Re: Language differences in FRENCH

Subject: Re: Language differences in FRENCH
From: "Stephen A. Carter" <hticn -at- GOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 1997 15:07:48 +0900

In message <199708151501 -dot- AAA29073 -at- gol1 -dot- gol -dot- com>,
Susan Brown <sbrown -at- JSCSYS -dot- COM> wrote:
> At the STC conference in Toronto in May there was a very interesting
>session, 'Lost in Translation'. The discussion primarily revolved around
>being culturally sensitive in writing. I attended this session as we have
>several online help systems that will be translated into French.
> Japanese was another language where voice is very important. Command type
>instructions (Insert the disk. Click the button.) are considered very rude:
>enough so that documentation written in this manner will NOT be used.

This is not true. Written technical instructions using the
appropriate command forms of the verbs are not at all rude in
Japanese. However, Japanese does have different forms of the verb for
different levels of politeness -- analagous to the *tu*/*vous*
distinction in French -- and it's important to use the proper verb
forms in Japanese, just as it is in French and most other European
languages. To use your example, I'd imagine that in most contexts
French tech writers would prefer "Ins?rez le disque. Cliquez sur le
bouton..." over the familiar "ins re...clique...." The situation for
Japanese is similar.

Alternatively, Japanese tech writers may optionally choose to provide
instructions in descriptive form, rather than as a series of commands:
"First you insert the disk. Then you click the button."

It's also possible, though much less common in my experience, to use
forms of the verb that resemble our English passives.

Many times, though, Japanese instructions are a mixture of styles. At
the moment I'm looking at the Japanese instructions for an ethernet
hub made and purchased here in Japan. Here's a fairly literal English
translation of the first few sentences:

First you connect the power cord for the AC adapter to the back of the hub. (descriptive)

Then you plug the AC adapter into a electrical outlet (100 VAC). (descriptive)

Make sure the POWER LED is lit. (command)

Caution: Be sure to use only the AC adapter included with the hub. (command)

Of course, none of this detracts from your point that cultural
sensitivity is important when writing for an international audience,
which I agree with wholeheartedly. I suppose I should also point out
that I translate FROM Japanese into English, and not the other way

Stephen A. Carter High-Tech Information Center Nagoya, Ltd.
<mailto:scarter -at- hticn -dot- com> Nagoya, Japan
PGP key ID: 0x59B4F7AD * Team OS/2 *

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