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Use of commas in numbers (e.g. 27,5 vs. 27.5)
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Aug 29, 2010

When translating from Italian to English, I seem to spend much of my time correcting numbers expressed as (e.g.) 27,50 into 27.50 (replacing the comma with a point).

I find this use of commas very confusing in English, since (in Italian) a number expressed to three decimal places would be 3,000 - which would be "three point zero zero zero" in Italian but means "three thousand" in English.

Does anyone else get as annoyed by this as I do?





[Edited at 2010-08-29 15:48 GMT]


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:15
English to Japanese
+ ...
I do get annoyed too Aug 29, 2010

In case of translating from English into Japanese, we use the same method; hence if the source in English reads 3,000 people, then I just have to translate 3,000 xxx.

But the same problem arises when I'm translating from an European language into Japanese, for example I see 27,85 cm written in Italian or German and I have to correct this to 27.85, with a period. It does take some time to do this correction, and likewise, I am also annoyed.

Bit OT, but distance and measures, sometimes causes problems. But at least most of the source includes, for example 10 miles to the city center, after the 10 miles, there is usually in parantheses saying (16 km).


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:45
German to English
There are solutions Aug 29, 2010

CAT tools have a function which automatically does this conversion for you - it's very convenient and saves a lot of time. If you don't like or don't use them, you can do the same with "find and replace" in Word.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
That's just too bad! :-) Aug 29, 2010

Tom in London wrote:
I find this use of commas very confusing in English, since (in Italian) a number expressed to three decimal places would be 3,000 - which would be "three point zero zero zero" in Italian but means "three thousand" in English.

I reckon this constant changing of commas and dots is just part of our work. I constantly do it the other way. And I sometimes have to stop and think twice when I see "3.000" to mean three decimals in English. Just normal business I reckon!


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Andrzej Mierzejewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:15
Polish to English
+ ...
Annoying? Aug 29, 2010

Tom in London wrote:

When translating from Italian to English, I seem to spend much of my time correcting numbers expressed as (e.g.) 27,50 into 27.50 (replacing the comma with a point).

I find this use of commas very confusing in English, since (in Italian) a number expressed to three decimal places would be 3,000 - which would be "three point zero zero zero" in Italian but means "three thousand" in English.

Does anyone else get as annoyed by this as I do?



[Edited at 2010-08-29 15:48 GMT]


Tom, are you sure that YOUR (I mean: residents of UK, IE, US, CA, NZ, AU, SA) manner of writing numbers with a dot before decimal the parts is correct? Why do you think so?
In the major part of Europe (from your point of view: across the English Channel) and in a vast number of other countries - inhabited by a majority of the world population - people used to put points and commas the NORMAL way: comma before the decimal part. That normal way has been used for centuries now.
Why don't you Anglo-Saxons follow the majority?


On my side, I find it annoying that IE and UK are the only European countries where adresses begin with numbers, with only a small number of other countries (US, IE, AU, NZ, CA, SA) having adopted the same manner.
For instance: 10, Downing Street. Or 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue.

To me, it is quite logical that I should find the street BEFORE I can find the house/building in this street.
So, why don't you write: Downing Street 10? Or Pennsylvania Avenue 1600?
That would be simpler and much more logical.
Again: why don't you Anglo-Saxons follow the majority?


Best regards, and do not get annoyed.

AM


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xxxMr Murray
Italy
Italian to English
Point dot com(ma) Aug 29, 2010

If I decide to change them manually in a document, I find this a way to verify the numbers at the same time for my client. Almost everytime I find errors of numbers in the original document - especially in tables of values - clients are happy to have them pointed out. I consider it part of my job to make the whole translation readable, and to be certain I understand what's being discussed.

Two solutions I've used to speed things up - both depend on the general format and length of the document. One, find some automated way in the program to convert or substitute the punctuation; two, make a general note at the beginning of the document pointing out all numbers were left as is.

This second solution often works for unpublished scientific work as most (not all) scientists understand. But for works to be published, short publicity - brochures, websites - and most web pages, I go through them manually.

Does it bother me? Not really, as I said, it gives me time to confirm the information in the document. It does bother me when authors, especially for thesis works, copy and paste from different sources and have mixed use of the punctuation! Yikes.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
not applicable Aug 29, 2010

Andrzej Mierzejewski wrote:

Tom, are you sure that YOUR (I mean: residents of UK, IE, US, CA, NZ, AU, SA) manner of writing numbers with a dot before decimal the parts is correct? Why do you think so?
In the major part of Europe (from your point of view: across the English Channel) and in a vast number of other countries - inhabited by a majority of the world population - people used to put points and commas the NORMAL way: comma before the decimal part. That normal way has been used for centuries now.
Why don't you Anglo-Saxons follow the majority?


