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Being Picky in Computer English
Thread poster: N.M. Eklund

N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:06
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Nov 27, 2007

I didn't think this would be appropriate for Kudoz, but I will create a glossary and post it.
Also, I wasn't sure which Forum to put this, since it's talking about Computer English.

I have been translating French computer procedures for a while now, and there are always these little words that bother me.
Faire: (command/variable/script/file)
Lancer ------
Passer le -----
Executer -----

Though I know that my translation is correct, I guess I'm being picky about the nuances in English and I wanted to see how others would translate them.

Here is my problem:
In fact, you could translate all of them with RUN.
But I wonder if it would be better to "Execute a script" and "Run a command", or vice-versa. Also, you don't necessarily "Launch the command", and "Perform: (command)" seems only correct if there is more than one command to perform.

I've looked through books and manuals without a real answer because their authors are most of the time not very concerned about the quality of their writing.
Got any tips? How do you do it?

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:06
French to English
Nail on head Nov 27, 2007

N.M. Eklund wrote:
I've looked through books and manuals without a real answer because their authors are most of the time not very concerned about the quality of their writing.
Got any tips? How do you do it?

In my experience, the majority of people who write the majority of IT documentation (i.e. the stuff NOT for the general public, but in-house guides, manuals, instructions, etc.) are not employed for their writing skills.
They are employed 'cos they know how 'puters work.

From my time working in IT, I can tell you most of them take a very dim view of documentation in general. It is something to be done fast, before they can get on with more of the stuf they like doing.

These two factors together mean that much IT documentation leaves a little to be desired. Terms are employed loosely. They know what it means. I've never seen an English document use the word "perform" unless that was the actual verb in the actual computer programming language. Run and execute are used indiscriminately; where appropriate (subroutines) add "call" to the list. Any of those 3 may be OK instead of 'launch', as might "start".

How do I do it? I worked for 15 years as an analyst programmer in London and Paris. I read a document, imagine any one of anumber of ex-colleagues as the author, try to understand what is going on, and then tgranslate accordingly.

In my extremely humble opinion, the "problem" with IT is that all translators have a computer and many of them therefore think they know something about IT.
Undoubtedly true in some cases.
Equally, very false in many other cases, as my revision experience testifies.

In short, you will know whether it is best (to take your example) to use execute, run, launch (ugh!), perform, call, do, start, or whatever not because of some entry in a dictionary or glossary, but because you have an understanding of how applications/systems in general, and the one in your document in particular, work.

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bohy  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:06
English to French
+ ...
When source text is approximative, no glossary will work Nov 27, 2007

I agree totally with Charlie. In the IT area, the most important is to UNDERSTAND what you are translating. And then, speak the language of your target audience. The source text may be bad (and it IS, more and more, as more and more developments are outsourced to foreign countries): although the source term may be approximative, you have to translate into the good term. No glossary can do that (nor translation software, of course...).
Translating into English should not be very difficult, as most specific IT words originated in this language. Your only problem is that in French there may be many approximative "dialects", and quite often several terms will translate into one (like in your example).
Translating into French is sometimes tricky, as there is not always an adequate equivalent. There are some words that I translate somewhat differently depending on the context. Using a "glossary" approach wouldn't work there either.

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