Variety or consistency?
Thread poster: Inga Jakobi

Inga Jakobi  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
Oct 3, 2006

Dear proz-colleages,

I would be very interested in how you handle source texts, the terminology of which is not consistent. I'm not talking of literature, marketing or stuff like that, but of texts like user manuals, technical descriptions etc.
When you realise that in the source text different terms and expressions are used for the very same thing, do you keep the variety in your translation or do you prefer consistency and therefore use the same terms and expressions throughout your translation?
In fact, I think most of the languages prefer consistency (why else should we use TM's), but I also wonder, what you think about it and how far one should go to keep / create consistency in your opinion.
TIA for any comments!


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
I can't handle them... Oct 3, 2006

...emotionally, no, noway, I can't. Rationally, oh well....
I would be very interested in how you handle source texts, the terminology of which is not consistent.


It's a very tough ying and yang situation sometimes. Like in the following case: "... and above all, pls, pulease!, use the terminology supplied herewith..." and the holliest-of-them-all terminology file, it just stinks to heaven...

What do I do in such cases? Sometimes I comply - what do I care?... - and sometimes....I just can't hold back and do it, not my way, not the best way, but decidedly better way. For the good of the client and for the good of the battered target language and eventually for the good of the end user.

Of course, I inform the agency about it and softly hint at the dire need to talk to the principal about how much their overpaid, undernurished ("Oliver Twist asked for more!!"), insulting-to-all-ears-involved Multiterm database SUX.

Oh, does it feel good... end of rant.

Regards

[EDIT] I'm barking up the tree of BAD terminology. Which in a lot of cases is the source of evil - people just can't adhere to it, resulting in all kinds of alternatives. So far that was my sad experience - and if the problem is incosistency in the source ... then I am in the wrong wood altogether (g).

But it felt good - for a moment;\

[Edited at 2006-10-03 21:48]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Both Oct 3, 2006

If, for example, the author uses "folder" and "directory" just because he cannot make up his mind which word he likes better, I might translate them with "Ordner" and "Verzeichnis", keeping up the variety as well as consistency regarding the source, or I call them both "Verzeichnis" (or "Ordner", whatever looks better in the context or is determined by the client), to keep up the consistency regarding the meaning.

I have one client who provides a mobile phone terminology (in Excel files) which is binding, although it is as poor as the ones lovingly described by Vito. Fortunately, it is as ambiguous as inconsistent, so I can usually choose an acceptable term from the bunch. For the cases where this is not possible, the client provides an Excel sheet called "Strange MMI Options"..

[Edited at 2006-10-04 13:59]


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Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Depends - I'd ask the client Oct 3, 2006

Hi Inga,

I think it depends on the project. Sometimes clients make a deliberate choice to vary the terms. And sometimes documents are written by different authors who are not aware of the first author's terminology. In other cases documents are written in a careless manner and the author just does not pay attention to what s/he is doing.

Whenever I am not sure of the reason for varying terms, I send a quick note to the client/agency to explain the situation and ask for advice. That usually does the trick.

Grüßle nach KA

Steffi


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John Jory  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
In your case: always consistency Oct 4, 2006

Pirily wrote:

... I'm not talking of literature, marketing or stuff like that, but of texts like user manuals, technical descriptions etc.


Especially manuals must be precise, clear, and unambiguous. Unfortunately, they are frequently written by engineers, product managers, etc., who are so deep into their subject matter that they have difficulties imagining a person who is faced with product & manual for the first time.
This person must never be left in any doubt about what is meant. If variety has been introduced simply because the author is sick of using the same term for the umpteenth time, it should be ignored for the sake of clarity.

If in doubt, contact the client/agency and argue your point.

[Edited at 2006-10-04 06:43]


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Inga Jakobi  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What if... Oct 4, 2006

it was up to you to decide?

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Consistency Oct 4, 2006

Pirily wrote:
When you realise that in the source text different terms and expressions are used for the very same thing, do you keep the variety in your translation or do you prefer consistency and therefore use the same terms and expressions throughout your translation?


If I know the field well and I'm confident that the client had used "elegant variation", I opt for consistency in the translation. If I'm not all too familiar with the field, however, I sometimes make the assumption that the different terms may have slightly different meanings and I therefore use different terms in the translation. But usually I opt for consistency (and if I use elegant variation in the translation, it does not mimick that of the source text).


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 09:52
French to Dutch
+ ...
This is language related Oct 4, 2006

French people hate repetitions (dollar - American currency, etc.). In English or German, they hate varied expressions for the same thing, especially in economic or technical texts. And in user's manuals! ("why do they call it "folder" here and why is it called "directory" there? Is it the same thing?". I would opt for consistency, besides in poetic literature or marketing texts.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree entirely Oct 4, 2006

John Jory wrote:

Pirily wrote:

... I'm not talking of literature, marketing or stuff like that, but of texts like user manuals, technical descriptions etc.


Especially manuals must be precise, clear, and unambiguous. Unfortunately, they are frequently written by engineers, product managers, etc., who are so deep into their subject matter that they have difficulties imagining a person who is faced with product & manual for the first time.
This person must never be left in any doubt about what is meant. If variety has been introduced simply because the author is sick of using the same term for the umpteenth time, it should be ignored for the sake of clarity.

If in doubt, contact the client/agency and argue your point.

[Edited at 2006-10-04 06:43]


It's a principle of terminology theory to avoid any kind of confusion, so it's better to be consistent with terminology.

A lot of manual writers, unfortunately, don't receive training in writing or in terminological principles, and this causes a lot of confusion ... especially for translators:-)

As John says, focus on helping the reader understand, for example, how a complex machine works; after all, the person is reading teh manual becuase he/she doesn't know how it works!

This is where a reader focus prevails; what's teh point of a manual that doesn't clarify but that confuses? In literature, on teh other hand, an author focus that reflects the variety of possibly idiosyncratic use of language is important.

[Edited at 2006-10-04 12:43]


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Inga Jakobi  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:52
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I prefer consistency anyway Oct 4, 2006

Thanks for all the comments so far! In fact, I prefer consistency anyway, but as I don't have that much translation experience in the "real business world", I wanted to know how others handle it. But as I see now, almost everybody seems to confirm my attitude...

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