Translations: does computer translation help?

Subject: Translations: does computer translation help?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 09:30:54 -0500

Suzanne Vaughan replies: <<You would think that computer translation helps
us but it doesn't. For example, if I'm translating File (as in the menu)
from English to Spanish, I'll get 2 possible translations: Fichero and
Archivo. But let's not forget about the verb. Which one is correct? If I'm
an experienced translator accustomed to translating in that industry, then
I know the correct one.>>

It depends on the context. For hardware and software, computer-assisted
translation usually offers an enormous advantage. For example, I'm not using
a formal translation memory system, but I did create a massive search and
replace macro for the reports that I translate in Word. Because most of the
terminology in our reports has been standardized over the last 25 years,
I've had an enormous knowledge base to draw on in creating the word or
phrase pairs. Using this macro cuts my translation times by at least half,
and probably much more than that. Although you're correct that some words
can be equivocal (for example, in my work, "porteur" can be either a
shortwood forwarder or an implement's carrier), the context makes it clear
which is correct. And in that specific example, I translate "porteur" as
"shortwood forwarder or carrier", and once the translation is complete,
replace this compound phrase globally with the correct term.

Yes, I do have to review the translation, but even that becomes much faster.
My first pass after running the macro resolves any ambiguities, and my
second pass turns the translation into fluent English. I can't even conceive
of doing the work without this software tool.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
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idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
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