04 November 2017

Translation and disruption #5

If the translation industry is indeed on the brink of disruptive innovation some of the things that may happen could include:
  • change will be more client driven, less supplier driven
  • translation memory systems, the current leaders in translation technology, are unlikely to retain their leadership
  • clients will accept lower quality provided the service is cheaper, more accessible and less difficult to understand
  • self-service offerings like Google Translate will continue to enjoy explosive growth
  • some translation clients using cheaper or free-of-charge services will encounter serious and sometimes costly failures
  • new business for suppliers specialising in high-end translation, adaptation, localisation, etc. will come largely from clients who have encountered and recognised failures produced by cheaper solutions
  • as a percentage of global consumption, the proportion of translations provided by high-end suppliers will continue to fall
  • the intellectual content of a growing proportion of translation industry jobs, including freelance work, will decline at an accelerating pace
  • the amount of training required to master the next generation of translation environment tools (TenTs) will plummet
  • universities will face enormous challenges justifying long-cycle training courses for translators facing, for the most part, low and falling pay scales and less intellectually satisfying work prospects
  • a proportion of the small army of high-end suppliers enjoying both success and good incomes may once again come into the profession after a decade or more of experience in other types of work yielding in-depth knowledge of subject matter and languages.

Signs that others are also noticing the trend

User expectations: The good news for MT is that due to the crapification of language the expectations bar has been coming down, and people are much more willing to accept raw MT, warts and all. Despite the quality problems, more & more people are using web-based MT services like Google Translate, Bing Translator, etc., to read and write content in other languages.  As with texting above, they’re more concerned with content than with form: they’re OK with errors as long as they can understand the content or at least get the gist of it. This seems to be true even for countries that have traditionally had a high bar for language quality, like Japan and France.


Translation and disruption #4

In the The Translator and the Machine, Prof. Kenny reviews the outlook for translators and the translation industry. Being more recent, her November 2017 presentation (The translation studies guide to disruption) presumably takes her forecasts further at least with regard to translation studies.

Prof. Dorothy Kenny introducing The translation studies guide to disruption

I am tempted to add my own.
But first a couple of words of caution to myself and my readers.
First, disruptive innovations only become apparent once they begin to recede in the rear-view mirror. Almost by definition, the analysis is post hoc, not predictive.
Second, one of the many conclusions I draw from the many years I have spent reading about technology, product development and disruptive industrial technologies is that a high proportion of prediction as to what might happen turn out to be completely wrong.
One reason for this has nothing to do with technologies per se and everything to do with client psychology.

That said, I can't resist the temptation to make some predictions of my own if for no other reason than to record them here today in writing so that I can look back in a few years' time to see how I fared as a (short-term) futurologist.

Translation and disruption #2

Let me provide some background to explain the 'flash' mentioned in Translation and disruption #1.

Between 2000 and 2008 I gave an annual short course on 'Technical communication in English for multinational product development teams' as part of a seminar on Product Design for final year engineering students at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal. The seminar attract more candidates than could be accommodated. My modest contribution was also well received to the point of attracting senior members of faculty staff.

To ensure that my short course met the students' needs I attended the entire two-week seminar on a number of occasions.
This contributed directly to my awareness of issues confronting engineers and technologists, not least disruptive innovation.
I learned a great deal about case studies and their impact on everyone engaged in developing, producing, delivering and using products and services affected by technological innovations.

I have also closely monitored technological innovation in the translation industry since, I guess, with the dictaphone and elctronic typewriter in the 1970s.

Today, a flurry of developments and the fact that a number of colleagues now associate the terms 'translation' and 'disruptive innovation' suggests we may indeed have reached a tipping point.

Translation and disruption #1

Event: Translation Conference 2017
Venue: University of Portsmouth
Date: Saturday 4 November 2017
Facebook: #2017portxl8

Topic: Translation and disruption: global and local perspectives

Conference blurb: Since Clayton Christensen’s seminal book 'Innovator's Dilemma' showed how a small-scale but innovative digital technology can overthrow large established businesses overnight, the idea of digital disruption has been causing both excitement and concern in businesses worldwide, from financial and legal services to entertainment distribution and the taxi industry. The world of translation is not immune to such upheavals and the notion of digital disruption is useful for understanding changes in translation practice.
Keynote speakers included:
Prof. Dorothy Kenny, Dublin City University
Prof. Kayoko Takeda, Rikkyo University, Japan.

