How to handle made up abbreviations
Thread poster: Olieslagers

Olieslagers
French Polynesia
Local time: 07:17
Member (2009)
Dutch to French
+ ...
Feb 7, 2014

Hello,

I am translating a technical user manual (Dutch>French) which has dozens of made up abbreviations (for example: hoofdventilator = HV, Kachel = KA, etc.). Further in this document, these abbreviations appear in a large number of tables, titles, etc.
So my question is how would you handle this kind of abbreviations? Simply transpose them? But then the reader might get confused as the abbreviations won't correspond to anything. Or "try" to translate those abbreviations (for example: ventilateur principal=VP). But then I might get confused!

Thanks in advance for your help!
Noëlle


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 19:17
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translate Feb 7, 2014

There is no reason for leaving them in their original form. Nobody will understand them if they are not standard abbreviations. Translate them, preferably by properly introducing them at their first occurrence (FO). Keep a running list for yourself if you need to.
Alternatively, you can write out the whole term every time and do away with the acronyms. Sometimes this is doable, but if something occurs many times and space is at a premium (e.g. in large tables), it's not an option.
If I come across a weird acronym I often do a search in the document. If it only occurs twice, I just write out the whole term and save myself and the reader a headache.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:17
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Ask the client and agree on a policy Feb 7, 2014

In something like a user manual, consistency is important. What does the client do in user manuals for their other products, and what will they do with updates?

Ask, and agree on how you will translate abbreviations.

If the client already has a policy on abbreviations, they will want you to follow it sooner or later, when they think about it.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 19:17
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Maybe Feb 7, 2014

In my experience, clients that spew out crazy acronyms are unlikely to give you sensible guidance on what to do with them. If they cared about the linguistic aspects of their documents, they wouldn't be generating these acronyms in the first place.
One can always give it a shot, of course.


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Olieslagers
French Polynesia
Local time: 07:17
Member (2009)
Dutch to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 8, 2014

Thank you for your suggestions Christine Anders and FarkasAndras.

I will give it a try and ask them if they have a policy regarding these abbreviations. Even through I have some doubts they do, at least they will have the ball in their court and they can tell me their opinion!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reminder Feb 8, 2014

Whenever I have to deal with acronyms in a translation, I always remind clients that any abbreviations or similar that are translated in the text will also need to be changed in any accompanying graphic material, such as tables, figures, annexes, etc.
In fact, I take pains to make sure that they understand that any abbreviations or acronyms in their texts are their own responsibility and not mine. It saves me a lot of time wasted researching or brainstorming things when the author who perpetrated them can tell you what they stand for at the drop of a hat.

[Edited at 2014-02-08 08:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-02-08 08:25 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:17
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Dutch language and acronyms Feb 8, 2014

Dear Noëlle,

That's a problem that the Dutch language suffers from a lot more than other languages, in my experience at least. The Dutch are especially fond of using acronyms, and use them very frequently. Probably, they're especially good at deciphering them as well.

I'm going a long way to make this easier for the target language readership (German, in my case), who probably don't share the Dutchmen's abilities in this regards. My translations will usually contain an explanation of an acronym at its first occurrence, even when the source text doesn't contain one. I will usually add such an explanation even when I use a translated acronym. Quite often, I spell the translation of Dutch acronyms out every time they occur.

neilmac wrote:

In fact, I take pains to make sure that they understand that any abbreviations or acronyms in their texts are their own responsibility and not mine.


Neilmac, I envy you for that. That would indeed make my life a whole lot easier, and my productivity would increase big time. I'm not sure though that this is what my customers should expect from me. On the other hand, my customers are usually prepared to explain any acronyms and abbreviations that are not obvious to me.


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jldomingo
Spain
Local time: 19:17
English to Spanish
Two ways Feb 8, 2014

If there are a table in the document that explains the meaning of abbreviations, that will be enough.

If not, introduce the abbreviation the first time it appears in a way like this:

... the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aims to...

From then on, you could use NATO only in the body text.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:17
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
So true Feb 8, 2014

efreig, you said:

"That's a problem that the Dutch language suffers from a lot more than other languages, in my experience at least. The Dutch are especially fond of using acronyms, and use them very frequently. Probably, they're especially good at deciphering them as well."

So true, and they are never explained, even when they first occur, and (when it's a company or institution) not even on their own websites!!! I have started my own list of acronyms and abbreviations I have encountered, which I hope will save me a lot of time searching in the future.


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Olieslagers
French Polynesia
Local time: 07:17
Member (2009)
Dutch to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I have one advantage Feb 8, 2014

At least I know where the abbreviations stand for. All the abbreviations are clearly listed and explained in the overview of the manual. But the question is: shall I keep the Dutch abbreviations or translate them...

At the end of the day, does it makes any difference to the reader? Is it more clear to say: "Stabilisateur de chaleur = WS (the Dutch made up abbreviation) or SC (my own made up abbreviation)"!?
I think I better ask the client as suggested by Christine Anders...


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How to handle made up abbreviations

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