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

Subject: Re: Manuals Written in Non-American English (in two parts)
From: Sandra Charker <scharker -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 02:17:32 +1000

In response to my questions about writing for translation, Gina Caldanaro 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

You're right: "mutilate" was too strong a word. But what about "distort"? Or
even "compromise"?

I too have written English that would be translated into many language,
including some that use double-byte character sets. And yes, our guidelines
for writing for translation generally helped us write clearly and well. But
not always.

If the machine really has trouble with "don't" (and I find this very hard to
believe, which is why I raised the question) but people read "do" when the
text says "do not", how do you decide what to do? Most of us write around
the problem by finding some way to make the statement positive instead of
negative. But occasionally that means compromising clarity, directness, or
tone. I want to know if that compromise is really necessary for the sake of
translation, and if so, why.

>We used a machine for translation because it saved 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.

Yes I know about money.Another reason I raised the question of distorting
English for the sake of machine translation is that it's easier to measure
the cost of translation than the value of the text. I was not in a position
to make decisions about how our stuff was translated or who by. If I was
making those decisions, I'd make sure I consulted directly with the
translators about my writing guidelines. I think some of the guidelines I
was obliged to follow were based on myth.

>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 take it you're teaching an adult to read; does she need to translate "I'd"
in order to understand the phrase "I'd appreciate" in speech? If not, why
does she need to expand it when she reads? That's a real question, tho it's
probably skating on the edges of Tech Whirl topicality.

Sandra Charker
scharker -at- ozemail -dot- com -dot- au

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