In December 2016, the United Kingdom's Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) published The Translator and the Machine by Prof. Dorothy Kenny in the online version of The Linguist.

I missed the conference, but not the slides posted on Facebook (#2017portxl8)*, a couple of which triggered what I can only call a 'flash', by which I mean a sudden increase in the intensity and urgency of some ideas that had long been simmering in the background.

The slides quickly led me to the The Translator and the Machine which saved me the trouble of writing up the ideas just mentioned as I am neither the first, nor the best placed to explain them. Prof. Kenny has done a far better job than I could have.

* The slides I saw were posted by Sarah Griffin-Mason.

Translation and disruption #3

The significant of the concept of disruptive innovation in the history of technology is easily underestimated.
Here are a handful of quote to encourage readers to explore the topic further.

Disruptive technologies 

... have the potential to truly reshape the world in which we live and work. (source)

... may force companies to alter the way that they approach their business, or risk losing market share or becoming irrelevant. (source)

Wikipedia article on Disruptive innovation
Key quotes:
The term was defined and first analyzed by the American scholar Clayton M. Christensen and his collaborators beginning in 1995, and has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century.
Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders and entrepreneurs, rather than existing market-leading companies.
In his sequel with Michael E. Raynor, The Innovator's Solution, Christensen replaced the term disruptive technology with disruptive innovation because he recognized that few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character; rather, it is the business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact. However, Christensen's evolution from a technological focus to a business-modelling focus is central to understanding the evolution of business at the market or industry level.

16 September 2017

Glossary. Too little research.

Following this exchange on the Facebook FR<>EN Translators forum
Catharine Cellier-Smart shared a link to the group: FR<>EN Translators.
Colleagues working in the field of (higher) education might be interested in this list of terminology with 422 entries, which also includes some abbreviations.
English/French glossary on higher education & research in France.
Beatrice Goutfer: It's not a glossary, but a terminology list, but thanks all the same.
Adrien Lambert: Please, enlighten me, what is the difference between a glossary and a terminology list?
Catharine Cellier-Smart: Glossaries give definitions.
Adrien Lambert: Thank you, Catharine. Now that you have said it, it seems obvious to me, but I must admit that I have not been using this word correctly. I actually think that many people misuse it. In French, people often confuse 'glossaire' with 'lexique'. Interesting.

I posted:

Steve Dyson: We live and learn. Sounds like I have been using the wrong term for my French-English Glossary of Naval Technology for a very long time. While it does contain definitions and links to definitions, most entries comprise terms in French and a range of potential equivalents (in English) for translators and transcreators producing technical journalism on naval defence. As Adrien suggests, I may have been influenced by the looser usage in French. Still, there's no excuse for not having researched this in more detail.

10 July 2017

Night Jasmin and L'arbre de nuit

Following the two posts below (Night Jasmin and L'arbre de nuit), my colleague and reviser Graham Cross wrote:

Just out of interest I've had another play with the manoeuvre on paper and it still doesn't seem right to me. I would have thought that he would need to brace the foresail to be on the larboard tack and turn the rudder to larboard as well (not both to starboard). The foresail would offer little turning moment (its yard being in line with the wind), but the combined effect of the tide on the rudder and the backed spritsail might just bring the head round sufficiently for the foresail to fill, which would then bring the ship to drift downtide at right angles to it, facing the town, where it would effectively be in stays.

Clubhauling on the kedge is then the obvious way to bring the stern into the wind and cause the sails to fill - though the main would probably blanket the foresail so that it hung limp unless the wind was well on the beam, which does not square with it being a northeaster as the ship moved downchannel past Alcantara.

In such a situation everything would depend on the relative strengths of wind and tide (the latter usually having more effect, and the large windage of the high hull more than offsetting and countering the pull from the foresail).

