Preparing doc for translation

Subject: Preparing doc for translation
From: "Chuck Murray, ZK2-2/R94, DTN 381-2648 20-Sep-1994 0851" <cmurray -at- 4GL -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 09:02:14 EDT

Re. Doug Osborne's posting: In my brief experience using a "restricted
grammar" (actually a restricted vocabulary - at NCR Corporation in the
1970s), I didn't enjoy using it, and I concluded it did not advance - and
maybe it even impeded - its stated goals, which included easier and less
costly translation. I'll briefly address my two main points.

1. Fun - It wasn't fun to use. Like most writers, I of course consider
myself a creative genius, and the restricted vocabulary was stifling
[insert appropriate "emoticon" here...]. Kidding aside, it made the job
less enjoyable, and in several job interviews since then I've made it
a point to ask if the company requires a restricted vocabulary.

2. Translatability - I heard second-hand that one of NCR's Spanish-to-
English translators said that the restricted vocabulary actually made
translation HARDER, because in many cases it was more difficult to
discern the writer's true meaning. In effect, two levels of "translation"
were now required: the first in the writer's mind, as he or she translated
the idea into phrasing from the restricted word list, and the second when
the translator rendered the English phrasing into Spanish or whatever.

My advice: Be skeptical of claims of benefits from restricted vocabularies,
and don't rely entirely on claims by those with a personal or professional
self-interest in promoting one or another such scheme. Finally, while
restricted vocabularies might be OK for certain types of technical writing
(e.g., tractor operation manuals), I doubt they're a good idea for writing
that involves sophisticated concepts and techniques (even when you're
writing for "unsophisticated" users of such systems or equipment).

- Chuck Murray
cmurray -at- 4gl -dot- enet -dot- dec -dot- com

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