Re: Manuals Written in Non-American English (in two parts)

Subject: Re: Manuals Written in Non-American English (in two parts)
From: Regina Caldanaro - BSG Corporation <regina -dot- caldanaro -at- IMONICS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996 14:41:46 -0400

Sandra wrote:


> And just exactly how much should human language be mutilated to suit machine
> translation anyway?


I have two issues with the above statment 1) "mutilated" and 2) "to suit machine
translation".

At one time I worked where we used machine translation to convert our English
documents into 9 different languages (both single-byte and double-byte character
sets). We used a machine for translation because it saved MONEY...you know, the
bottom line, the income that pays for the expenses...where our salary comes
from. We wrote clear, concise, "mutilated" human language not for a machine, but
because it was easier for the machine (and the human who reviewed, fixed, or
updated the document after each revision) to process. I don't see how writing
clearly and concisely is a "mutilation" of the English language. (I'm assuming
you mean mutilated as not being allowed to use contractions, or idioms, etc.)

In your example you had "I'd appreciate". I'm currently teaching a native
English speaker to read. She has "translated" this contraction (I'd) to "I
would" and "I had" and "I could" simply because she gets confused. Why should I,
as a technical writer, try to confuse my reader by using a contraction simply
because its easier for me than spelling it out? I realize that my technical
audience isn't going to be illiterate (far from it) but why slow them down with
a contraction. And consider the "n't" contraction. Would it be better to say "Do
not touch that button" instead of "Don't touch that button" because the "not" is
very important...I'd hate to have them skip over that very important word.

And yes, I do like contractions. I use them when they are appropriate (like in
this note), but I don't use them when I'm writing technical documentation that
will be translated.

Gina Caldanaro

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