07 December 2012

Ouvrant le débat entre traducteurs et graphistes

Message posté aujourd'hui sur un forum de traducteurs francophones :

Comme une grande proportion des fichier pdf que nos clients nous demandent de traduire sont aujourd'hui des fichiers de sortie crées sous InDesign, les échanges sur le thème « Traduire en Pdf », ouvre un débat bien plus vaste.

Comme l'écrit Branislav Milic a écrit récemment :
« Les métiers de la communication (journalisme, web, imprimé, multimédia, audio-vidéo, design,...) doivent impérativement travailler main dans la main en raison des convergences technologiques et artistiques indéniables et déjà palpables de nouveaux médias et de nouveaux modes de consommation. »
... sauf qu'il a oublié d'inclure « traduction » dans sa liste...

Permettez-moi de présenter quelques idées et commentaires, et fournir quelques liens, dans le but d'élargir ce débat. En le faisant, je vais faire quelques critiques à nos collègues graphistes. Mon point de vue est basé sur des expériences répétées, mais pas forcément représentatives. Si vous avez eu d'autres ou si vous pensez que j'ai tort merci de corriger le tir.

Je travaille depuis bien des années avec bon nombre de graphistes basés en France ; certains ayant des petites équipes, la plupart faisant partie de grandes agences.

D'après ce que j'ai vu, les agences françaises (j'entends basées en France) sont souvent très fortes en créativité, relations avec leurs clients (souvent également les nôtres) et graphisme, bien moins en ce qui concerne l'optimisation de la « chaîne graphique » et l'utilisation de Word avec InDesign et carrément bornées en ce qui concerne toute approche multiculturelle à la mise en page et mise en ligne de documents et textes.
Sur ce dernier point, la question que pose est celle-ci : une maquette méritant tel ou tel louange (élégant, efficace, percutant, …) du point de vue du lectorat de culture A, méritera-t-elle le même du point de vue du lectorat de culture B ? Ce sujet est encore plus vaste que celui déjà abordé, mais d'autres commencent à y penser.

Revenant à InDesign, Word, nous et les graphistes.
Quelques commentaires :
- les dernières versions de InDesign sont conçues pour travailler directement avec du texte Word et avec des feuilles de styles Word
- il est possible de créer des feuilles de styles InDesign & Word utilisant les mêmes styles et réduisant (a priori et après mise au point multiples) le ‘versement' de tout un fichier Word dans un fichier InDesign avec quelques cliques (si vous connaissez des agences qui travaillent déjà ainsi, nous aurions tous intérêts à travailler avec eux et à promouvoir leurs services auprès de nos clients)
- l'agence graphique qui procède par copier-coller (ou pire qui « re-tape » vos titres et légendes), ou qui n'a pas les modules nécessaires pour travailler dans votre langue d'arrivée, a encore du chemin à faire.

Pour en savoir plus (en anglais), consulter:
- Moving Text From Word to InDesign
- mon blogue
- memoQ and InDesign

Pour en savoir plus (en français), consulter:
- site de Branslav Milic
- site de Ziggourate Formation
- et d'autres entreprises similaires

Insourcing Boom (in industry)

The Insourcing Boom by Charles Fishman in the December 2012 issue of the Atlantic is remarkable in many respects. Among other things, it highlights the power of even erroneous group think over just about everything, including deep, comprehensive analysis (I refer to the efforts of the handful of people who saw the errors inherent in outsourcing long before others).

Inspired by this excellent article, I would like to hazard a three quick and highly optimistic predictions:
1) The day will come when more companies will realise that sincere, honest, simple messages can achieve more than hype.
2) That these companies, and hopefully others too, will realise that texts presenting such messages that need to be translated, deserve the attention of professional translators and consistent client-translator relations.
3) That these companies, and hopefully others too, will realise that document production can benefit from the comprehensive analysis of methods, workflow and accounts in the very broadest sense, not just in terms of word rates.

Predictions or daydreaming? Time will tell. But the fact that the insourcing boom is now taking place leaves more room for hope.

05 December 2012

Translating in, into or for InDesign

On 30 October I posted under the heading Moving text from Word to InDesign.

Today, I'd like to share a couple of links concerning the latest emerging methods for translating InDesign files for translators already familiar with Kilgray's memoQ TEnT, or translation environment tool. (I am not in fact a memoQ user, but I freely admit that the technology is advancing very fast indeed and may soon become part of an almost standard procedure for translating InDesign files.)

First, this announcement from Kilgray:
InDesign support with preview (new in memoQ 6.2)
Using a cloud-based file filter, Language Terminal uses an InDesign server in the background to import INDD, INX or IDML documents. Once Language Terminal processes an InDesign document, you get a memoQ bilingual document with the text, the live preview, and a PDF file for your reference. The preview works in memoQ and memoQWebTrans, too.

Second, this tongue-in-cheek introduction by Kevin Lossner.
(Caution: Second-language readers might find this a little challenging.)

Third, LanguageTerminal.
The section of the What Is? page on InDesign says:
Import InDesign documents with preview. Language Terminal can process all Adobe® InDesign™ documents known to the CS6 edition and produce XLIFF files. These XLIFF files include live preview if you translate them in the memoQ translation environment. In addition, you can now import native INDD files, not just IDMLs and INXs.

It is interesting to note that translators are thinking hard about their workflows.
It is equally interesting to note that in some sections of the international market for InDesign services, a few agencies seem interested in saving money for themselves and/or their customers by optimising workflows while the majority (especially in my limited experience in southern Europe) appear to be so focused on creative graphics, scintillating presentations and hype that simpler notions like well-though-out workflows that speed delivery and save money attract little attention.

Well, for anyone wanting to break the mould and challenge the agencies qualifying as "lazy fat cats", at least the ideas and tools are now available.

30 November 2012

Insights into editing

On 16 November 2012 Yuka Igarashi posted a fascinating piece to The Granta blog entitled House Style: Editing Brazil. The comments also give insights into what goes on in the editor's head while editing.

The processes that go on in the heads of translators working on technical journalism are similar if, perhaps, little less obsessive than at Granta.

On this theme, see also Kevin Hendzel's excellent post entitled Confirmation Bias: Why Collaboration is the Path to Translators’ Best Work.

26 November 2012

Neologisms in high finance

Gillian Tett's article entitled Beware the next financial blindspot, published in the Financial Times on November 22, gives a remarkable insight into the challenges and, on this occasion, the immense importance, of coining terms combining meaning and impact.

Ms Tett relates how Paul Tucker, now deputy governor of the Bank of England, tried to sound timely alarm bells about  systemic financial risks posed by what he initially called “Russian doll finance” or “vehicular finance”. It was not, however, until Paul McCulley, a senior Pimco official, coined the term “shadow banking” in 2007 that the concept, thanks partly to its new high-impact name, began to catch on.

