Archive for July, 2009

Controlled language and translation


Not long time ago Tedopres International BV, a provider of technical documentation services with headquarters in the Netherlands, has launched its Controlled Language website for English (also known as simplified English). The main objective of a controlled language is to make technical text easy to understand. The basic principles of controlled language are a controlled vocabulary and a set of grammatical rules.


controlled english

It’s so irritating when automatic translation or alignment of a sentence fails because of formatting issues or grammatical/ terminological inconsistencies. An inappropriate use of a term, the use of the passive instead of the active voice etc. can result in a lower match within our translation memory and the translation itself will cost more in the long run since everything less than a 100% match needs to be translated by a human translator. Not to speak about the possibility of misunderstanding caused by terminological inconsistencies and unclear sentence structure.

And also some words about Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). One of the reasons SMT doesn’t work properly and still can’t pass the ‘Turing test’ for machine translation (if something like this exists at all) is because it can only give good translations for segments previously fed into the system. So even if you’ve got the biggest Translation Memory (TM) with all translated segments ever made in human history, you won’t succeed in translating everything because there will always be NEW sentences, phrases, terms, named entities and words which have never been written and/or translated before. You might get a 95, 90 or 80 % match but not a 100% match, which means: human post-editing required.

One of the ways of optimizing MT & TMS is using a controlled language. According to an article of Uwe Muegge (Controlled language: the next big thing in translation?) the reason why many (even bigger) companies still do not make use of available translation technology is because they don’t understand how translation tools work. I go even further, they don’t understand that in order to be able to recycle you language material, new texts need to be RECYCLABLE!

In order to make this clear, translation agencies should explain their clients the benefits of using controlled language for translation. In order to be able to make optimal use of the advantages of the different translation solutions translation agencies are heavily investing in, it is necessary to make the most of the available language data and control the language already on the level of the source text.

There are various tools for implementing controlled language (even Tedopres offers one) but I think companies could start with using and organize their company-specific terminology systematically. Investing in controlled language you will save on translation costs in the long run.

The next challenge is of course to create a controlled language for other languages than English, German and other common ones. And also, controlled language should sound natural and appealing to people.

On the site of Jeffrey Allen your can find some interesting articles on the role of Controlled Language in (Machine) Translation.

Sfep – annual conference



Just a day or so after I had published my blog on “the death of the reviewer” I found this:

SfEP AGM and 20th annual conference
Editing in the 21st century
Vanbrugh College, University of York
Sunday 13 to Tuesday 15 September 2009

Here is also the link for more info.

I don’t know if Renato Beninatto is going to join this event but I think this is a great occasion to present his PCTP translation quality concept (check here) and its implication for the profession of the editor/proofreader. And also a chance for many feedbacks on Renato’s newly proposed translation workflow from the side of ‘the real players’ in the field.

The death of the reviewer?


Do translation agencies still need reviewers in the age of high-tech spell-checkers, term validation software, terminology management tools, translator’s workbench, on-line crowd-sourcing, translation forums, etc…etc? Or can we expect translators to deliver high-quality translations without the necessity of further improvements by a reviewer?


In an interview with Renato Beninatto, known for his statement “Quality doesn’t matter“, we can read the following:

<<What I propose is that you eliminate the editor. You have a Project Manager whose function changes from manager to “facilitator”. And you create a “community” (a discussion list, a portal, it can take any shape that you want), where you have the translators, a consultant, an expert on the topic whose job is to answer questions about the topic in the corresponding language.>>

It is an interesting thought to shift the task of the reviewer to the project manager, to experts and to other freelance translators. The quality of the translations for sure wouldn’t become less using this new workflow. In my opinion, it would even improve since an expert has a thorougher knowledge about the terminology and the conceptual structure of a given subject field than a reviewer (who has only a superficial knowledge of most of the domains). On the other hand, if you are monitored by a pool of translators in a form of a translation forum as suggested above, the chances of solving all the linguistic problems of the translation are bigger than when only one person, the reviewer reads through and corrects your text. So in a way, a pool of experts and fellow translators combined with a project manager who is able to manage the transfer of information among all the participators well, these together would form a perfect translation team.

I think for large projects, at large companies, the scenario mentioned above is a possibility, for smaller agencies with much less profit, this working method would be a bit harder (but not impossible) to implement. With the open source software available nowadays, it’s a piece of cake to set up a forum, exploit on-line term bases and knowledge banks and make use of translation software and TMS.

So I’m quite positive about this new way of structuring the translation process with new tasks and roles. And of course, it’s also worth reading that interview with Renato Beninatto. You can find it on the blog called ‘Lapsus Translinguae’, by the way a very interesting blog.