28 November 2014

Market research vs. translation market realities

Writing on his award-winning Word Prisms blog, US-based Russian-to-English translator Kevin Hendzel has added a post, dated 28 November 2014, entitled Why translators are promoting premium markets. Although aimed much more at translators than translation buyers, it offers excellent insights for one and all into a market he describes as "immense, opaque, highly fragmented and comprised of radically different dynamics".

I agree with everything Kevin says on Market “research” vs. market realities, including the comments:
Translation market “research,” meanwhile, has not come remotely close to portraying this complexity.
... despite their high price, such heavily-marketed “studies” distort reality by relying on self-reported data from bulk-market companies, missing many of the largest and most lucrative sectors of the market that for various reasons – national security, institutional confidentiality, competitive secrecy, and teaming agreements, to name a few – are compelled to fly under the “self-reporting” radar.
As a result, the enormously complex translation market has been massively distorted by this bulk-market “research” lens to portray nothing but bulk-market providers.
... the translation market is a very long continuum consisting of billions of shades of gray. The “premium vs. bulk” dichotomy is a form of shorthand only.
Kevin goes on to point out that the bulk-market business model perpetually drives down the rates paid to translators by setting them (translators) against each other to compete for the work that’s available from clients who belong to the bulk-market agencies, not to the translators. The point is well made.

20 November 2014

[Sujet inanimé ou abstrait] + [permet de + infinitif]

Dominique Jonkers on the infernal overuse of 'permet de' and variants by French authors.

The solutions Dominique proposes for how to improve the French in documents using this formula apply equally well to how to translate them and, at the same time, make the target-language version better than the original.

Solution: Dans 9 cas sur 10, voire davantage, vous remplacerez avantageusement « permettre de + infinitif » par un verbe unique, porteur de sens -- j’ai envie de dire : « savoureux ».

Thanks Dominique.

OSASCOMP: Applied analysis

OSASCOMP = Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose
QOSASCOMP = Quantity, Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose.
Mnemonic 1: On Saturday And Sunday Cold Ovens Make Pastry.
Mnemonic 2: Quite Often Simply Asking Someone Can Obliterate Many Problems (source)
QOSASCOMP is listed here for completeness. For the moment I prefer OSASCOMP.

This rule appears to have been invented to help ESL (English as a second language) teachers and students. It is also useful for technical journalists, writers and translators who often need to string together multiple adjectives and qualifiers and as a result can quickly become confused or hesitant as to the best order.
Note, however, that this is a guide, not a strict rule and that there are some contexts where the order depends on the context or which term one wishes to emphasise.

See, for instance: Translating technical journalism: OSASCOMP revisited (11/09/14), Order, qualifiers (same type,comma separated) (14/10/14), OSASCOMP revisited (11/09/14)

It also explains the rule as follows:
Opinion (ridiculous, crazy, beautiful)
Size (big, small)
Age (old, young)
Shape (round, square)
Colour (yellow, blue)
Origin (American, British)
Material (polyester, Styrofoam)
Purpose (swimming in 'swimming pool'; shooting in 'shooting range'

(I am still thinking about whether the letter 'P' should be for "Purpose or Price", or whether the rule the rule should be restated as OSASCOMPP, or possible POSASCOMP. More to come on this.)

Important notes from Adjective order:
1. The adjectives used in the table below are examples only.
2. Some adjectives can be found in different positions, but if you follow the OSASCOMP rule you won’t be wrong!
Further advice from Adjective order in English:
Take care when applying the rule to categorise the adjectives correctly. For example, "The old rotund man read a short old story about an ugly big bear" seems to follow the rules, yet sounds wrong. In this case, 'old' and 'short' are qualifiers, not merely size or age designations, because 'old man' is a social concept on its own, and 'short story' is a genre. And 'big ugly' is a 'commonplace term'.
The qualifiers in the examples in Order, qualifiers (same type,comma separated) – A $27.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for 7 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles – are of all in the same category which means that they can be listed in any order.

Collins Cobuild (link)

Under 'order of adjectives', Collins Cobuild (p13) (1992 edition) says:
"When more than one adjective is used in front of a noun, the usual order is:
quantitative adj. – colour adj. – classifying adj.
rapid technological change."
The authors go on to add:
"However, non-gradable adjectives indicating shape, such as 'circular' and 'rectangular', often come in front of the colour adjectives, even though they are classifying adjectives."