Ms Tett does an excellent job explaining the details and the importance first of the concept, second of the term -- shadow banking -- combining meaning and impact.

Translators, who often have to come up with names for things "on the fly" usually earn no more for a well-coined high-impact term than they do for any other handful of words. And, as a rule, there's nothing much wrong with that. Sometimes, however, as Gillian's superb article demonstrates, a very great deal can hang on the success or failure of a handful of words.

Constructions that bring to mind the unspoken

Under the heading Thank you can be the hardest words, FT columnist Andrew Hill writes:
“ ... dispatched his chief financial officer, ..., with a brief thank-you – before pointing out how their working styles were not well matched. (Perhaps the clue was in his use of the phrase 'I want to thank Liz' – a construction that always suggests to me the unspoken addition ' . . . but I just can’t bring myself to do so'.)”

The expression  “a construction that always suggests to me the unspoken addition... ” is an excellent example of the sort of subtlety of language that should be available to 'into mother-tongue' translators but only very rarely to 'into L2' translators.

04 November 2012

Found in translation

For information about Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche start here.

Writing in the American Translators Association Chronicle, Corinne McKay, sums the book up nicely:
"In superbly written, rigorously researched, and perfectly-sized segments, the authors have encapsulated the passion that all of us have for our work and its place in the world. [...] Found in Translation starts from a beautifully simple premise -- translation is everywhere -- and weaves a rich story of the ways in which languages truly do shape the world."

Highly recommended.

30 October 2012

Moving text from Word to InDesign

A method to move text from Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign by MacKey Composition:
Moving Text From Word to InDesign

The PostScript may, unfortunately, mean that the method no longer works with the latest versions of Word and InDesign.
You will notice I don’t make mention of the newest version of Microsoft Word for Mac, Word 2008. The reason for this is Microsoft’s removal of Viual Basic for Applications (VBA) from Word 2008. VBA is a scripting language that allowed, among other things, the recording of your actions within Word into a Macro that, with the press of a button, ran those actions just as if you were going through them all over again. It’s very powerful and my method of using Word described above depends heavily on VBA. Thus, I never upgraded to Word 2008, as none of my Macros would have worked. Apparently Microsoft decided it wasn’t such a great idea to remove VBA from Word after all, and has promised its return in the next version of Word for Mac.

Jamie McKee added in a personal communication dated 30/10/2012:
"As for more information regarding the PostScript…with the release of Word 2011, VBA was put back in, so everything works just like it did with Word 2000 and Word 2004 for Mac. Word 2008 is the only oddball."

Smashing magazine

Some excerpts and links on layout, graphics and typography from the Smashing magazine site:
(Capitalising of Smashing headings changed by your truly from US convention to my preferred convention)
Here are carefully selected articles about typography and type design that have been published in Smashing Magazine over all the years.
An understanding of typographic etiquette separates the master designers from the novices. A well-trained designer can tell within moments of viewing a design whether its creator knows how to work with typography. Typographic details aren’t just inside jokes among designers. They have been built up from thousands of years of written language, and applying them holds in place long-established principles that enable typography to communicate with efficiency and beauty.
Any application of typography can be divided into two arenas: micro and macro. Understanding the difference between the two is especially useful when crafting a reading experience, because it allows the designer to know when to focus on legibility and when to focus on readability.

22 October 2012

Sea and Navy magazine

To see the English version of the special issue of Mer et Marine for Euronaval 2012, go here.

Style may have suffered due to pressure of work over the last few days to get this finished and on line in time, but on this particular occasion I want to raise a different issue, namely language- and culture-specific typography and layout.
The source is French written for a readership comprising naval industry professionals and the broader maritime and technical communities with sometimes less specific knowledge of naval defence, despite their keen interest.
The target version is written for a more tightly defined readership of naval defence professionals.

This is the first time in my long career that I have had the pleasure of such a good working relationship with the editor-in-chief and his graphic artist and the first time that constructive dialogue between us all has resulted in the adoption of some layout conventions specific to the English version, hence different from the French version. I refer specifically to white space between the paragraphs for improved reading comfort and the minimal capitalisation of heading and subheadings allowing the unambiguous use of military acronyms.

Please feel free to comment? Your feedback, positive or negative, will be most welcome.

Mer et Marine Euronaval 2012

Le nouveau magazine Mer et Marine sort aujourd'hui

See here.

Deux extraits de la présentation :

C’est aujourd’hui, à l’occasion de l’ouverture du salon Euronaval, que parait l’édition 2012/2013 de notre nouveau magazine sur les forces navales militaires. Ce Hors Série de 132 pages présente les dernières nouveautés des industriels (bâtiments de surface, sous-marins, forces spéciales, drones, électronique, satellites, armement, propulsion, aéronautique…), fait le point sur les grands programmes européens et les contrats à l’export, propose un état de lieux des grandes marines du monde et revient sur les problématiques de sécurité maritime ainsi que les grands enjeux liés à la maîtrise des océans.

Nous tenons, enfin, à saluer Steve Dyson, qui a assuré la traduction anglaise du magazine (avec une version optimisée pour le lectorat anglo-saxon), afin que les lecteurs internationaux puissent également profiter de ce support unique de par la richesse de son contenu et de son iconographie. Un travail colossal puisqu’il a fallu transformer, en anglais technique, plus de 300.000 signes de textes sur des sujets particulièrement variés et souvent très pointus.

Version optimisée pour le lectorat anglo-saxon...
Ce commentaire fait référence à l'emploi des majuscules et miniscules dans les titres et sous-titres, également au blanc entre les paragraphes.

Vos commentaires seront les bienvenus.

21 September 2012


Freelance translators looking for tips on how to be better freelancers, or freelance businesspeople, as opposed to how to be better translators, should take a look at The Freelancery by Walt Kania. Walt offers good advice and ideas expressed in exemplary writing style.
Walt's 'portable wisdom' compilation: The 50 most useful articles from The Freelancery, neatly woven into a take-along PDF. Worth $18,756 in saved pain. Free here.

12 September 2012

Swearing. Context: media

Finding equivalents for swearwords can be fun. But when a newspaper users a swearword in a front-page headline and other media want to talk about it, they have a challenge on their hands.

A case in point was "Casse-toi riche con" on the front-page of leading left-wing French daily Libération on 10 September. Slate.fr put out an interesting post.

The New Statesman opted for "Get lost, you rich bastard".

Both the fun and the challenge are summed up by the tweet by trilingual (English, French, Arabic) CNN International anchor Hala Gorani: Ok les bilingues, traduisez-moi l'insulte "con" s'il vous plait. Essayez de ne pas faire trop grossier!

