to add local news in Spanish. According to this letter, the reader's first reaction was "this is great", swiftly followed by "I noticed that there were many grammatical errors. My first language is Spanish and I found it difficult to read."

I find this very typical: companies realizing they need their material translated, but then not bothering to have it done properly - whether because of a desire to spend as little as possible (with predictable consequences), or because they really don't know how or where to get a professionally done translation.

I think that our professional associations (but also us, as professional translators) should be much more active in communicating what professional translation is and why it is so important to get it done right.

New Azeri-English Translation Software Released

(From Trend)

According to this press release, a new Azeri-English translation software, called Dilmanc, has been released, and it already claims 6500 users.

From what I know, most commercial MT programs have normally been aimed first at much more widespread languages, to take advantage of the larger translation market for those language combinations.

I wonder, though, whether MT translation isn't actually more useful for languages combinations (such as Azeri-English, perhaps?) where the number of professional translators available is limited: in such cases it mught be argued that the choice would not be between machine translation and (better) human translation, but between machine translation and no translation at all.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Many mediocre translators earning high salaries (?)

"High", of course, is a relative concept: This article about the booming translation market in Shangai, from the Shanghai Daily, says that "While many unqualified translators are over-paid, some real good translation and interpretation professionals are under-paid".

The article goes on to say that the officially suggested guidelines for the pay of non-professional Chinese-English translators indicate 120 yuan ($ 14.80) for 1,000 Chinese characters, but that actual rates range from 30 through 250 yuan.

Several of the complaints voiced in the article will sound awfully familiar to any experienced translator:

"Many employers don't have any idea about what a qualified translator is"

"...some employers don't care about the translation quality at all"

"...unqualified translators [...] take the position and [this] leads to unwarranted pricing"

Although the title of the article says that unqualified translators earn good money, what the article suggests, at least to me, is that, in China as elsewhere, unqualified translators willing to work for peanuts depress the market for the rest of us.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Consequences of "frictionless communication across languages"

iSpeak.net has an article about the future impact of machine translation: hopes, dreams, possibilities, etc. One thing that jumped to my eye was this sentence:
"Some even believe that frictionless communication across languages would help different cultures and religions to see eye to eye, helping to bring about peace on earth"

Whoever said that, must not have paid much attention to Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"Meanwhile, the poor Babel Fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

BBC America - Dictionary of Slang

When I studied English, I was more familiar with the British variety, including accents and slang. Now I've been living in the USA for a dozen years, and what I've not forgotten, is woefully out of date.

Help is at hand, however, from the web site of BBC America: they have an online dictionary of contemporary slang, so if you are puzzled by what they are talking about when they say "This place is quite a good battle", or "I don't know what's up with the telly...it's all over the shop", give it a look: it might help.

(Hat tip: scotsman.com)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Article Done

With a lot of back and forth between Franco and I, we managed to trim it to slightly more than 3,000 words.

Final step is copyediting by an English native speaker (Franco's wife). Tomorrow we'll send it to Multilingual.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Article on Translation Quality Mesurement Almost Ready

I am currently working with Franco Zearo of Lionbridge on a final draft for an article on translation quality measurement, to be published on Multilingual Computing.

Much of the work is trimming what we have written to a maneageable size. One of the things we had to cut (because it would deserve its own article, or series of articles), is a section on the six phases for setting up a robust quality system:
  1. Design
  2. Calibration
  3. Sampling
  4. Measurement
  5. Statistical Analysis
  6. Process Improvement
If you are interested, there is a bit more about what goes in each of the six phases in a post I just published in post I just published in Translation Quality Blog.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

How To Argue with an Umpire

ESPN.com has a fairly funny piece about the problems of arguing with the World Baseball Classics umpires through a translator:


TRANSLATOR: "Oh-san respectfully inquires how your family is doing, particularly your mother."

...then it continues for a while.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Website Localization

ISEdb.com published a couple of days ago a very interesting and detailed article ("Translating Web Sites Considerations for Multilingual Online Businesses") on what to consider when deciding whether and how to translate a business web site.

There are a few things I disagree with, for instance
"If at all possible, if your company employs local salespeople or marketing staff in that country then you might consider having them write or translate the copy on the web site—they know the product and any important selling points and local “slang” that is important to include."
Local salespeople or marketing staff should certainly be more knowledgeable about the products they are selling, and possibly may be more up to date with their industry's jargon than us mere translators... but they are not translators, and I have seen time and again that translations done by non-professionals very quickly run into serious problems.

Much better is when translations are entrusted to qualified professional translators, and the in country technical and marketing staff freely support the translation team(s), answering their questions and checking the draft translations.

But other than that, the article is very informative, and could be a valuable resource when advising a customer what to do when localizing a web site.
(Hat tip: iSpeak blog)


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

First "Translation Summit"

From yahoo! Finance:

This apparently has to do with providing translation to the government in the post 9/11 world.