Practical English Usage (Wiki link)

In Practical English Usage, under 'commas' (ref. 14.5, p9) (2nd ed.), Michael Swan writes:
"Before nouns, we generally use commas between adjectives (especially in long sequences) which give similar kinds of information, for example in physical descriptions.
            a lovely, long, cool, refreshing drink
            an expensive, ill-planned, wasteful project

(Sorry the image of this table is so small. 
I do hope that those interested can see it.)

Examples from here and there:
  • On 13 January 2015, The Age carried an article entitled A castle for the price of an apartment that included the words "an English medieval castle". OSASCOMP suggests that this should have read "a medieval English castle", which certainly sounds better to me.
  • Is there a difference between "top-quality canned sardines" and "canned top-quality sardines"? It seems to me that the former implies that both the sardines and the canning process are 'top quality' whereas the latter means that only the sardines are 'top quality'. If this analysis is correct, what conclusions can we draw?
  • This page of the Lindt website promotes "Swiss premium chocolate". IMHO and according to the above analysis that should read "premium Swiss chocolate".
Please feel free to comment or supply other examples.

18 November 2014

Je vais passer pour un vieux con, #2

Parisian sensibility, irony, literary wit, psychological and sociological insights, subtlety, wry humour are all there.
So if, as a translator, you came across one of these ready-made phrases in a quotation or an interview, you may want to consult Delerm's little gem or run the risk of missing some of the intended meaning.

To give you a taste, the opener, Je vais passer pour un vieux con, begins:
   Dans la liste des précautions oratoires, celle-ci occupe une place à part. Elle n'a pas l'aspect cauteleux, gourmé, en demi-teinte de ses congénères. Elle souhaite jouer la surprise par sa forme, une vulgarité appuyée qui aurait pour mission de gommer à l'avance le pire des soupçons : une pensée réactionnaire. L'interlocuteur ne doit pas se récrier avant la remarque promise. Mais une petite réticence aux commissures des lèvres signifiant « Toi, passer pour un vieux con !? » semble bienvenue. Elle était espérée.
 My draft translation reads:
I'll sound like a grumpy old bastard
   As little phrases go, this one stands apart. It doesn't have the cunning or subtlety of its brethren. It starts simply enough, then surprises. The strong word nips the harsh judgement – How bloody conservative! – in the bud. While awaiting the remark, the listener should hold off, a half-grin signalling a cheery "You, a grumpy old bastard!?" Phew! The relief.
More -- including a better translation -- in due course.

Je vais passer pour un vieux con, #1

Je vais passer pour un vieux con by Philippe Delerm is not only a fascinating and entertaining read for anyone interested in French and the French; it is also a source of understanding and insights for from-French translators confronted by any of the 42 petites phrases toutes faites that he analyses.

The phrases are:
1.      Je vais passer pour un vieux con
2.      Vous n'avez aucun nouveau message
3.      La maison n'accepte plus les chèques
4.      C'est moi !
5.      Tout d'abord, bonjour !
6.      J'ai habité trois ans rue Commines !
7.      Et puis je vais vous faire une confidence
8.      Comment il l'a cassé !
9.      Quand on est dedans, elle est bonne
10.   Les mots sont dérisoires
11.   J'en parle dans le livre
12.   Nous vous invitons à vous rapprocher
13.   C'est du triplex !
14.   C'est presque de mauvais goût
15.   J'étais pas né
16.   Alleeez
17.   Je garde mon maître
18.   C'est à voir
19.   J'ai fait cinq ans de piano
20.   Joli chapeau madame
21.   Sinon, moi je peux vous emmener
22.   On ne vous voit pas assez souvent !
23.   Et là, c'en était pas une ?
24.   Je préfère Le Havre à Rouen
25.   C'est peut-être mieux comme ça
26.   C'est très bien fait
27.   Oh, lui, rien de l'inquiète !
28.   Ça passe trop tard
29.   Il y a longtemps que vous attendez ?
30.   À l'aile, bon dieu !
31.   Et ce soir ?
32.   Attention, l'assiette est très chaude !
33.   Ils l'avaient dit
34.   Je vais relire Proust
35.   Mets ta cagoule !
36.   On n'est pas obligé de tout boire !
37.   Vous n'aimez pas l'accordéon
38.   Je vais chez Mentec
39.   C'est vraiment par gourmandise
40.   Il n'y a que moi qui passe chez moi !
41.   On va laisser descendre les gens
42.   Je ne m'en servirai plus, maintenant

What's behind the expression?