05 September 2012

Transcreation explained

Creative translators serving discerning customers, sometimes referred to as 'transcreators' -- in addition to translators specialising in advertising and 'corporate image' documents, the community also includes translators of technical journalism -- have long found it surprisingly difficult to present their services and explain how they work concisely and convincingly. The August/September issue of The Linguist, published by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Linguists, contains a ground-breaking article entitled Making it ad up (go to page 20) by friend and colleague Bill Maslen, owner-manager of and chief transcreator at The Word Gym.

The lead line reads: "Bill Maslen offers an inside account of advertising transcreation". While Bill focuses essentially on the advertising industry, most of the article is equally applicable to any translator-customer relationship in which both parties believe that the only way to achieve the greatest impact on the translation customer's customers is through mutual trust based on sustained dialogue.

The good news, for translators aiming to work for the most discerning customers, is that such relationships are increasingly seen as essential in advertising, finance and banking.
The bad news is that in other industries this type of relationship is less common and more difficult to both establish and maintain.
And once such a relationship has been established, there is the risk that a purchasing  executive might decide that intellectual services like translation are a commodity, like nuts and bolts, and that prices must be driven down.

For yours truly, one lesson is that these industries have something to learn not only from Bill's ground-breaking article, but also from the advertising, finance and banking industries where more people appear to know what words are worth. And where purchasing department are not responsible for buying in intellectual services.

The Word Gym page on transcreation closes with the comment:
"If your copy is going to work well in another language, in another culture, you need additional creative input."
We couldn't agree more...

29 August 2012

Traduire vos éditos en anglais… pas toujours une bonne idée

Article à lire ici.

Egalement Traduire votre site internet : les sept péchés capitaux.

Language and the Mind

The Browser has posted an interview with Economist correspondent and author Robert Lane Greene entitled Language and the Mind. Greene writes The Economist’s highly regarded language blog, Johnson.

A sampler:
1) One of the most interesting things about language is the prejudices and ideas people have about it.
2) Ludwig Wittgenstein famously said: ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’.
3) The Kuuk Thaayorre who live in northern Australia ... don't have words for relative directions. They don’t say ‘left’ or ‘right’ or ‘up’ or ‘down’ or ‘back’. They use only the cardinal directions i.e. north, south, east and west.
4 When people say x can’t be translated, what they usually mean is that you need a couple of words instead of one word.

My thoughts. 1: OK. 2: Turns out it's not true. 4: Clearly contradicted by the example given in 3!

I'll say no more.

Bright as a million light bulbs

(Translating technical journalism is proud to post a contribution by friend and colleague John Smellie, curator of English as she is spoke/Scoop.it! and owner of language services company E-Files. Many thanks John.)

Much to the chagrin of the purists of the scientific world, technical journalists are constantly coining new units of measurement for lay readers. Thanks to them, we're all familiar with the "football stadium" and the "width of hair", while measuring CO2 emissions in "thousands of trees" helps us put the impact of global warming into perspective.

Translators of these colourful metaphors sometimes have to strip out any regional references. French media outlets, for example, like to measure Chevron's devastation of the Ecuadorian rainforest in terms of "an area half the size of Corsica". For a translator of technical journalism, it's all in a day's work (about 12 hours, last time I counted).

According to a recent article on www.phys.org, the Mars rover ("about the size of a small car") is equipped with a laser that "briefly focuses the energy of a million light bulbs onto an area the size of a pinhead". One knowledgeable reader was quick to comment that the laser (built by Thales) is in fact a "pulsed 1067 nm Q-switched diode-pumped solid-state laser that delivers 40 mJ per pulse with a pulse duration of less than 10 ns at a 10 Hz maximum repetition rate".

For us lesser mortals, the light bulb metaphor will do just fine!

Fortunately, phys.org's readers have a sense of humour. Later in the conversation about the rock-zapping laser on Mars, Torbjorn Larsson enthused "the laser shot showed some non-volatile carbon". And while no ratios had yet been released by NASA, Torbjorn assumed "they would be [measured] in 'smidgens' or 'yo mommas IQ'".

(Steve added:)
WolframAlpha, a powerful online computational tool that can handle plain language queries in English, gives conventional values and units for a "football stadium" (area), "width of human hair" (length), Corsica (area), a "pinhead" (area), but it can't tell you anything about a "tree" of CO2, the volume of a "small car", or a "light bulb" of energy or brightness.

13 August 2012

Fed-speak, Alan Greenspan explains

Question by Devin Leonard and Peter Coy of BloombergBusinessWeek:
When you were Fed chairman, people talked about your inscrutability. You talk in your book about practicing the art of constructive ambiguity. What does that mean?

Alan Greenspan:
As Fed chairman, every time I expressed a view, I added or subtracted 10 basis points from the credit market. That was not helpful. But I nonetheless had to testify before Congress. On questions that were too market-sensitive to answer, “no comment” was indeed an answer. And so you construct what we used to call Fed-speak. I would hypothetically think of a little plate in front of my eyes, which was the Washington Post, the following morning’s headline, and I would catch myself in the middle of a sentence. Then, instead of just stopping, I would continue on resolving the sentence in some obscure way which made it incomprehensible. But nobody was quite sure I wasn’t saying something profound when I wasn’t. And that became the so-called Fed-speak which I became an expert on over the years. It’s a self-protection mechanism … when you’re in an environment where people are shooting questions at you, and you’ve got to be very careful about the nuances of what you’re going to say and what you don’t say.

And translators and interpreters have to translate and interpret this sort of thing!

The rest of the interview is here.

10 August 2012

IAE, technical journalism or art form?

My previous post included a link to a fascinating article on international art English, or IAE.

Translators and other readers of this blog may be able to decide whether they want to read the whole article after considering the challenges presented by translating passages such as those below. Certainly a translator facing a job with IAE or some variant as the source language will be thrilled to read the detailed analysis.

IAE sampler
- X causes an immediate confusion between the space of retail and the space of subjective construction
- Y will unfold his ideas beyond the specific and anecdotal limits of his Paris experience to encompass a more general scope, a new and broader dimension of meaning
- questioning the division between inside and outside in the Western sacred space (the venue was a former church) to highlight what is excluded in order to invest the sanctum with its spatial purity. Pieces of cement, wire, refrigerators, barrels, bits of glass and residues of ‘the sacred,’ speak of the space of the exhibition hall … transforming it into a kind of ‘temple of confusion’
- the field of the real the parafictional has one foot
- Through an expansive practice that spans drawing, sculpture, video, and artist books, Kim contemplates a world in which perception is radically questioned. His visual language is characterized by deadpan humor and absurdist propositions that playfully and subversively invert expectations. By suggesting that what you see may not be what you see, Kim reveals the tension between internal psychology and external reality, and relates observation and knowledge as states of mind.