1. I am not Anglo-Saxon, I'm Irish. I get annoyed very easily.
2. I was not, and am not, suggesting that one method is better, or more correct, than another. I'm intrigued as to why you thought I was.

Anyway, I get the impression that it doesn't bother you.

[Edited at 2010-08-29 20:41 GMT]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Dutch to English
+ ...
Colour code them and change in one go Aug 29, 2010

I leave them for the end and then colour code all the commas into red and replace them with a period in the right colour. I search based on any digit followed by comma or go through 0 through to 9 followed by a comma. Works a treat and it does not annoy me any more.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
I see Aug 29, 2010

Marijke Singer wrote:

I leave them for the end and then colour code all the commas into red and replace them with a period in the right colour. I search based on any digit followed by comma or go through 0 through to 9 followed by a comma. Works a treat and it does not annoy me any more.


So you also have to do it, Marijke !

I just use find/replace but it's one of those little tasks that don't really fall within the definition of "translation" - that's why it bugs me.

I wonder if anyone knows why in some languages, the point is correct, and in others, the comma is correct?


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Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:15
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
Historical reasons Aug 29, 2010

Tom in London wrote:

I wonder if anyone knows why in some languages, the point is correct, and in others, the comma is correct?


Then you might find this interesting, Tom:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimal_separator


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting Aug 29, 2010

Thanks Anna

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Christina Paiva  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:15
Portuguese to English
+ ...
My method... Aug 29, 2010

I dislike numbers and tables ... to say the least

I find and replace them... but ...


There are some other suggestions here:

http://www.proz.com/forum/office_applications/144613-find_replace_function_for_numbers_in_word.html


I did give them a try... But they didn't work (something I missed?)


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
4 systems Aug 29, 2010

I am aware of four systems for separating the thousands and the decimals.
  • In the UK (etc) one thousand two hundred and thirty four and a half is written 1,234.5 (or 1234.5)
  • in Germany it would be 1.234,5
  • in Switzerland (perhaps only the German-speaking parts) it would be 1'234,5
  • and in France 1 234,5

A Swiss client for whom I did some translation asked me why a certain sum of money was only 3 (Francs or Dollars) - it was written 3,000 and he took the comma to be the decimal separator. I had to tell him it meant three thousand, which was a credible sum (not my fee!).
In my translation work, I just regard these conversions as part of the job.

Oliver

[Edited at 2010-08-29 22:33 GMT]


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Claudio Porcellana  Identity Verified
Italy
point an commas Aug 29, 2010

Hi all

interesting point as I often fight against my proofreaders on it


this is why I downloaded The International System of Units (SI) 8th edition 2006 FR-EN
(that is applicable even to USA and UK as far as I know)

5.3.4 Formatting numbers, and the decimal marker
The symbol used to separate the integral part of a number from its decimal part is
called the decimal marker. Following the 22nd CGPM (2003, Resolution 10), the
decimal marker “shall be either the point on the line or the comma on the line.” The
decimal marker chosen should be that which is customary in the context concerned.
If the number is between +1 and −1, then the decimal marker is always preceded by a
zero.

Following the 9th CGPM (1948, Resolution 7) and the 22nd CGPM (2003,
Resolution 10), for numbers with many digits the digits may be divided into groups
of three by a thin space, in order to facilitate reading. Neither dots nor commas are
inserted in the spaces between groups of three. However, when there are only four
digits before or after the decimal marker, it is customary not to use a space to isolate a single digit. The practice of grouping digits in this way is a matter of choice; it is not
always followed in certain specialized applications such as engineering drawings,
financial statements, and scripts to be read by a computer.

For numbers in a table, the format used should not vary within one column.

examples
−0.234,
but not −.234

43 279.168 29,
but not 43,279.168,29


either 3279.1683
or 3 279.168 3

BTW, 37 °C,
but not 37°C
as unit measures are usually separated from values

clearly, if someone need it, I can send it by e-mail (PDF file, 4 MB)

Claudio

[Modificato alle 2010-08-29 22:04 GMT]


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:15
French to English
+ ...
Wordfast / Find/replace Aug 29, 2010

I have a command activated in Wordfast which automatically changes , to . in decimal points and vice versa in thousands. In tables of figures which Wordfast ignores I usually do a Find/replace, which is simple enough. The problem comes with Swiss numbers, which use an apostrophe as a thousand marker and lists of numbers as codes which don't need a comma added in the English. Hey ho, you can;t have everything! It's neat enough to save me a fair bit of time (whilst checking I've input the number correctly too) and not too much of a problem when it gets it wrong to make me not use it.

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