As the astoundingly prolific Andrew Morris said on his blog a few hours ago, "... I must say I do like a translator who has a keen mastery of everyday speech".
I couldn't agree more.
And, indeed, had already planned on precisely this topic this morning.
The trouble is that translators specialising in technical documents or even technical journalism, don't got too many opportunities to translate everyday speech.
The exceptions include interviews and quotations that pop up in editorials, letters from the C-suite and so forth.
Everyday speech -- indeed anything containing what the French call petites phrases toutes faites, or little phrases and expressions that say a lot -- often present more challenges than many suspect.

I've been reading Philippe Delerm's Je vais passer pour un vieux con.
... see next post.

14 November 2014

UCAV era

On 30 October 2014, IHS Jane's 360 posted a video entitled The UCAV Era presenting an interview with Derrick Maple, Principal Analyst, IHS Aerospace, Defence and Security.

Interesting overview of terms and acronyms.
Also interesting to note the way many acronyms are mixed and matched without significant concern for harmonisation or consistency. Perhaps technical journalists and their translators sometimes expend too much energy trying to harmonise their usage and impose consistency...

10 November 2014

New words, English 3.0, hyperbole and more

The title may be a little lame, but the links are worth exploring:
  • Learning new words activates the same brain regions as sex and drugs
    Quote: "No wonder there are so many bookworms and scrabble addicts out there."
    Comment: So this is what keeps translators going hour after hour.
  • The internet is actually making language better, not worse.
    Quote: "English 3.0 reveals that every time there's a technological innovation, 'it expands the expressive richness of the language in a way that wasn’t there before.' "
    Comment: Agree entirely.
  • It pays to keep up with the arms race of exaggeration by Sam Leith.
    Quotes: "It is not that anyone believes the hyperbole – it is simply that in an arms race of exaggeration, you cannot afford to fall behind." "Hyperbole is the baseline."
    Comment 1: This sensation (one cannot afford to fall behind) corresponds precisely to what I feel when tempted to add an adjective or adverb in certain contexts. It amounts, I suppose, to a form of peer pressure.
    Comment 2: The baseline that Sam Leith refers to may also explain another sensation that I often experience when drafting translations of technical journalism. I refer to what might be called baseline rhythms and patterns. Regular readers of, say, defence journalism get used to a certain sprinkling and density of adjectives and adverbs.
    I'll have to come back to this. It's a bigger topic that one might assume at first glance.

05 November 2014

Euronaval note: Of UAVs, UASs, RPAs, RPASs, drones and more

At Euronaval 2014, manufacturers, journalists, translators and others may have noticed a confusing plethora of terms for various types of unmanned aerial vehicle systems.
  • The British and European perspective on the topic is explained in some detail on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVS) site.
  • The FAS (Federation of American Scientists) site has a long list of links on UAVs and UASs here.
  • The UAVS library page has a list of useful links.
  • The UAVS page entitled UAV/RPA or UAS/RPAS? provides much useful information, though some of it may be a little dated.
  • The position of US-based manufacturer General Atomics is explained in a Guardian article dated 17 December 2013 that begins:
General Atomics tells MPs the term drone is pejorative and the aircraft have a 'proven beneficial role in humanitarian crises'.
          Further on, it says:
General Atomics' submission, which is riddled with defence industry acronyms and euphemisms, says it prefers the term remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to the word drone.
  • The General Atomics site on UASs and RPAs is here.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems are one and the same thing but come in many different shapes and sizes. Most have been designed for specific roles and applications but almost all of them can be reconfigured just through a payload interchange to perform a variety of other tasks.


  • unmanned or remotely-piloted (or remotely piloted)?
  • remotely-piloted or remotely-operated (cf. ROV)?
  • aerial or air?
  • vehicle (as in UAV), system (as in UAS) or vehicle system (cf. UAVS)?

Euronaval observations:

  • the distinction between unmanned and remotely-piloted appears to be increasingly important
  • unamnned appears to be losing ground to the clearer and more precise (also gender neutral) remotely-piloted 
  • uncrewed does not appear to be used at all in defence circles. Nasa mentions 'uncrewed aerial systems' here. (Google hit counts for 'uncrewed aerial systems' vs 'unmanned aerial systems' was, as of 04/11/2014: 80k vs 362k)
  • of the terms using unmanned, UAS appears to have overtaken UAV
  • in English drone and autonomous have acquired negative connotations when used in connection with armed unmanned vehicles
  • in French, drone remains very popular indeed and free of negative connotations. It is also more generic than any corresponding term in English.

Preferred equivalent

Save where earlier documents dictate which designation(s) should be used in a given translation, a short history of my preferred equivalents for drone aérien télé-opéré and the like reads as follows:
  • until 2013: UAV
  • 2014: UAS
  • henceforth and until further notice: RPAS.