... starting to get the idea?

The last couple of sentences bring us full circle, or almost, back to this blog. They read: When we sense ourselves to be in proximity to something serious and art related, we reflexively reach for subordinate clauses. The question is why. How did we end up writing in a way that sounds like inexpertly translated French?
Indeed! I could not have said it better myself.
... which suggests that IAE probably translates more readily into the Romance languages than into a Scandinavian or Asian language.

To Baskerville or not to Baskerville?

After reading Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth (Part One) by Errol Morris, I was tempted to change the default font used in this blog to Baskerville (and probably would have if I'd been able to work out how to do it). This post is in Verdana. Blogger does not appear to offer Baskerville. Pity.

Morris raises an issue that has always fascinated me with the question: Is there a font that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true?
And the quick answer is: Yes, and it appears to be Baskerville!

Graphic artists choose fonts, I presume, primarily for purely aesthetic reasons.
Morris's article discusses an issue I've long believed deserves far more attention than it currently receives. That question is: Should the elements of a graphic concept for a document intended to promote a company's corporate image, products or services be chosen not on the basis of the artist's aesthetics, but on the basis of objective measurements of what works best on the target readership (fonts, text size and legibility, white space, use of captions, etc.)?

Morris's article represents a small but important step towards an answer.

One day we will find out more. And when we do, purchasers of graphic artists' services will be able to establish whether or not they are getting value for money.
The challenge is considerable. Among many other factors, one would like to know something about the impact of different fonts on different readerships depending on their mother tongue, nationality, type of education, line of business, etc.

A couple or notes scribbled to myself over the years:
- English version of a high-cost multicolour brochure on high-tech industry in a French city, published in 1986, was composed, like the French version, in Le Novarese italics with extensive use of 'all caps'. The graphic artists were pleased, but, like me, several English-mother-tongue colleagues with technical backgrounds found it decidedly unappealing.
- When choosing fonts for publications for technical audiences, graphic artists should make sure that the font includes all necessary signs and symbols and that all mathematical symbols look good (to mathematically-minded technical readers trained in a given language) in combination with the font's numbers. (I've seen a couple of failures in this respect but unfortunately cannot recall the fonts involved...).

While researching this, I stumbled upon the following (source):
« Aucun caractère n’est parfait; il peut être le meilleur à une époque donnée, dans un environnement artistique et technique particulier, pour une destination bien définie. Cela vaut pour tout caractère typographique. » 
Né en 1928, en Suisse, Adrian Frutiger est formé au graphisme, à la typographie et à la sculpture.

And just in case you are wondering whether my repeated references to the specificity of writing for publications for highly specific readerships is a little 'over the top', take a look at this site on the specificity of international art English, aka IAE.

02 July 2012

Apple: core product

You can read this FT article here.
That's what you call a very clever headline for a technical journalist, even with the benefit, presumably, of the editor-in-chief of the FT's Lex team.

I wonder how many translators could come up with translations achieving similar impact?

19 June 2012

Naming colours

At first glance one might imagine that the question of assigning names to colours in different languages then establishing equivalents between languages might be relatively simple. To help you think again and appreciate that in many cases, especially between languages from widely differing cultures and times in history, you might like to explore:
Read, for instance, WERE THE GREEKS BLUE-BLIND? on p14 of Hoeppe's book here.

Some quotes from The crayola-fication (in the UK and parts of the Commonwealth that should probably read The crayonification):
  • ... like most world languages, the Tarahumara language doesn’t distinguish blue from green.
  • As it happens, Whorf was right. Or rather, he was half right.
  • It’s easier to tell apart colors with different names, but only if they are to your right. (Keep in mind that this is a very subtle effect, the difference in reaction time is a few hundredths of a second.)
  • Koreans are familiar with the colors yeondu and chorok. An English speaker would call them both green (yeondu perhaps being a more yellowish green). But in Korean it’s not a matter of shade, they are both basic colors. There is no word for green that includes both yeondu and chorok.
  • ... when you’re verbally distracted, it suddenly becomes harder to separate blue from green ...
  • The conclusion is that language is somehow enhancing your left brain’s ability to discern different colors with different names.
  • Oddly enough, Whorf was right, but only when it comes to half your brain.

13 June 2012

Processing fluency

A further post following People speaking with accents are less believable on Lingua Franca.
This one is on a concept in cognitive psychology called processing fluency. Yes, it will probably prove exceedingly naive in the long run. No, for the moment, I have no idea how relevant it is to different cultures let alone to L2 readers of technical journalism. And no, I can't find much evidence of serious analysis of the concept's relevance to technical communication and translation.

But please read on, because this could lead at the very least to some interesting exchanges and possibly to some new understanding and exciting breakthroughs as to the aims and promotion of technical communication and translation.

The terms processing fluency and cognitive fluency more relevant to technical journalism, technical journalism translation, graphic arts as applied to technical journalism and advertising than you might imagine.

The linked Wikipedia article states: "... studies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process — even totally non-substantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it — can alter judgement of the truth of the statement, along with evaluation of the intelligence of the statement's author." (my bold)

An article entitled Easy = True in the Boston Globe dated 31 January 2010 states:
  • "When people read something in a difficult-to-read font, they unwittingly transfer that sense of difficulty onto the topic they’re reading about."
  • "Playing with legibility can also change perceptions in subtler, less predictable ways."
  • "Even at the level of a trickier font, the experience of disfluency makes people wary and uncomfortable."
  • "The persuasive power of repetition, clarity, and simplicity is something that people who set out to win others’ trust — marketers, political candidates, speechwriters, suitors, and teachers — already have an intuitive sense of if they’re good at what they do. What the fluency research is showing is just how profound the effect can be, and just how it works." (my bold) (my highlighting)
The list above should, I suggest, be expanded to include technical communicators, technical journalists and their translators.

This is reassuring indeed for someone who has held a strong intuitive belief in these ideas for many years. That would, perhaps, have been too good to be true... Other considerations mentioned in the Boston Globe article include:
  • "Work on product marketing ... has found, for example, that while creating a sense of disfluency in potential consumers is likely to make them see a product as less familiar, it also makes them see it as more innovative."
  • "In other words, to get people to think carefully and to prevent them from making silly mistakes, make them work to process the question: make the font hard to read, the cadence awkward, and the wording unfamiliar."
The Boston Globe article stimulated Wandering Academic blogger Greg Clinton to post a follow-on article entitled, like many others on related issues: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

11 June 2012

Quotable quotes

Today's post consists of some quotable quotes from sources perused after listening to People speaking with accents are less believable on Lingua Franca.

