Archive for the ‘translation’ Category

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.

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.

Linguee, the future favorite of translators


Linguee is a very large corpus of web-based translated materials from live online sources. The data is displayed in-context together with links to the originating sites.

With Linguee, you can search through many millions of bilingual texts in English and German for words and expressions. Every expression is accompanied by useful additional information and suitable example sentences.

LingueeThough only German and English are covered at this point, I think we can expect other languages in the nearby future. The tool is certainly very usefull for English <> German translators since it yields impressive search results. One very important feature is that the source of the words, their translations as well as the contexts can be easily traced. An advantage to Google Translate or TAUS in which the sources remain vague or unknown.

Just to see, I have done a little experiment with the TAUS language portal and Linguee. I searched for the German translation of the word “council”. It was quite interesting to see how much more results are in Linguee than in the TAUS language portal (dozens of examples vs only 3). I find the result page of Linguee also much richer than that of TAUS. 

Try it yourself!

(Click on this link to see my search result for “Council” in Linguee:

Financial crisis and the translation industry


According to a recent article of the translation directory, the economic crisis “brings new reality” to the translation industry in that it forces translation agencies to examine their translation work-flow and to invest in TMS (translation management systems). Many agencies admit that they have been putting off investments in new software solutions but, more than ever, they need to consider investing in new technologies in order to survive the recession.


And indeed, in these difficult times clients are trying to cut off on translation costs. As a result, when they find another translation agency offering the same services as you but at a lower price, they leave you without a word. One positive outcome of the crisis on the other hand, is that companies will necessarily have to increase their cost-efficiency. For example,  no one can afford re-translating the same segments or spending time searching for terminology. An outcome is the use of TMS. According to various surveys, translation agencies using TMS are 30-80 percent more efficient than other companies. Therefore, it is worthwhile to become familiar with such systems. You can get in contact with me for a free presentation about the possibilities of implementing such systems.

An interesting report of the Common Sense Advisory suggests that the crisis doesn’t hit all companies: the largest LSPs (Language Service Providers) like Lionbridge or  Thebigword are actually recording increase in income and number of translation orders. So there is still hope. Nevertheless, it is worth paying close attention to the market and do some investments in improving processes and company organisation.

Ad hoc terminology


What is ad hoc terminology? In Wikipedia, we find a distinction between Ad hoc terminology  and  Systematic terminology:

“Ad hoc terminology […] deals with a single term or a limited number of terms.

Systematic terminology […] deals with all the terms in a specific subject field or domain of activity”


According to the same definition, ad hoc terminology “is prevalent in the translation profession, where a translation for a specific term (or group of terms) is required quickly to solve a particular translation problem.”


Another resource, the COTSOWES – Recommendations for Terminology Work,  claims similar importance for ad hoc terminology:


Every day translation services have to solve individual terminological problems as quickly as possible. These usually involve terms, neologisms or official expressions which are not in dictionaries or unconfirmed equivalents of terms.





Although both resources underline the importance of ad hoc research in terminology, no elaborated and tested methodology is available yet for translators who deal with terminology on a daily, ad hoc basis. Next time, I will give a short summary of a methodology for ad hoc terminology research worked out at the Dutch Network for Terminology. In the meantime, please wait patiently.

“Translation Management Takes Flight”


In its April 2009 report “Translation Management Takes Flight,” Common Sense Advisory, Inc., interviewed 30 companies about their translation management systems (TMS) to uncover how the systems are helping multilingual content producers meet demand and improve productivity. The results describe the types of systems (from house to commercial off-the-shelf), benefits and possible shortcomings of the TMS options available, and the factors driving TMS demand.


(Source: Multilingual News 15 April 2009)

Sustainability in the translation industry


The key concept of the 21st century is sustainability (in French: durabilité, in Dutch: duurzaamheid and in Spanish: sostenibilidad). Not only the ecosystems, the agriculture, the technology or the architecture need to become sustainable in our age but also the translation industry.

Why? Because it saves money and energy. The translation industry is one of those necessary evils: how much easier and cheaper life would be if everybody spoke the same language!? Back to the Tower of Babel! But since we don’t speak the same language and English hasn’t become the lingua franca yet, translations are unavoidable… and expensive.


What is the solution? To attain sustainability in the translation industry, translation agencies need to start/continue implementing and exploiting Translation Management Systems. Through different work-flows, TM Systems automate the whole translation process from the moment a text arrives at the agency until the translation is delivered to the client.

Using TM systems, translation agencies can save time (sentences which were translated earlier and which are already stored in the translation memory, can be re-used in the automatic or semi-automatic translation of new texts). For the same reason, using such systems also saves money and since the terminology of the client is used consistently thanks to the Terminology module, it also results in translations of a better quality.

An ideal TM System is web-based, multi-user, with integrated import/ export possibilities, easy-to-use, contains a Translation Memory- and a Terminology module, flexible, has a rich user hierarchy, supports different standard formats etc. Such systems are usually very expensive. To begin with, you need to buy the licences, have it installed on you server and shape the system according to your needs. The initial costs can be over the 10.000 euro. Then the system needs to be regularly updated and upgraded. You can count on an extra 100 euro or more on a monthly basis for keeping your TM system “alive”. A much cheaper solution is using GlobalSight (an open source software) offered by ExacTerm as Software as a Service on More on this another time.

Briefly, sustainability in the translation industry can only be reached, using a TM system.

ARE YOU READY TO TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE… and enter the next level in your translation business??!!

Swansea, march 2004


Once upon a time, there was a conference in Swansea (Wales), with the same title as this blog. Organized by Pius ten Hacken (Swansea) and Willy Martin (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), this two-day conference opened up new perspectives for the interdisciplinary science of Terminology.


According to a description of the workshop (to be found on the Swansea University website):

“The topic of terminology has been approached traditionally from the perspective of standardization. More recently, corpus-based approaches have gained prominence. A question which is relevant to both approaches concerns the relationship of terminology to a theory of the lexicon.

In this conference, these perspectives were considered not only theoretically, but also from a practical angle. The study and management of terminology is an essential component of commercial, technical, and scientific translation. Computational tools provide an almost indispensible help to any translator, whether working in an institutional translation service, an independent translation company, or as a free-lance translator.”

A couple of weeks ago sitting in my favourite armchair, sipping a nice cup of coffee, I decided that the spirit and innovation of this conference had to be continued. So here it is a new blog dedicated to

Terminology, Computing and Translation.

Enjoy your reading and don’t hesitate to react.