Live from Congility: Simplified English and Machine Translation

Simplified English and Machine Translation: best practices for localization content optimization and simplification, by Alberto Viralhadas Ferreira

Congility2014Translation mistakes always impact history

  • Biblical translation from Hebrew
    • Changed “a halo of light” to “two horns of light” – leading to the idea that Jews had horns.
  • JFK and Nikita Khrushchev met with transpators
    • “We will live so long we’ll someday see the US buried” translated ┬áto “we will bury you.”
  • Context always matters

International issues

  • Eastern cultures tend to be more holistic
  • Western cultures tend to be more analytical – they perceive elements sequentially, and read from the center to the periphery
  • International markets
    • Think differently
    • Respond differently
    • Have different needs
    • Need different strategies

Controlled language for machine translation

  • Cross-linguistic issues come up
    • Formal vs. Informal styles
    • Articles “the/a”
    • Verbs and active/passive voice
    • Capitalization
    • Adjective/verb ambiguity

Key things to keep in mind:

  • Keep sentences straight forward: Subject + verb
  • Avoid interjections and jargon
    • “Oops!” is tough to translate
  • Tag everything consistently
  • Take care with the logic of “and” and “or”
    • Use individual sentences instead of “and”
    • Avoid “or”
  • Avoid strings of nouns
    • Use hyphens to qualify things and ensure they are logical pairs
  • Use punctuation in specific ways:
    • Colons and dashes are for vertical lists
    • Hyphens join things
    • Parenthesis make cross-references to illustration and/or text
    • Never ever use semicolons
  • Normalize sentence styles
    • If “For more information, consult the web page” then always that
    • If “Go to our web page to find more info” then always that

Sadly, due to end-of-day fatigue, these notes are very incomplete.

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