"When we attempt to understand what speakers mean, we must infer what they mean from what they say. This is because all utterances are ambiguous. ... In fact, everything people say is ambiguous because it can convey more than one intention. To overcome this inherent ambiguity, we propose that language users rely on certain heuristics of language use. As with other heuristics, they are generally successful but they occasionally lead to systematic error." (my bold)

SourceSelf-Anchoring in Conversation: Why Language Users Do Not Do What They “Should” by Boaz Keysar and Dale J. Barr (pp. 150-166  of Heuristics and Biases, The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, Edited by Thomas Gilovich)

Easy to say, easy to like: People's names and the impressions they make.
mp3 (16.1 MB) 17 min 36 sec
Social psychologist Dr Simon Laham discusses his research linking the pronounceability of a person’s name with perceptions of likeability, and what this might mean for a person’s access to opportunities.

"Give people more experience at pronouncing and working with names from different backgrounds, and in its small way, it could contribute to reducing prejudice." -- Dr Simon Laham

Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility
(downloadable pdf) by Shiri Lev-Ari ⁎, Boaz Keysar, University of Chicago, Chicago.

Abstract: Non-native speech is harder to understand than native speech. We demonstrate that this “processing difficulty” causes non-native speakers to sound less credible. People judged trivia statements such as “Ants don't sleep” as less true when spoken by a non-native than a native speaker. When people were made aware of the source of their difficulty they were able to correct when the accent was mild but not when it was heavy. This effect was not due to stereotypes of prejudice against foreigners because it occurred even though speakers were merely reciting statements provided by a native speaker. Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.  (my bold
© 2010 Elsevier Inc.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (2010) 1093–1096

Perceptual fluency affects judgements of truth
A short paper entitled Effects of Perceptual Fluency on Judgments of Truth (downloadable pdf) by Rolf Reber and Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Quote: Research has shown that repeated exposure increases the perceived truth of statements such as ‘‘Greenland has about 50,000 inhabitants,’’ compared to statements that have not been presented before.
The part in bold may be tentatively put forward for preferring the repeated use of selected company or product claims in identical form in technical journalism intended to convince the reader of the merits of a company or product.

The problem I'm trying to get at is this: Most of the French-mother-tongue technical journalists that I've translated believe that it is a sin to re-use a sentence or larger block of text previously used on some other occasion. Which may or may not match what French-mother-tongue readers of the said documents prefer to read or respond most positively to. This contrasts with the widely held belief among English-mother-tongue technical writers that once time and energy have been spent crafting a compact, clear, effective explanation of a product, feature or sales argument, it should be re-used wherever and whenever possible. These writers, and translators that follow this school of thought, believe that there is little or no risk that English-mother-tongue readers will have a stylistic quibble with this choice, that the message benefits from repetition in identical form and that well-crafter text is too precious not to be re-used. They further believe that these claims are probably even more true in the case of L2 readers (often the biggest target audience for English translation of technical journalism originally drafted in French and intended to promote French products and companies).

Why is 'x' the unknown?
TED talk by Terry Moore
Answer: Because there's no "sh" sound in Spanish.
Listen to the TED talk for the full explanation in 6 minutes.

07 June 2012

Language always comes with cultural baggage

FT article by Philip Delves Broughton entitled A conversation that translates discusses risk perception in different languages and cultures.

When a corporation decides to address enterprise risk management it clearly needs to do so through the multiple prisms of each participating cultural and language group. Here then is an issue for established risk management teams and translators among others.

Quotable quotes:
  • The relatively new breed of risk professionals also aims to provide the kind of hard intelligence that will pierce what Mr Anderson calls the “perfect place arrogance” that can beset multinationals. Companies with strong national identities risk thinking that what they do at home will work equally well abroad. “They think ‘just because we’ve been successful on Wall Street, we can do the same thing in London, Tokyo and Frankfurt’.” Such thinking can be challenged with trenchant assessments of the risks present in each new market.
  • ... understanding context – more so than language – is the first step in any global risk management plan. In any country in the world, people consider risk in terms of the law, logic and relationships, but in different orders of importance: “In China, it’s relationships first and the law third. In the US, it’s law first, then logic, then relationships.”
  • The greatest pitfalls in managing risk across borders, he says, emerge from assuming too much. When dealing with fellow English speakers, it is easy to imagine that a shared language means shared assumptions – that the English, Americans and Australians think the same thing because they are using the same words.
  • Every word comes with its own “metadata” in different cultures.

05 June 2012

Future Schlock: Common Sense, Nonsense, and the Law of Supply and Demand

On 28 May, Miguel Llorens posted a finely crafted commentary on a Common Sense Advisory (CSA) white paper on the translation market entitled Translation Demand-Supply Mismatch. Miguel's post is entitled Future Schlock: Common Sense, Nonsense, and the Law of Supply and Demand.

Highly recommended for any interested in the translation market and translation purchasing. I also thoroughly agree with Miguel's use of "ideological arm of Lower Quality Translation" to describe CSA.

21 May 2012

Procurement know-how in short supply

A serious case of a lack of government procurement know-how in the UK is described in detail in a post by Nataly Kelly of Common Sense Advisory* under the heading ALS Experience Highlights Global Lack of Governmental Procurement Know-How. The article discusses precisely the types of issues raised here in recent posts.

An equally forthright post entitled Blowing the Whistle on Unqualified Military Interpreters from September 2010 is also recommended reading.

* The CSA's company overview reads:
Common Sense Advisory is an independent Massachusetts-based market research company. We help companies profitably grow their international businesses and gain access to new markets and new customers. Our focus is on assisting our clients to operationalize, benchmark, optimize, and innovate industry best practices in translation, localization, interpreting, globalization, and internationalization.

18 May 2012

Full stop on French keyboard

"The French are so fond of long, rambling sentences that when you use a French keyboard, you have to press the shift key to get a full stop – yet the semi-colon is right there." says  Sam Taylor in an FT article entitled New word order.

Well put Sam.

