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How important are search engines to your translation process
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 12:27
German to English
+ ...
Oct 10, 2008

Before the days of the PC and the Internet, I hear that translation was quite an arduous process. In addition to the issue of dealing with typos, terminology or contextual research was quite difficult, if not near impossible.

Today, computers have made document management a snap. And for context or terminology, search engines have become indispensable in delivering a quality translation. Be it a turn of phrase or information about the latest regulations in a particular market, the Internet provides a vast international knowledge base that has indelibly enriched the translation process.

Search engines now appear to be critical to a high-quality translation. Do you agree? Or do you feel a translation of equivalent quality can be delivered today even without the use of such technology?

I feel that quality of a translation would be very much compromised if search engines were unavailable.

P.S.

The question is not merely academic. In a worst-case scenario, search engines could be rendered inaccessible for a variety of reasons (such as fallout from the global financial crisis, cyberterrorism etc.), and this could have a huge detrimental effect on our industry. Our senior members can probably provide a meaningful insight into how they would deal with the situation.



[Edited at 2008-10-10 01:14]


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James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:57
Russian to English
+ ...
Difficult but possible Oct 10, 2008

Okay, I'm an oldtimer. So here's what my experience tells me.

I translated my first scientific article in about 1967 while working for a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. My boss recalled from my application that I had studied Russian, and he gave me time to work on an article in a Russian-language scientific journal. As I recall, the company owned a copy of the "Russian-English Callaham Chemical and Polytechnical Dictionary," and I had a copy of the Russian-English Smirnitsky general dictionary. Those dictionaries, plus three years of physics in college, a year of DOD training in conversational Russian, a pencil and a few sheets of paper was all I had. That, and my boss's knowledge of the subject. His explanations about the technology were indispensible.

A few years later, after completing a BA in Russian, I landed a job as a staff translator for the U.S. Army, where I worked in a team with three other translators. We had each other, and we had a fairly extensive collection of dictionaries and reference books to call on. But most importantly, we had access to a number of scientists and engineers, and we could pick their brains. They were always willing to explain difficult concepts and help with English terminology. But that knowledge wasn't right at my fingertips. I had to go out and find the right people to interview. The translation process was slow. Not only did it take a long time to track down the correct technical term, whether in a dictionary, a reference book, or an experts head; but I had to write everything out longhand.

I no longer have those human resources to draw on, but I believe that the Internet search engines fill much the same need. It's not the same as working with a human expert, of course. When you work with a search engine, you're the only one asking the questions -- and the questions you ask are limited by your own knowledge and imagination. When you work with a human expert, there's give and take -- he has a depth of understanding you often lack and can ask clarifying questions.

Bottom line: quality translations are possible without the Internet, but but I believe that freelancers, who work largely in isolation, are unlikely to have access to the kind of resources required.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Slow!! Oct 10, 2008

Without search engines, my translations would take a lot longer and more expensive to make, as in order to verify the terminology I would have to look for solid sources of information on paper. Living a relatively small town, it would force me to go to Madrid (55 km away) very often. Search engines are saving me time, gasoline and effort.

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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:57
English to Polish
+ ...
Bigger worries Oct 10, 2008

If (when?) the excrement hits the fan, we will probably have bigger worries than unavailability of search engines.

Yes, the web is very important in my work, but I have also acquired the habit of saving all web pages I find useful on my hard drive.
Even the best web pages can disappear for one reason or another, so I squirrel things away just in case.

Best,
Pawel Skalinski


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Oldtimers would be better able to cope... Oct 10, 2008

...because of the dictionaries on paper they have accumulated over the years. I have just counted what I have on my shelves, and the total is over 100. OK, some of them include obsolete terms, and some have just been on the shelf for many years without ever being consulted, but mostly they are still usable and would come into their own again if the situation you envisage ever came to pass.
It would take more time though, no doubt about that.


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Mihailolja
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Ukrainian to English
+ ...
Not possible... Oct 10, 2008

Without the internet I wouldn't be here, literally! If it wasn't for the advent of the web I wouldn't be translating because of the languages I do, where I live and most importantly where the work is.

Also how would I research without the web and google? I work as many freelancers do in isolation, where would I find the time and resources to locate for example an expert in a possibly highly technical area in my languages? (Assuming they would speak to me)

The entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in its Serbian, Ukrainian, Russian, English and Greek versions would still ....not be enough!

Mihailo

ps if the internet goes down I would have to relocate to the British library))


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tweetie  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:57
English to Vietnamese
Possible but difficult Oct 10, 2008

I agree that it is possible to translate without the help of search engines but it is more expensive and more time-consuming.

I still love my collection of dictionary and so I use them quite frequently. However, for encyclopedia, I have to rely solely on the internet, and more specifically, on wikipedia. Though I usually have to cross check the information, I find wikipedia articles are broader and easier to understand.

Without internet, it is definitely more difficult. But then, who knows if I translate it wrongly?


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Wilmer Brouwer
Netherlands
Local time: 08:57
Member (2006)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Search engines... Oct 10, 2008

Search engines can be time consuming as well. Therefore, I try to use them as little as possible, I even installed a filter blocking all search engines. It only allows me to use them for half an hour in the afternoon and half an hour in the morning. I just add terms I need to look up to a list and look them up later. So, I still use search engines, but not quite as much as I used to and I think this has improved my translations and helped me to achieve better time management.