Portuguese Carracks off a rocky coast - National Maritime Museum

It shows what despite the title is actually the same carrack on different points of sail (the wind is coming from many different quarters all at the same time!). Note the human figures are to half scale, just to make the ships look more imposing. I'm pretty sure the scene is a fanciful adaptation of Lisbon. There's also a nice little reference to the caravela latina, with one putting out from the shore. One day soon, I hope to on the caravel Boa Esperanca. The rig is reputedly a pig to sail downwind but a dream into the wind.

I have posted Graham's comments here to give interested translators an indication of the depth of understanding that is sometimes required to understand a text in depth to the point of having the confidence to query the author's version.

02 July 2017

Night jasmine

Here is my translation*.

Night jasmine

by François Bellec
(p128 ==>)


Signal flags and pennants were run up to the mast-tops enjoining all vessels to make ready to sail and heave their anchor cables to short stay. After checking the acknowledgements indicating that all were ready, the board of dignitaries on the flagship countersigned the order to depart. Seconds later, the decks were swarming with sailors. The Master jumped down from the aftercastle then stood above but a couple of paces back from the Captain, dom Afonso de Noronha, and Viceroy who had closed ranks without exchanging a word. From here the Master was within easy hailing distance of his men.

The signal to make ready to sail had stirred the fleet and lifted spirits both on deck and in the rigging as the crew hoisted signals repeating the Captain-General’s orders. Church bells across the city began pealing loudly but were soon drowned out on deck by the bell on the forecastle breastwork. Trumpets, shawms, sackbuts, recorders, cornetts, cymbals and drums helped give a relatively common event for a sailor an air of festive, even historic, splendour. 
After going through the motions of a formal exchange with the Captain-General and Captain, the Master piped for the crew’s attention then cupped his hands and roared:
– Loose the foresail!

On hearing the order repeated on the Master’s mate’s whistle, the foremast topmen unfurled the foresail. Flapping gently against the mast, it hung from the yard with the cross of the Order of Christ spread out wide. Held by her anchor but feeling both the ebbing tide and the north-easterly, the carrack rolled gently from side to side, her foresail filled but backed, her bow to the city and her stern to the Atlantic as if reluctant to leave. François, acutely aware of the challenge to come, particularly for a vessel ten times bigger than anything he had ever known, wondered just how the Master planned to swing her bow to the open sea. The rest of the fleet had been swung around, bow to sea, by their boats aided by the morning flood tide. They were thus ready to set sail just a soon as the flagship had shown the way. Bastião Cordeiro, the flagship’s Master, had st himself a task and a half. Supremely confident, he had obviously thought hard about his daring but pointless manoeuver for the pure pleasure of it and for the sheer bravura of offering Portugal’s Viceroy of India a majestic departure. With the entire fleet ready to sail, every sailor watched the flagship intently as they awaited the audacious manoeuver.
– Heave the anchor to short stay!

Under the forecastle, sailors impatient after the long wait strained at the capstan to the tempo of a shanty and the click of the pawl on the ratchet ready to prevent the drum from unwinding. Chests and arms on the bars, they began to haul on the anchor heavy cable – thick as a man’s thigh – and warp the carrack against the tidal stream. Taut under the strain, the cable dripped wrung water and reeked of tar and sludge. After a few minutes that felt like hours, the Master’s mate, hanging from a foremast shroud, swung out over the Tagus to check that the anchor was straight up and down. With a blast of his whistle and a wave of his arm, he stopped the capstan then went astern to report:
– Anchor apeak!
– Brace the foresail to starboard! Loose the sprit-sail! Weigh anchor!

The men on the capstan bars strained harder than ever to break out the enormous cast-iron anchor, its flukes deep in the riverbed as if hanging on desperately to the Portuguese mainland. Finally, up she came. Dark, shiny and dripping, like the skeleton of some sea monster.
– Anchor up!
– Cat the anchor! Helm hard to starboard!

The order was relayed through the hatchway to the helmsmen under the quarterdeck. Heaving hand-over-hand on the helm tackle, they forced the tiller and rudder hard over to the starboard stops.