From small fish consultant to big fish customers

My post of 8 May leads directly to a bigger question, namely:
How should a large organisation seeking to buy in high quality translation services proceed?
My experience being confined to western Europe and technology-based industries, my advice suffers the same limitations. 
  1. Avoid the "big likes big" syndrome.
  2. Be wary of large organisations offering services spanning copywriting, translation, graphic design and more. What sounds like a quick easy solution often falls short on delivery and ends up costing a great deal. As explained on 8 May, if a 'Big 4' consultancy can show total ignorance of an entire area of expertise (in this case website localisation), the scope for under-performance and over-charging is unlimited.
  3. Be aware, on the other hand, that some projects require genuine project management skills that, with few exceptions, only large organisations can provide. (Some projects are best managed by selecting a large service supplier for project management while requiring that it work with designated copywriters and translators with long-term relationships with the end customer.)
  4. For copywriting and translation, my experience and that of many colleagues over several decades suggest that there is no match in terms of quality of service and consistent performance for small dedicated teams with long-term relationships with a small number of customers. Over time, teams like this get to know their customers and their customers' products and services.
  5. If you really want to understand a proposed outsourcing arrangement ask for the names of the contributors at all levels and a breakdown of who earns what. Can you really expect top-flight work from intellectuals workers if the envisaged arrangement does not ensure that they will make enough to want to work with your company again?
  6. Consider using your prime contacts for language services as both service providers and consultants. They will often prove an excellent source of reliable advice on who can do what. Highly specialised tasks like catalogue compilation and translation demand quite different skills from B2B or B2C copywriting and translation.
  7. All of the above hinges on the level of in-house awareness of how these services are provided. A purchasing team is unlikely to have the skills or time to thoroughly understand what it is purchasing and how to get value for money. This small fish suggests that a more judicious approach to purchasing intellectual services lies in selecting a small in-house team (perhaps just one or two people) to invest time in understanding what they are buying, then giving them a broad purchasing brief.
  8. If you try this approach and find that it works, make sure that a key person in the purchasing chain of command also has the authority to ensure that trusted suppliers are paid on time or, as mark of special appreciation for dedication, ahead of time. I wonder how many supplier resources management (SRM) software suites and the like accommodate this level of tailoring?

Nice video

Kobalt Languages of Barcelona and London has produced a nice video on the potential cost of translation errors. Well done.

09 May 2012

Editing for impact

Editing for impact demands more than one pair of eyes and considerable talent. This is nicely illustrated by Seth Godin's take on George Orwell's famous and often-quoted Rules for Writers.

Here are Orwell's rules, edited:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. You don't need clichés.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. Avoid long words.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Write in the now.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. When in doubt, say it clearly.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Better to be interesting than to follow these rules.

Seth goes on to say: The reason business writing is horrible is that people are afraid.
To which I would add a probably even more fundamental reason, namely that writing poorly -- whether cliché-laden, circumlocutious, or plain ineffective -- is far, far easier than writing concise, effective copy.

08 May 2012

From small fish to big

Following on from my posting of 5 May, I would like to set out a couple of thoughts for the benefit of big companies with multiple subsidiaries and more specifically for head office website management teams. Many of the sorts of companies I refer to choose a decentralised model for website management which is to say that each subsidiary, and often each division as well, is free to manage its websites as it sees fit, save for standard corporate logos and the standardisation of selected features. Whatever the mix, freedom as to suppliers of services from detailed website design to copywriting and localisation, appears to be the norm. Which is all well and good.

However, when it is realised that workflow management is the key to higher efficiency, faster turnaround, reduced stress and low costs, some aspects deserve more analysis and thought. The time to do this sort of things is when the head office website management team is having a quiet spell. Here are some suggestions as to how to proceed.

Given that increased control by head office is probably not the way to do, I would suggest that head office produce and/or subcontract the draft of a series of guidelines for the benefit of all interested subsidiaries and divisions with a view to making there lives a little easier.

1) As mentioned on 5 May, rank the existing websites as regards the quality of the copywriting, localisation, graphics, etc.
2) Pool or catalogue all available resources for copywriters, localisation teams, graphic artists, etc.
3) Draft guidelines (or adapt existing ones from leading websites) on best practice as to tools, procedures and workflows, including  detailed costings of the in-house and budgetary costs of optimal and suboptimal procedures.
4) Draw up lists of previous suppliers (complete with customer satisfaction feedback) and recommended suppliers, including feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of each. You might, for instance, recommend different translators for a corporate image website and a catalogue-type website given that the first calls for persuasive, flowing and culturally sensitive styles while the second calls for thorough terminological research.
5) Draft or outsource reports on workflow choices and their benefits.
6) Cost, as accurately as possible, the total final cost of producing a new website (detailing assumptions as to size, layout, etc.) as a rush project with piecemeal copywriting, translation and layout compared to a well planned project. No one is suggesting that rush projects can always be avoided, only that management teams should be aware of the true cost of their choices.
7) Plan ahead to incorporate lessons learned so that this collection of guidelines remains an up-to-date, cost-effective resource benefiting all subsidiaries and divisions that wish to use it.

05 May 2012

Big project, 'big 4' consultancy, but no localisation workflow

Some thoughts following ten days' work contributing translations and rereading to a big website project for a big group with a 'big 4' consultancy guiding and supervising.

Despite extraordinary credentials (just ask them...) and creditable contributions to countless corporate projects, this latest experience demonstrated yet again that teams assembled by at least one 'big 4' consultancy still has a great deal to learn about localisation.

The website was for a very big group with a large number of multilingual sites, most localised by different in-house teams using different translators and different workflows, if indeed they had a 'workflow' as such at all.

Some of the 'givens' for this project include:
- team leaders committed to snappy flowing copy in source and target languages
- team leaders already happy with the creative skills of their graphics team and the copywriting skills of their source and target-language suppliers
- graphics team committed to cutting-edge website design and appearance
- zero awareness among the supervising consultancy, in-house team leaders and graphics team of the importance of localisation technology and workflows.

So what advice can this humble contributor give to an in-house team assigned the task of designing, building and localising a new website with these or similar 'givens'?

Plan ahead for localisation from the moment the project begins to take shape.
  • ask skilled language specialists to survey the group's existing sites and score the translation quality of each on a scale from, say, 1 to 10
  • obtain parallel copy in source and target languages for the highest scoring sites so localisation teams can leaverage the content (using alignment tools and indexing engines)
  • pool all available terminological resources and make them available to the translators as early as possible.
Develop a workflow before beginning exploratory copywriting and translation.
  • It is a huge mistake to believe that time will be saved by starting work on copy and translation too early.
    Workflow is where savings are to be found.
  • (One quick example of why this is so. The project that inspired this posting comprised tens of thousands of words of copy that was delivered to the translators one 300-word page at a time in MS Word format. Many of these pages contained times of day, values, measurements, etc. that translators typically process using a search & replace (S&R) tool. We had a dozen or more S&R operations to perform, in this case on each page, one at a time as it arrived. Had the project workflow used much larger junks, the translators could have used any one of a dozen tools to save a great deal of time and frustration. One example: Funduc's S&R tool.)
Seriously consider appointing a localisation workflow specialist to work with your chosen translators.
The widely acknowledged guru in this field is Jost Zetzsche.
Fortunately, much of Jost's expertise is readily available through his Translator's Tool Box and Tool Box Newsletter.

Given that Jost has subscribers all over the world, there really is no excuse for consultancy firms and website agencies that fail to give their clients the benefit of this money-saving expertise.

