Overuse of gerunds in headings? (Take III)

Subject: Overuse of gerunds in headings? (Take III)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: VERKERKEN Wouter <Wouter -dot- VERKERKEN -at- swift -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 09:06:27 -0400

Wouter VERKERKEN asked for more details: <<Though I see your point(s) -and you obviously have expertise in this area-, you didn't answer my question. What if a company decided to use machine translation (not the one I'm working for, obviously)? IMHO these are the options: - Edit the source: don't use gerund+noun combinations. - Edit the translation: repair gerund+noun translations, in multiple languages. - Store as many gerund+noun combinations in the translation memory as possible.>>

It depends on what you mean by machine translation. If you mean blind, fully automated translation without human supervision, the solution is simple: don't do it. It doesn't work, and it won't work for another decade, at least. I'm unaware of any current or imminent software that understands context and nuance (i.e., semantics), and thus, no software that can do an acceptable job without considerable human input. The more mechanistic and predictable and standardized the wording, the better a job the software can do, but some human input (often a very large amount) remains necessary.

If you're talking about computer-assisted translation, in which the translator works with the software and selects the appropriate translation from a translation memory (i.e., a list of approved stock phrases), the problem doesn't arise very often because the translator sees both the original text (in context) and the list of proposed translations, and can either choose the appropriate option or create a new one if no existing option works. Caveat: I haven't worked with this software, only read descriptions, so I can't provide details of how this works.

Of your options, the "don't use" option is an overly strict proscription; forbidding syntax that is broadly accepted and understood with no problems cripples a language. Simplified English offers a compromise that you may find acceptable, since it constrains word choice and syntax fairly rigorously, and thus makes automated translation much easier. Edit the translation is wise no matter how you do the translation (see next paragraph). And "improve the translation memory" is something you should be doing as you go--continuous quality improvement, and each improvement offers payback in all future work.

In any event, wise translators always hire an editor to look over what they've done. It's not that translators are less competent than writers or editors, but rather that we're human and also make mistakes. Because translation is in many ways as significant an act of creation as the one that created the original document, the translator is serving as a writer in many ways, and all writers need to be edited. (I say this as the veteran of more than 300 published articles. I'm constantly amazed by what I missed and by what my editors catch.)

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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: Overuse of gerunds in headings? (Take II): From: VERKERKEN Wouter

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