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Time for a style guide update, NYT January 16, 2010

Posted by globalizer in Language, terminology.
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Something that has been bugging me for a while, this is just the latest example:

She said she was “unaware” whether China staff have been denied access to codes, as some bloggers have said, but added that Google is still scanning its systems following the attack.

Who, outside of the New York Times editorial offices, thinks that “code” as in “software code” should be treated as a countable noun?


Vindication for the President’s internets? April 6, 2007

Posted by globalizer in Language, terminology.
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And here we’ve all been making fun of Mr. Bush for his “internets” remark:
It seems he’s in good company 🙂

These protocols were obsoleted by:

  • RFC 1155 — Structure and identification of management information for TCP/IP-based internets
  • RFC 1156 — Management information base for network management of TCP/IP-based internets

[emphasis added]

I know, I know – there’s a difference between “the Internets” and “internets” as used in the RFC context – but still…

Freudian slip in the Washington Post? March 31, 2007

Posted by globalizer in Language, terminology.
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I wonder how long this little gem will be allowed to stay up in the online version of the Washington Post:

The case against Kerik that federal prosecutors are preparing could generate uncomfortable political attention for Giuliani because it focuses on Kerik’s activities while the two men were in government together and were jointly running Giuliani-Kerik, which was paid millions of dollars for advising upstart companies, doing federal work and consulting with clients overseas (emphasis added).

Here are the results of a Google search for definitions of upstart; here on the other hand, are the definitions of startup.

More numerological madness November 28, 2006

Posted by globalizer in terminology.

I thought I had seen all the crazy number abbreviations (or numeronyms as proposed by Tex Texin) spawned by the internationalization and localization community – i18n, l10n, g11n, t9n – but here’s a new one, at least for me: m17n for multilingualization.

And I see that wikipedia is already on the case.

Lost in translation – part II November 27, 2006

Posted by globalizer in terminology, Translation.

The question “is it difficult to translate x?” or “is it more difficult to translate x than y?” is one that pops up regularly when you work with localization, and usually the question is based on a misunderstanding of the basic nature of translation. For instance, I have seen people wonder whether terms such as look and feel, which conveys a single concept, but is comprised of two nouns, would be “difficult” to translate, and whether it would be more easily translated if the term were to be hyphenated (look-and-feel). I have seen similar translatability questions about terms such as headless and green screen.

In all such cases the answer is: if the term is clearly defined (for instance in a glossary), then it is not difficult to translate it. There may be plenty of good reasons not to use a certain term – for instance, I doubt that many native English speakers know what a headless computer is (a computer with no keyboard, mouse or monitor attached) – but translatability is not one of them. The questions seem to come up because people think translators take each word and transfer it literally to the target language, so if the source term is “strange”, then the target term must be equally strange, or it must be difficult to deal with. In reality, of course, translators (at least competent translators) translate meaning, not discrete words, so if they have a good glossary which defines technical terms, then they should be able to find an expression in the target language which conveys that meaning.

So in other words:
Create a well-written source text, which uses well-defined terminology and clear syntax. Avoid jargon or slang which makes the text difficult to understand for most people in the source language. If you stick to those simple rules, you don’t have to worry about “translatability” (if you have reasonably competent translators, of course). 1

And this advice, by the way, covers the (in my experience) single most common example of “difficult to translate” terms in computer software: long noun phrases like these: “side member bracket assembly medium”, “computer human cognition simulation games”, “hydraulic ground test stand pressure and return line filters”. These are truly difficult to translate, but only because they are very difficult to parse in English. Does “computer human cognition simulation games” refer to “games related to computer and human cognition simulation”, to “simulation games of computer human cognition”, or…? Somebody writing in English can “get away” with these long strings of nouns, since they are an entirely legitimate way of constructing English sentences, but that does not mean that they are intelligible to anybody but the writer (and maybe his close colleagues :-)). (See this article for a good analysis).

The difficulty of parsing the strings is brought to the surface if they need to be translated, since practically all other languages require that the relationship between the nouns be indicated somehow – thus forcing the translator to find/guess/choose the actual meaning.

Note 1: This does not mean that you can ignore language issues if you are a software developer and you are constructing messages using variables, concatenation, etc. On the contrary – this is where translatability becomes really important, and unfortunately, it is also where it is most often ignored or overlooked. I will cover some of those issues in a sequel to this post.

When the abbreviation trips you up September 11, 2006

Posted by globalizer in terminology.
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The various “numerological” abbreviations like “L10n” and “i18n” that are bandied about in the world of software globalization are not always easy to keep track of. (Btw., there must be a specialized term for these kinds of abbreviations – anybody know what it is? The language mavens at Language Log Plaza would know…)

Anyhow, this snippet from a job posting I just came across illustrates my point:

Knowledge of product localization and internationalization is essential. Understanding of i18n also very helpful.

Knowledge of internationalization is essential, understanding of i18n also very helpful. Hmm…