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The importance of context

On this page, the heading under video reads “Chelsea win puts us back in title race – Wenger”.

My first reaction upon reading this was that it meant that Chelsea had won a game against one of Arsenal’s title rivals, thus helping Arsenal. But my knowledge of the context meant that I knew this wasn’t possible. What it meant was that a win by Arsenal against Chelsea (in tomorrow’s game) would put Arsenal back in the title race.

All the other languages I know would not allow such an ambiguous sentence in the translation. You’d have to either translate it as “win against Chelsea” or “win for Chelsea”. And this is where machine translation is really found wanting. The machine translation does not have the knowledge of context that we have as humans.

Another example of this would be the Catalan sentence “els pinguins saben nadar però no volen”. This could either mean “penguins can swim but don’t fly”, or “penguins swim, but they don’t want to”. Only our general knowledge tells us that the first sentence is the meaning we’re looking for.


Consecutive interpreting

If you want to see an excellent example of good consecutive interpreting in a pressure situation, watch the two videos here (you have to watch an advert first if you’re outside the UK). He does an excellent job. I was particularly impressed when he almost instantaneously translated “no me muero” as “I won’t lose any sleep”. I should also mention his accent, which of course is the purest, clearest form of English that exists! Not that I’m biased.

I have two things to say regarding Maradona’s assertion that his goal was just the same Geoff Hurst’s second and England’s third goal in the 1966 world cup final. First, nobody has definitively established whether the ball crossed the line or not, whereas Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal is clearly with the hand. Second, even if the ball did not cross the line, Geoff Hurst did not score by cheating; Maradona did.


El català i el castellà es compliquen

Des de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ens acaben d’enviar un document sobre l’ús no sexista del llenguatge. Tinc molta feina, així que no vull elaborar molt sobre el tema, però crec que si apliquem tots els consells, acabarem amb un llenguatge molt més complicat per a llegir. El millor exemple que he trobat és en l’apartat en què recomana l’ús de la passiva reflexiva per a evitar el llenguatge sexista. Ens recomana escriure Se decidirá judicialmente en comptes de El juez decidirá. La primera versió és una d’aquestes frases que els traductors odiem, perquè ens costa molt entendre què vol dir; la segona versió, en canvi, s’entén perfectament.

Seguint els mateixos consells, hauria d’haver dit una cosa com el cos traductor en comptes de els traductors en la frase anterior. Però no trobeu que sigui molt més entenedor si el text diu els traductors. En llegir aquesta frase, algú ha pensat que no incloïa les traductores?


Back in business

Business is booming, and I’ve been so busy with my business that I haven’t had much time to write on my blog. I had loads to say about the end to the Formula 1 season, but that can wait. I’d like to try to write more posts about my day-to-day business: translation.

Have you noticed how often we use the word business in English? You probably have if you translate out of English. It is such a versatile word that there are countless possible translations into other languages, depending on the context. I’d never really thought about it before, until I stumbled upon this little gem from our friends in Quebec (they really do provide so many resources to those of us working between French and English). Although the article examines translations between English and French, it should provide plenty of ideas for those translating from English into other Romance languages.

The article starts by categorising the different usages of the word business in English. At the end of the article, there is an alphabetical list, which is pretty easy to import into a terminology database.

This is just one of many articles on accountancy terminology provided by the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec. The rest can be found here.