Responding gently to the tidal stream, Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo began to make way astern while turning slowly upon herself to larboard under the combined action of the breeze forward – the foresail had filled while the small sprit-sail under the bowsprit backed – and the rudder’s resistance. François explained to his companion that it looked as though the ship would come to a standstill when perpendicular to the wind, with no hope of completing the intended turn given the hull’s size and windage and that she was making no headway.
– So …?
– Well, either they drop an anchor or we run aground.
– Is this the way it’s usually done? It seems very complicated doesn’t it?

Several sailors were busy securing the great bower to the starboard cathead, well aware that if ever it were to shift as the ship rolled with the first swells on leaving the channel, the moving mass of iron could wreak tremendous damage.
– Loose the main-sail!

The brails loosed, the passengers below were startled by a great whooshing and flapping as the unfurling canvas billowed and filled fitfully. The huge red cross of the Order of Christ spread out as if challenging the forces of evil hampering the sail’s smooth filling as it fought the blustering wind and flung rigging and blocks in a crazy dance punctuated by frightening claps.

Suddenly, as if there had been a quick change of scene, the carrack stood magnificent under the intensely blue sky with a scattering of small cumulus presaging fine weather. Like a bold monument to discoverers and the glory of Portugal. Leaning toward the open hatch at his feet, the Master gave an order that nobody heard, but which resulted in a large splash aft and a shudder under foot. A few seconds later, the ship heeled to starboard then began to make way astern, a motion that both surprised and unsteadied many of the onlookers. As the kedge anchor that had just been cast from the stern took hold and its cable took the strain, the carrack lost way astern. The passengers’ view of the world now began to turn as if by enchantment.
– Harden up the foresail! Brace the mainsail to larboard and fill! Helm amidships!

To the tempo of the Master gunner’s strident whistle, the deck hands hauled feverishly on the tackles to brace the mainyard. The main sheets being one of the gunner’s responsibilities, he had one of the four petty officers’ pipes on deck. To the measure of the yeoman’s pipe and aided by several of the ship’s boys, other sailors hauled hand over hand on the sheet tackles to fill the mainsail. The ship began to speak, as pleasant to the sailor’s ears as a babe’s babbling to its mother’s. The forces of evil having, it would appear, yielded, the enormous sail suddenly filled with a clap. And just as suddenly, all went quiet aloft. The moment he felt that the heading was right and the sails in hand, the Master shouted down the hatch:
– Let the kedge anchor go!

Cut clean with an axe, the cable shot through the hawsehole then whipped through the air, leaving the kedge anchor in the Tagus mud. A cork buoy bobbed on its pendant indicating the spot in the ship’s wake where a shipyard barge would later recover the precious item of crown property. The signal flags were hauled down, indicating to the other vessels they should weigh anchor in order of precedence according to their Captain’s rank.
– Hoist the fore topsail!

Impatient after the long wait, the topmen shot up the foremast shrouds while the mainmast topmen stood ready at the foot of theirs. When the carrack had gathered sufficient headway, the Master fine-tuned his pyramid of canvas, adding a couple of Order of Christ crosses to the skyscape. Since Prince Henry the Navigator’s time, the blood-red crosses on raw canvas symbolised the country’s Christian faith and the Order’s moral authority over the discoveries. They also evoked Henry’s critical role in funding expeditions when Portugal was still a poor cousin, which is to say before it became the richest country in the world and foreign courts referred to Manuel I, with bitter envy, as the ‘pepper king’.
– Hoist the maintopsail! Loose the mizzen!

The lateen mizzen-mast sail unfurled then filled with a clap like a musket shot that startled the dignitaries on the aftercastle, including those who were just beginning to feel as though they were getting their sea legs.

The Master crossed himself then handed over to the Tagus Pilot. On a broad reach and under full sail, with the rest of the fleet in her wake, Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo was ready to work through the channel. The Master’s authority, the arcane skill that enabled him to drive the huge carrack where he wanted, to have her respond to his voice like a well-trained horse, had charmed the onlookers one and all. Suddenly, François bellowed “Bravo!” and the crowd responded with applause, laughter and lively conversation. On the quarterdeck, the Viceroy himself wiped the furrows from his brow and applauded elegantly, the Captain following suit with compliments and courtiers accompanying them with applause. Resenting the tributes to the rough Master’s skill, the High Seas Pilot-General went below before the manoeuvre had been completed, a worried scowl on his face.
FR: 1,650 words. EN: 1,573 words.