Euronaval notes, #2

  • 'unmanned' is everywhere... but how long before 'uncrewed' starts to enjoy wider use? (Or am I 'unscrewed'?) Nasa mentions 'uncrewed aerial systems' here. (Google hit counts for 'uncrewed aerial systems' vs 'unmanned aerial systems' was, as of 04/11/2014: 80k vs 362k)
  • Jane's (e.g. IHS Jane's 360) is probably the only English-mother-tongue military publication to use 'antennae' as the plural form of 'antenna'. See 'radar antennae' and 'UHF SATCOM antennae' here
  • Google ngram for UAV, UAS, PRCA from 1960 to 2014 here (but the acronyms may have non-military uses...)
  • significant improvement in English-language documents and translations displayed by Nexter (compare French-language site and English equivalent), 

Euronaval note: Guerre des mines vs MCM

Wikipédia defines guerre des mines as follows:
En combat naval, la guerre des mines désigne toutes les opérations et tactiques relatives aux mines sous marines : le mouillage de mines, la lutte contre les mines (dragage et chasse aux mines), et les contre-mesures préventives.
The FAS (Federation of American Scientists) site has an article on mine warfare here.

Some observation made at Euronaval 2014:
Conclusion for translators and translation buyers: It pays to specialise and it pays to pay attention at trade shows.

Swimming terminology

Swimmers also use everyday words in special ways or with special connotations. Specialist terminology: it's everywhere! Here are just a few links:

Portuguese age-group co-champions Steve Dyson and Tony Bessone Basto

04 November 2014

DID, Cheap Bulk Translations

From DID, FRI OCT 31, 2014, under the subheading Cheap Bulk Translation:
  • DARPA wants to hear from organizations who can help lower the cost of automating the translation of less common languages. The fictional Klingon is available through Google and Bing, but many of the earth's 7,000+ languages are not, which by itself is a statement about Western priorities. DARPA shook their infamous acronym generator until it spat out Low Resource Languages for Emergent Incidents (LORELEI). Here's the Broad Agency Announcement [FBO], there's a Proposer's Day on November 13 in Arlington, VA.
  • Since Western countries, from the US to Sweden [The Local], cannot be bothered to properly handle visas for Afghan translators threatened by the Taliban, let's hope DARPA figures LORELEI out by the next conflict in faraway places. This gets even the reliably liberal British comedian John Oliver righteously angry [video] at the US government.

Euronaval notes, #1

Just back from a week at the Euronaval naval defence show in Paris. Here are some notes and observations of passing relevance (or note) to this blog.
  • English-language terms of note (and listed for more detailed analysis on this blog) include:
  • autonomy & autonomous
  • mine warfare & MCM. See my post here.
  • UAV, UAS, RPCA and a host of related terms and acronyms. See my post here.
Interesting, for a technical writer and translator, to observe that:
  • while I didn't notice any 'howlers' like those observed at Euronaval and Paris Air Show events a couple of decades or more ago, it is still surprising to see how many signs, slogans, web sites, videos, brochures and more still use wobbly or plodding English.... and often by the biggest and best funded companies too
  • the verb 'prep' (from 'prepare') is increasingly popular with English-language defence industry journalists
  • iXBlue, a spectacular rising star in the French defence and high tech sectors, boasts, in addition to cutting-edge technologies, products and marketing:
  • arguably best-in-industry English-language web site and product documentation
  • a management team that includes (and this is rare indeed among French defence contractors) foreign-trained and English-speaking executives who, I suspect, keep a close eye on the just-mentioned web site and product documentation. 

Love DID's humo(u)r

Defense Industry Daily, or DID, stands head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to humo(u)r. I don't intend to quote DID often, but thought I might give just one short taste:
Tailhooked (Not in Vegas)
An F-35C made its 1st arrested landing, aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
If you got the joke, that's great. If you didn't, perhaps the video will help, at least with the navy interpretation of 'tailhooked'. If it's the meaning that might be associated with the term in Las Vegas, then see what the online slang dictionary has to say here.

A revolution in defence marketing?

Article: Eurofighter turns to social media with Indonesia pitch, FT, 4 November 2014 by Ben Bland and Peggy Hollinger.

Many defence companies focus their lobbying on governments but ... Eurofighter hopes to jump ahead of its rivals by taking its sales pitch straight to the young, social-media savvy population.
Comment 1: Amazing!

Comment 2: If this takes off it could have significant impact on the importance of pithy, punchy slogans and messages by defence contractors aimed at a completely new public.

A mandate to transcreate

I transcreate a regular technical journalism publication from French into English. The declared aim of this publication is to promote specif...