Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ATA Conference Boston - Review of Sessions I

German-English translator Annette Cyrkel took this photo at one of the networking breakfasts at the recent ATA conference in Boston and graciously let me use it. Here are my summaries of three sessions on technical translations/terminology. I'll review two more sessions on the business/marketing end of our profession next week.

"A Dilemma for Language Service Providers and Translators: Subject Matter Expertise and Internet Style" by Manisha Mittal

Ms. Mittal works for Language Scientific, a translation agency specializing in technical and scientific documents. She explained how her agency analyzes incoming projects and matches translators, subject matter experts and editors with a specific project. Unlike more generalized language services providers, Language Scientific requests fairly detailed information from its end clients. This includes target audience, specific speciality within a subject, type of text, in-house style guides and glossaries. It then assembles a team of translators, editors and proofreaders, at least some of whom are also subject-matter experts in the given sub-speciality. The agency is looking for additional freelancers.

"Technical Writing for Into-English Translators" by Karen M. Tkaczyk

Ms. Tkaczyk defined technical writing as text that conveys informaton accurately, explains technical ideas and is focused on the user. For a technical writer a romantic poem simply becomes "John loves Jane." She then provided a number of specific tips for editing your translation into better technical writing, such as:
  • write concisely; if necessary, divide long sentences into multiple shorter ones
  • reorder thoughts to make them logically coherent or to present events in the correct order
  • turn nouns into strong, active verbs
Translators should pick a specific style guide to follow whenever a client doesn't specify a particular style guide, Ms. Tkaczyk suggested. The presentation concluded with a list of common stylistic errors, such as spacing between units of measure. An extensive list of resources was provided in a handout.

"Search-fu! Finding Terminology on the Internet" by Alex Lane

Mr. Lane focused on the ways in which Google searches can be customized to return the specific results a translator might need. One of the most useful, I think, is the fact that a search query can contain words in more than one language. Google will interpret the languages concerned and return bilingual texts that fit the query. Other ways to find terms include exploiting a site's URL structure to find the same document in a different language (e.g., if a search returns, replace "English" with "German" to see document1 in German) and restricting searches to specific sites or sites with a specific country code. Mr. Lane recommended keeping track of the searches performed, in case terminology choices are questioned later.


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