Re: English to Spanish Translation Software

Subject: Re: English to Spanish Translation Software
From: Betsy Maaks <bmaaks -at- FRAME -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 1995 15:49:31 CDT

On October 3, 1995, Lee Bumgarner <jlbumgar -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM> wrote:

>-If you read and write in Spanish, it is just as easy
> to use a good Spanish/English dictionary and technical
> glossaries.

This is a valid suggestion, but I don't agree with it. I just don't believe
that "anyone" can translate as well as someone who is well versed in
translation techniques. I read and write in Spanish, but would never
consider my understanding to be equal to writing a technical manual for a
local, native audience. I am fluent in French, but I still would not
consider my talents in the language to be sufficient to translate technical
information into French, only from French to English.

I also believe that a GOOD translation is one that is localized for the
particular audience. I had an experience with a product to be used in Santa
Domingo, where Spanish is spoken. The document translation went relatively
well (by a qualified translation firm), but the product translation was a
hodge-podge. Here's why:

There were two versions of the English product: American and English. There
are also two version of technical terms used in the industry, which differ
between American and English (example: pairs of wires were "tip and ring" in
American and "leg A and leg B" in English0--VERY different terms).

The customer used American terms, but we wanted to sell them the English
version of the product, because it had been translated into Spanish for
Argentina by a Mexican employee. This meant that Santa Domingo residents
would use a product with unfamiliar industry terms (leg A/B) along with
unfamiliar Spanish terms (Mexican or terms from Spanish technical dictionary
when he didn't know the correct term). How much do you think they would
understand and how well do you think they would use the product?

The story continues. The product uses recorded voice "tokens" which respond
to users when they press certain telephone keys. The voice recordings were
spoken by the Mexican employee. When the folks in Santa Domingo heard the
Mexican accent, they chuckled. What they really wanted was a Santa Domingo
native (localized) speaking the tokens.

I spent more time on coordinating the product translation than the document.
But when I had local reviewers in Santa Domingo read the document, they
returned it with no changes. Terms were consistent, localized and used
correctly. I believe that we created a quality product in a relatively short
time (2-4 weeks).

There is a growing area of interest in internationalizing ("I18N") and
localizing ("L10N") documents. Specialists in this field are cropping up
with seminars, classes, books, etc. The International Tech. Comm. PIC of the
STC was formed in 1989 to address issues of I18N and L10N.

If your answer is to have "someone" who speaks the language to translate,
then please, work also very directly with your customers, or an
international distributor who (1) knows the industry and market for your
product, and (2) knows the local language of the users. Start with a
glossary of terms from English to the local language. Use the English terms
very consistently in the document.

If nothing else, please remember that a tech. writer's job is to empower the
users of technology.

Thanks for this opportunity to give my opinion.

Betsy Maaks
These opinions are just mine, and not my employer's.

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