In France, this kind of expertise is available from colleagues like Carmelo Cancio of Cancio Communication.
In the United Kingdom, I recommend Salford Translations Ltd.

One of the very first rules of website localisation is to ensure that the website design concept and tools do not impose tight character counts or similar space restraints on the translators. Why? Because different languages need different amounts of space to say the same thing. Unfortunately this project was designed using a graphics concept stipulating strictly limited numbers of characters for each heading, subheading, leading paragraph, follow-on paragraph, bullet point and so. This is definitely not the way to go!

More in a day or two.

20 April 2012

Content flow, HuffPost to TJ, but when?

Six degrees of aggregation, subtitled How The Huffington Post ate the Internet, by Michael Shapiro, is important if you want to understand where the Huffington Post phenomenon came from and is going. Towards the end, Shapiro gives in passing some insights into the impact that improved content flow management has had on the production and distribution of journalism.

Although I have never presented my ideas on combined translation and content flow management to the graphics industry, I believe that a revolution like that produced by the HuffPost will eventually lead to radical change in the TJ and technical translation industries. The big questions are when and how.

HuffPost, a sophisticated online newspaper/blog, is produced using Movable Type social publishing platform (i.e. blogging software).

A change from established content flows for printed documents (typically MS Word for drafting, InDesign or similar for layout, then pdfs and email for corrections; all of this first for the source version then for each translated version) and for web documents (idem except that InDesign is replaced by Dreamweaver or similar) to a workflow using open source products like Movable Type and powerful browser-based interfaces for source and translation input could result in considerable savings and faster turnaround. For technical communicators and translators who like to dream with rose-tinted glasses, this could even lead to customers spending less time and money with graphics agencies and more -- possibly even much more -- on top-flight writing and translation services.

Ah well... We're all free to dream, aren't we.

17 April 2012

Namesake James on IP

Namesake James Dyson, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson technology group -- and vastly more famous than yours truly -- published a piece in today's FT entitled A plea for patents that inspire invention.

The mention of James' name brings to mind a play on the name Dyson -- there aren't many -- that is worth repeating.
The Grim Reaper came for me last night in a dream and I beat him off with a vacuum cleaner. Talk about Dyson with death.

21 March 2012

HTML for finance

A paper entitled "Towards A Common Financial Language" by Andrew Haldane of the Bank Of England was posted here on 14 March 2012.

The Browser's summary reads: "Stand back for a good news story – a story of how finance could transform both itself and its contribution to wider society." Haldane's speech (PDF) outlines spectacular benefits of adopting a standard language, an HTML for finance.

Data analysis applied to words

On 17 March, some editions of The Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled "The New Science of the Birth and Death of Words" (subtitle: "Have physicists discovered the evolutionary laws of language in Google's library?"). You can read a summary here.

You can play with the Google Ngram viewer yourself here.

01 March 2012

Globish, the language of international business

Michael Skapinker has an excellent article (entitled Executives speak a language of their own) on Globish in today's FT. Mother-tongue speakers of English do need to recognise that in multicultural settings where English or Globish dominates, they are often the least well understood of all the participants. When they are also the most senior, as has long been frequently the case even if the trend is now changing, the results can be of the highest importance.

For more on Globish, go here.

24 February 2012

Akkadian cuneiform script

If you want to learn a little more about Akkadian, its cuneiform script, and the Cyrus Cylinder and its relevance after 2,600 years to  Middle Eastern history and politics, listen to Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum at TEDTalks.

Every act of communication is an act of translation

Gregory Rabassa, acclaimed Spanish-to-English translator of Gabriel García Márquez and other South American authors, is reported to have said, with considerable wisdom: "Every act of communication is, in some way, an act of translation".

TEDTalks has posted a talk by Chris Bliss entitled "Comedy is translation". The talk begins with a few words about Gregory Rabassa's insight before explaining how great comedy can translate deep truths for a mass audience."

Recommended viewing for translators and those who buy translation service alike.

18 February 2012

Global English

Columnist Christopher Caldwell makes some good points in an article in today's FT entitled The French are right to resist Global English (aka 'Globish').

On the impact that Globish, or a university-level dialect thereof, may be having on today's students, he says: "When universities ... teach classes in global English ... the net effect can be to turn these varied young people into extremely unvaried adults. Language shapes mentalities – how deeply is harder to say. But the spread of English may be limiting our ability to think in different ways."

For into-English translators and translation buyers, this also raises the question Translation into what sort of English?

If anyone in the blogosphere is aware of any reliable studies as to what sort of English is likely to have the greatest -- or the least -- impact on various categories of L2 readers (say, engineers in southeast Asia or naval officers in the Middle East), please let me know.

13 February 2012

Lucy prefers 'purposeful'

Today, FT columnist Lucy Kellaway praised Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester for plain language and avoiding hyperbole. Among other points, Lucy highlighted Hester's use of 'good' and 'purposeful' while pointing out the latter's strengths over the tired, worn and essentially dishonest 'passionate'.

Hear, hear! Lucy.

07 February 2012

Fired for ALL CAPS email

FT article on Netiquette includes a story about a New Zealander who was fired for email in ALL CAPS.

-iz- is not American

Contrary to widely held belief, the choice in English between -is- and -iz- spellings is not simply a choice between American and British (and Commonwealth) preferences.

For more, read what Jonathan Calder has to say on his Liberal England blog under the heading -ize and -ization do not come from America (date: Monday, February 06, 2012).

If a customer asks, I give them a choice between three spelling systems: "-iz- American", "Oxford" (with -iz- and -is- as per Oxford dictionaries) or "standard British" (with -is-). It is interesting to note that these options do not appear to have specific names in wide use, which is a minor problem in itself.

Despite the excellent points made by Calder and others, perceptions are also important. Given that the vast majority of people believe that -iz = US and -is = British, this is a real issue for anyone wishing to use spelling as a flag as to origin. I believe that this is the main reason why most British newspapers use -is- and it is also the main reason that I advise European companies producing English-language documents that they wish to flag as specifically European (i.e. not American) to do the same.

My own default option for European companies requesting into-English translations is thus -is-.

Another challenge is that most spell-checking dictionaries do not offer these choices. (I never been able to fathom why the publishers of Oxford dictionaries never failed to market a spell-checking dictionary offering their own preferred spellings. If you find one, do let me know.)

Update (27 May 2014)
I have just discovered an exhaustive site (and rant) on this topic called
The ‘-ize’ have it!
on the Metadyne website by Mike Horne.
It's an excellent read and I agree with every word, despite the special case I make above as a Europe-based into-English translator attempting, on my clients' behalf, to wave a tiny flag that those less well informed than Calder and Horne (which is to say the vast majority of readers), will identify, in the unlikely event that they reflect on the issue for even a moment, as either British or vaguely 'European', which is to say, of course, non-American. There! I've stated my case once again, for what it's worth. I also take this opportunity to point out once again the great irony, despite the implacable logic of writers like Calder and Horne, that there is, as far as I'm aware, no reliable spell-checker dictionary reflecting their preferred choices. (If there were, I think I'd change my mind as quick as wink.)

