Translation and CL-Controlled Languages ....

Subject: Translation and CL-Controlled Languages ....
From: Mark Homnack <MarkH -at- SIMULTRANS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 10:17:54 -0700

I work in the area of translation (translating technical documents from/into English), and would be interested to know to what extent controlled languages are being used to improve the translation-readiness of documents, hence decreasing (documentation/translation) costs and timelines while increasing quality.

Ten or more years ago, CLs showed great promise; however, in the last decade, CLs have been virtually forgotten, at least from the perspective of a person who deals daily with many companies that translate large quantities of documentation.

For example, I am aware of the following developments (or non-developments):

- Caterpillar had (and still has) translators working closely with writers, in a CTE environment, recognizing that clear English benefits translators (not just end-users); however, I know of few other companies that link cost-effective translation and effective writing in practical terms
- Carnegie-Mellon University (including its consultancy and MT-machine-translation derivative groups) has worked with Caterpillar, but I know of no other commercial/industrial companies that have invested over the long-term in these efforts; yes, many large companies dabble in MT/CL related efforts, but these efforts have, almost without exception, died after one or two years (usually when the promised results don't materialize or the relevant manager moves on)
- IT-Information Technology companies, characterized by significant documentation and translation needs, would have much to gain by using CLs, but rarely do; for example, Oracle began to develop a tool to aid writers, but this development effort appears to have been terminated
- In view of the trend to outsource technical writing or use temporary contractor writers (or to buy product/documentation from OEM-type manufacturers), few companies currently appear to be willing to invest in CL methods

In other words, there may be isolated developments (typically within companies that are highly insular if not autocratic in their approach to writing and translation, relying on a system that dates back 10 or 20 years), but I fail to see a trend or even interest of tech-writing groups trying to apply CL methods to translation.

I would be pleased to receive the input from others, even (and especially) if it contradicts my observations, since translators have much to benefit by CLs.


Mark Homnack
SimulTrans, L.L.C.

MarkH -at- simultrans -dot- com (email) (website)

?22 languages. One release date.?

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