The original is entitled L’arbre de nuit, literally ‘the tree of night’. This appears to correspond to what is now called night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) or possibly Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac). The version proposed here is simply a working title.

* My thanks to Graham Cross who, in addition to being both an eminent translator and an experienced sailor, has sailed on a modern replica or a carrack
and thus has a good idea of how they handle.

L’arbre de nuit

Voici un extrait (à partir de la page 128) du livre L’arbre de nuit par François Bellec


Le signal de se tenir prêt à l’appareillage général monta en tête du grand mât, et le mât de misaine arbora celui de virer les ancres à pic. Ayant vérifié que les pavillons d’aperçu indiquaient partout que la flotte était prête, le conseil des principaux du navire venait de contresigner collectivement l’ordre de départ. Le pont fut aussitôt envahi par des matelots accourus de toute part. Le maître d’équipage avait dégringolé du toit de la dunette au balcon du gaillard et se tenait juste au-dessous du vice-roi et du capitaine, dom Afonso de Noronha, avancés de deux pas pour se rapprocher, sans se commettre, à portée de voix des forces vives de la caraque.

Le signal de l’appareillage avait partout réveillé la flotte et généré une joyeuse animation sur les ponts et dans les mâtures qui se couvrirent d’oriflammes répétant les signaux du capitaine général. Les bourdons des églises se mirent à sonner au loin à toute volée, bientôt couverts par la cloche de fronteau du gaillard d’avant. Trompettes, hautbois, sacqueboutes, flûtes à bec, cornets à bouquin, cymbales et tambours concouraient à donner à un incident naturel de la vie des gens de mer sa dimension festive d’évènement historique. Après s’être concerté pour la forme avec le capitaine-major et le capitaine, le maître saisit son sifflet, en tira une harmonieuse modulation et hurla brusquement, les mains en porte-voix :
– Largue la misaine !

L’ordre répercuté par le sifflet du contremaître fit s’activer les gabiers du mât de misaine à déferler la voile de l’avant. Elle s’abattit depuis sa vergue, révélant la crois de l’Ordre du Christ, laissée mollement battante appuyée sur le mât. Retenue par son ancre, soumise au reflux de la marée et au vent du nord-est, la caraque oscillait lentement d’un bord et de l’autre, la proue face à Lisbonne, la misaine recevant le vent à contre, tournant le dos à l’Atlantique comme si elle renâcler à partir. François qui jaugeait parfaitement la difficulté savourait à l’avance la manière dont allait se retourner cap pour cap le vaisseau dix fois plus gros que tout ce qu’il avait connu. Tous les autres navires de la flotte, aidés de leurs embarcations, s’étaient embossés face à l’aval en profitant de la marée montante du matin. Ils appareilleraient donc en un instant après la caraque amirale. Bastião Cordeiro, maître d’équipage de l’amirale, ne pouvait être au-dessous de sa tâche. Sur de son art, il avait manifestement mûri une manœuvre inutile et extrêmement osée par pur plaisir et par coquetterie d’offrir au vice-roi des Indes le panache d’un appareillage en majesté. Sur les navires en alerte alentour, tous les hommes d’équipages avaient les yeux fixés sur la spectacle attendu d’une invraisemblable manœuvre.
– Vire à pic !

Sous le gaillard d’avant, le grand cabestan se mit à tourner, mû par la force libérée des hommes énervés par l’attente, entrainés par un chant rythmé par le tambour et par le cliquetis des linguets qui empêchaient la machine de dévirer. Poussant de la poitrine et des bras sur les barres, ils commencèrent à embraquer tour pour tour le câble gros comme une cuisse, déhalant la caraque contre le courant. Écrasé sous l’effort, l’énorme cordage qui reliait la nef à son ancre suait l’eau dont il était imbibé dans une forte odeur de goudron et de vase. Après quelques minutes qui semblèrent des heures, le contremaître, cramponné à un hauban du mât de misaine le corps au-dessus du Tage, constata que le câble de l’ancre était à la verticale. Arrêtant la rotation du cabestan d’un coup de sifflet et d’un grand geste du bras, il se retourna vers l’arrière et rendit compte :
– L’ancre est à pic !
– Brasse la misaine à tribord ! Largue la civadière ! Vire à déraper !