02 February 2012

Translator humour

The Translation Tribulations blog has a very amusing post on MT, or machine translation, under the heading A sermon from Ede. Highly recommended.

Another example of translation humour... and a lesson of caution for translation buyers. See article here.

23 January 2012

Is there a system to French gender assignment?

There is, apparently, a system -- albeit complex -- to gender assignment in French. Australian linguist Margaret à Beckett of Monash University has laid claim to the discovery in a radio interview and podcast at ABC/RadioNational/LinguaFranca. (Transcript at ABC/RadioNational/LinguaFranca.)

For further information on Margaret à Beckett's book, Gender Assignment & Word-final Pronunciation in French - Two Classification Systems, see here.

At the end of the radio interview, Dr à Beckett explains how minuit changed from feminine to masculine when the sense changed historically from an extended period of time to a precise time thanks to the arrival of clocks. I wonder how she explains the fact that in modern French un espace corresponds to 'space' in the general sense while une espace corresponds to a 'space' in the typographical sense (i.e. a space between two words, etc.). The first is extensive, the second closer to a point, or the opposite of what happened with minuit.

Dr à Beckett's book, published by academic publisher Lincom, sells for €89.90, which really is quite a lot of money. I might have purchased a copy had she published with  an online publisher like Lulu  in electronic format for, say €10, rather than an expensive academic publisher like Lincom.

11 January 2012

Sailors as linguists

In a posted dated 30 July 2011, under the heading Sailors as Ad Hoc Linguists, blogger Translatology discusses a thesis by a naval officer on "native foreign language skills" among US Navy sailors.

For other articles on translation and interpreting in military contexts, search the blog for the word 'terp'. Interesting reading assured!

Next up: explore shared interests between this blog and Unprofessional Translation.

09 January 2012

Must read: Lucy's 2011 guff awards

Read Lucy Kellaway's 2011 guff awards... then ask yourself who, among your colleagues, clients or suppliers, has the worst or most pretentious job title or who should be awarded a Sound and Fury Cup or a prize for the spurious use of percentages, to name but two of Lucy's wonderful categories.

Then see if you can get your communications department to review your company's mission statement and press release boilerplate and replace them with texts that actually says something that people outside your company can relate to and take seriously.

06 January 2012

TJ translators: trend-follows, not trend-setters

One of the basic tenets of the translation by emulation approach outlined in this blog on translating technical journalism (TJ) is that that the translator should emulate the best practice of professional journalists working in the same or a closely allied area of specialisation in the translator's target language. Here 'best practice' includes monitoring trends and preferences with regard to evolving terminology. As the name implies, translation by emulation (TBE) proposes that the translator should follow exemplary terminology and usage trends, but not move ahead of the curve by adopting new terms before they have become established.

So what should the TBE translators do when a recognised standards organisation introduces new terminology? First, they should keep abreast of developments. Second, they should emulate their chosen exemplars.

The ICAO recently published a circular (n° 328) on what it calls 'Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)'. This and other ICAO documents on the same subject define a new set of terms that can be summarised as follows:
Unmanned aircraft (UA) & unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – the current ICAO terms – are also referred to as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAV systems), remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), remotely piloted vehicle systems (RPV systems), uninhabited aircraft, uninhabited aircraft systems, and drones.
[The question of how to present term-acronym pairs  – especially  term-acronym pairs containing the plural noun 'systems' or the non-count noun 'aircraft' – will be discussed in a separate post.]

For the moment, it would seem that 'drone' is dominant in the lay media, 'UAV' is popular and  RPV is gaining ground  in TJ, while bodies like the ICAO are promoting UA and UAS. In naval defence journalism, articles on unmanned aerial, underwater and surface vehicles (UAVs, UUVs and USVs) may refer collectively to UxVs, offboard systems or drones.

In such cases, TBE stands for a trend-follower approach, not a trend-setter approach.

03 January 2012

Bellos on translating technical journalism

This post follows those of 30 October, 11 November and 17 December 2011 referring to David Bellos's Is that a fish in your ear? (subtitled, Translation and the meaning of everything). The 'fish', incidentally, refers to the 'Babel fish' in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. (published by Harmony Books in 1979). For more, see this video.

In chapter 28, entitled What Translators Do, Bellos writes:
Here's a tiny example of the kind of changes translators make in order not to change anything much at all. In (a 2003 issue of) the multilingual 'in-flight magazine' supplied to travelers on the Eurostar train, a page is devoted to graphics demonstrating the size and achievements of the whole enterprise of high-speed rail through the Channel Tunnel. One of the bubbles features "334.7 km.h," which is glossed in English as "The record breaking top speed (208 mph) a Eurostar train reached in July 2003 when testing the UK High Speed 1 Line." It is followed by the following French text:  
 Le record de vitesse d'un train Eurostar établi en juillet 2003 lors du test d'une ligne TGV en Grande-Bretagne.
The suppression of the 'miles per hour' speed in the French translation might be seen as simply conventional -- but the obvious reason for its omission is that it is of no relevance to French readers, who do not generally know how far a mile is anyway. More interesting is the French assertion that 208 miles per hour was the top speed of the train during the test, whereas the English asserts that the train's top speed broke a record -- no train had ever gone faster on a British track. But it's not a record for France, whose TGVs have exceeded that speed many times. So, for the French not to be frankly counterfactual, the translator has to rephrase and recontextualize. However, the real sublety in the recontextualization is when the "UK High Speed 1 Line" becomes just 'a high-speed line in Great Britain' in French. French readers do not need to know the embarrassing fact that Britain still has only one such line, when the French have many, and so they had also better not be told the proper name of a piece of railway engineering that is unique exclusively in British terms. Now linked more closely than ever by a fast train, Britain and France still provide two quite different contexts of use for even the simplest expressions. Translations naturally rephrase the message to adapt it to its altnerative context of use.
The endnote on p353 adds: Eurostar Metropolitan, June 2010: 5. The changes make it clear that this sentence was translated from English into French, and not vice versa. A back-translation of the French would probably give: "Top speed reached in July 2003 by a Eurostar train during testing of a high-speed line in the U.K."
Every aspect mentioned by David Bellos comes under the broad heading of what I call translation by emulation.

Transcreating technical journalism, conference presentation

On Saturday 17 June, I at spoke at the TransLisboa 2017 conference organised by Aptrad . My presentation was entitled  Transcreating techn...