If the press release is any indication, it should prove a bonanza for anybody who enjoys cliché-ridden content-free jargon, for example:

"...augment existing government translation capabilities" "...acting as a clearinghouse for facilitating interagency use of translators..."
"...mission..." "...think out of the Beltway box..."
That's on a par with the business claptrap we used to have to suffer through during the obligatory frequent meetings at the business software company I used to work for.

After reading that stuff I think I'll need a dose of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" as an antidote.


Real-Time Human Translation?

From: PRWeb.

TranslationBooth.com, an online translation company, has apparently set up a system for providing rapid low-cost translations online.

I have some doubts, however, about the quality one can expect from such a service: digging a bit in their website ("How to work for us"), one finds that, among the types of jobs available there are
  • NonNative - People who are fluent in a language pair but do not have certification and are not a native speaker of that language
  • Native - People who are fluent in a language pair AND are a native speaker in that language pair
  • Professional - People who have had at least 5 years industry experience in that language pair

"Native speaker in that language pair", is a bit unclear, but probably due to no more than some sloppy writing (native speaker of what: SL?, TL?, both of them?), but what is clear is that translations would be done by many people that are neither professional translators nor native speakers of the target language.

Non-native non professionals doing rapid translations: I think that doubts about the resulting quality are legitimate.

UPDATE Margaret Marks is also blogging on this: "...I am thinking of starting a service to deliver translation in less than real time, for instance yesterday."

New Website of ATeLP - Association of Translation in the Portuguese Language

From newswire:
"The ATeLP is a cultural and scientific association which has the aim of cultivating, developing, promoting and disseminating information about the practice, study, teaching-learning, research and application of general translation and, more particularly, of specialized translation from and into the Portuguese language".
You can find the new website here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blogger and Spam

I apologize for not posting anything since last week.

Unfortunately, this blog had been locked by Blogger, as their algorithms had somehow deemed it a "spam blog" (no idea why: it is clearly a legitimate blog, but until some human person took the time to look at it, it remained locked)... so, although the blog was still up, I could not post anything new.

The blog has now been looked at by a human member of blogger support and whitelisted.

Before saying that all's well that ends well, I'll wait a little while, since, apparently, a number of blogs that had been similarly locked and then whitelisted, afterwards completely disappeared.

So, let's keep our finger crossed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Adaptive and Adaptable

An interesting pair of words: I recently had to look at what the difference is between them in the course of editing a large project on networking hardware and software.

The English word "adaptive" had been translated with the Italian "adattabile". It looked OK, and it made sense, but I was not sure that the meaning was completely correct, so I started to look it up: looking at various dictionary definitions of the two words, both in English and in Italian (where I had to also see whether there was a difference between "adattivo" and "adattativo".

As usual, a big help was Google, when I searched for "difference between adptive and adaptable".

Turns out that, at least when one is talking of hardware and software, the difference is between a system that one can adapt or change ("adaptable"), and a system that is able to adapt or change itself, depending on the pattern of use it goes through ("adaptive"): thus "Software which supports richer reuse must be highly flexible and easily adaptable. Ideally, it should be adaptive, in the sense that it can adjust to certain context changes without the programmer intervention."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Advice to Beginning Translators (2) - Sending Out Your Résumé

Here is the second installment of my Q&A session with a young colleague:

Do you think that sending résumés online should be aimed at specific targets in the current market, i.e., certain countries, companies in a specific industry (e.g., software companies), rather than translation companies? Also, should I address other channels besides sending things out online?
As regard specific industries, you should address those in which you specialize.

On-line inquiries should be your first priority, but don't get discouraged in nobody answers you for a while: remember that receiving 2 or 3% answers to an aimed mailing campaign is considered a wild success... and I believe that answers to e-mails run at an even lower rate.

Many agencies and companies are not really equipped to answer to all the unsolicited collaboration offers that keep piling up. However, if your résumé is deemed interesting, it may very well be stored in a database, and you could receive a call back months (or even years!) later.

Another thing that you should do is to go in person to visit nearby translation agencies, to leave there your résumé and a good impression.

When you can, you should also consider joining a translator association (in Italy, AITI), and take part in the association's activities, again in order to network - you never know where the next job offer is going to come from.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Using Google to Validate Translations

CBCnews has an interesting article ("Translation, by the numbers") on how to use the relative frequency of terms in Google to validate translations.

What the author describes is akin to the technique of looking for SL [common name] + "scientific name" in order to find the Latin name for a species (which then can help finding the TL common name for that species), but with the added twist of using the relative frequency of the candidate translations to decide which are valid and which not.

This is a useful technique for translators, and I am sure many of use use variations of it. My only quarrel with the article is that the author describes it as something non-translators should use in order to avoid translation howlers... and I'm not at all sure of the wisdom of bypassing professional translators in these instances.

Hat tip to Translation Notes, where I first found a link to the CBC article.