[Edited at 2008-10-10 13:52]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:57
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I loved the story Oct 10, 2008

James McVay wrote:

I translated my first scientific article in about 1967 while working for a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. My boss recalled from my application that I had studied Russian, and he gave me time to work on an article in a Russian-language scientific journal. As I recall, the company owned a copy of the "Russian-English Callaham Chemical and Polytechnical Dictionary," and I had a copy of the Russian-English Smirnitsky general dictionary. Those dictionaries, plus three years of physics in college, a year of DOD training in conversational Russian, a pencil and a few sheets of paper was all I had. That, and my boss's knowledge of the subject. His explanations about the technology were indispensible.

A few years later, after completing a BA in Russian, I landed a job as a staff translator for the U.S. Army, where I worked in a team with three other translators. We had each other, and we had a fairly extensive collection of dictionaries and reference books to call on. But most importantly, we had access to a number of scientists and engineers, and we could pick their brains. They were always willing to explain difficult concepts and help with English terminology. But that knowledge wasn't right at my fingertips. I had to go out and find the right people to interview. The translation process was slow. Not only did it take a long time to track down the correct technical term, whether in a dictionary, a reference book, or an experts head; but I had to write everything out longhand.

I no longer have those human resources to draw on, but I believe that the Internet search engines fill much the same need. It's not the same as working with a human expert, of course. When you work with a search engine, you're the only one asking the questions -- and the questions you ask are limited by your own knowledge and imagination. When you work with a human expert, there's give and take -- he has a depth of understanding you often lack and can ask clarifying questions.


I'm not that far an oldtimer, but I DID use to call up a lot of ministries (I was also in government service). I was used to the legwork and, as late as 1999, would save up my problematic terms for a regular weekly trip to the National Library just a few blocks away. Then Kudoz changed the legwork aspect (without necessarily eliminating the library excursions -- anyway I was still writing my PhD thesis). Soon after that I had accumulated enough specialist-area dictionaries to cope on my own, with a little additional kudoz help.

What Internet considerably improved in this regard is research in the source language. Understand, there are three steps in term validation, not always followed if one can trust the dictionaries one works with: monolingual definition in source, target language equivalent, and monolingual definition in target validating the target language equivalent. If you lived in a country where the target language was spoken, you were hard put to find monolingual definition in source, and vice-versa. The internet can satisfactorily situate you in both concept universes.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
As with all resources... Oct 10, 2008

Anil Gidwani wrote:
Search engines now appear to be critical to a high-quality translation. Do you agree? Or do you feel a translation of equivalent quality can be delivered today even without the use of such technology?

I feel that quality of a translation would be very much compromised if search engines were unavailable.


As with all resources, the trick is in doubling up. Or rather, the trick is in not being dependent on a single resource.

There are many, many search engines and if Google, Yahoo and MSN should all fold tomorrow, some of the smaller engines will be affected (they get their results from the big guys) but some will not be affected.

Google and the other big guys have become so good at what they do that we tend to make less use of specialised search engines, but those still exist and we should keep up to date about their availability.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Time to polish... Oct 10, 2008

Mihailolja wrote:
Also how would I research without the web and google? I work as many freelancers do in isolation, where would I find the time and resources to locate for example an expert in a possibly highly technical area in my languages?


Time to brush up on your non-web internet skills, then:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/internet-services/access-via-email/ (a bit outdated, but you get the idea)


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a single paper dictionary? Oct 10, 2008

A couple of days ago I had to recommend a Kudoz asker to buy a dictionary. You might think that I might have recommended her to buy the Dictionary of Cheesemaking. Nothing of that sort: I had to recommend to get an English-Spanish bilingual dictionary!! She did not have one and entirely relied on online dictionaries (she worships IATE for instance; uh oh....).

Is it sensible for us as translators to rely entirely on online resources, whose quality can be easily questioned?


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Also useful to polish target language Oct 10, 2008

I often use Google to check how often a word or expression is used in my target language. There are many ways to express the same idea, and it helps to use the word count to know which one is more commonly used. (Not, I hasten to add, that that is the only criterion I use to choose the best term.)

I can also look, when choosing an expression, at the types of articles which are using the terms I'm considering. I might notice that one expression, however common, is used only in historical contexts, or perhaps sports contexts, and might not be suitable for my project on cheese-making technology. This is information you that you can't usually find in dictionaries, or at least not without spending precious minutes perusing a long, hard-to-read list of specialized phrases which *might* contain the term being checked.


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Vital Oct 10, 2008

From the very beginning of my career as translator I was using Google (about that time I converted from Yahoo!) probably because of that, internet research became vital to my translation process.
Even without ability to use a search engine I would still be able to translate general texts (good collection of various dictionaries) and legal documents (large library of reference materials) but it would significantly limit my capacity to undertake assignments in new (less familiar) fields.

Best Regards
Stanislaw


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Utmost respect for old-timers Oct 11, 2008

Being an internet-era translator, I thoroughly admire 'old-time' translators. I very often ask myself how on earth they used to manage. Of course, there had to be ways, but just the thought of it makes me shudder (and yes, I do have hard-copy dictionaries and prefer them as a first choice reference).

With the total number of translation terms asked on this site alone approaching 3 million, considering that good number aren't available in dictionaries and that maybe a number of them were even thoroughly researched first on the internet too, translation without any access to on-line means seems a daunting prospect.


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