Subject: Contractions?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 08 Jan 2006 08:52:54 -0500

Janice Gelb reports: <<We heard for years that contractions were hard to translate. We finally officially asked the liaison with our localizatation department to verify this commonly held belief. We felt that any translator who couldn't translate common contractions wasn't worth the money we were paying them.>>

That's always been my experience, having both worked as a translator and worked with translators. Anyone who doesn't understand contractions or other characteristics of a language shouldn't be working as a translator. Period. I suspect the "don't use contractions" message is one of those urban myths that got started way back when and has been accepted into the profession as dogma.

Are the contractions appropriate for readers with English as their second language? That's a very different situation indeed. Although some readers will be able to handle them, some won't, so it's wise to err on the side of caution if you're not going to translate your text. But even then, the problem is not with contractions per se, but rather with sloppy and overly idiomatic use of contractions--these can confuse English readers too. If you've had a good editor review your work before you send it for translation*, this should never be a problem.

* And if you haven't had an editor review your work before translation, you're probably wasting your money and asking for errors. I suspect that asking that editor to edit for clarity will repay the editing cost if you pay by the hour (rare these days) and if you ask the editor to make a document concise, may even repay the editing cost if you're paying for translation by the word. Some day I'll actually collect some statistics on this from my own translations, but given that I've routinely been asked to shorten a text by 20 to 50% before translation, the numbers certainly seem favorable.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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RE: Friday Poll Idea (WAS: In love with a word): From: wendy_lewis
Re: Friday Poll Idea (WAS: In love with a word): From: John Garison
Contractions: From: Janice Gelb

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