Les hommes s’arc-boutèrent plus dur sur les barres pour arracher l’énorme ancre en fer forgé, enfoncée des deux pattes dans le sol portugais comme si elle refusait de le quitter. Elle apparut enfin noire, luisante et dégoulinante comme un squelette de monstre marin.
– L’ancre est haute !
– À saisir ! La barre toute à droite !

Sur cet ordre relayé à travers l’écoutille, les timoniers postés sous le gaillard amenèrent promptement la manuelle sur sa butée tribord, à grandes brassées de palan. Le long barreau de bois traversait le pont pour agir loin en dessous sur le timon.

Emportée doucement par le courant, Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo commença à dériver en culant, pivotant lentement sur bâbord sous l’effet de couple généré à l’avant par la misaine et la petite civadière établie sous le beaupré, qui recevaient le vent à contre, et à l’arrière par le frein du gouvernail en travers. Quand la caraque fut perpendiculaire au vent, François expliqua à son compagnon que l’énorme surface de sa coque trouvait là une ferme position d’équilibre et que, sans erre, elle n’avait pas le moindre espoir de poursuivre sa giration.
– Alors ?
– Alors, il reste l’alternative de jeter une ancre à nouveau ou d’aller s’échouer à la côte.
– Est-ce une manœuvre habituelle? Elle semble bien compliquée. Non?
On s’activait au bossoir tribord à immobiliser la grande ancre à son poste de mer, à entraver cette masse de fer active, prête à tout démolir autour d’elle comme un taureau de combat dès que la caraque se mettrait à rouler au sortir des passes.
– Largue la grand-voile !

Ses cargues brusquement libérées, la lourde voile de toile épaisse s’abattit au-dessus des têtes dans un grondement chuintant qui affola les passagers dont le front reflua en désordre. L’immense croix rouge de l’Ordre du Christ se déploya comme un défi adressé aux forces du mal, contre lesquelles semblait lutter la voile en battant furieusement au vent, agitant en tous sens manœuvres et poulies dans une sarabande infernale traversée de claquements terrifiants.

Le décor venait de changer d’un coup. La caraque était maintenant magnifique sous le ciel très bleu parsemé de petits cumulus de beau temps. Impressionnante comme un monument élevé à la mémoire des découvreurs et à la gloire du Portugal. Se penchant vers l’écoutille ouverte à ses pieds, le maître lança un ordre que personne n’entendit mais auquel répondirent le bruit d’une chute dans l’eau et une vibration du pont. Quelques instants plus tard, la caraque s’inclina d’un mouvement très doux sur tribord et amorça un léger recul qui surprit et déséquilibra les spectateurs. Elle réagissait souplement au coup de frein brutal causé par l’ancre d’embossage que l’on venait de laisser tomber du tableau arrière, dont le grelin venait de se tendre brusquement en grinçant. Le paysage alentour commença à tourner comme par enchantement.
– Change la misaine ! Brasse la grand-voile à bâbord et fais servir ! La barre au milieu !

Les matelots de pont actionnèrent fébrilement les treuils à brasser pour réorienter la grand-vergue sous les encouragements stridulants du maître canonnier, responsable des grandes écoutes et titulaire pour cette charge d’un des quatre sifflets de la maistrance. D’autres, renforcés par des grumètes, embraquaient main sur main, au sifflet du gardien, les palans des amures de la grand-voile pour lui faire prendre le vent. Le bateau bruissait de gazouillis impérieux comme une volière en chaleur. Les forces du mal ayant sans doute renoncé, l’énorme voile se gonfla brusquement en claquant. La paix et le silence régnèrent tout d’un coup dans la mâture. Dès qu’il jugea que le cap du navire et la situation de la voilure étaient dans sa main, le maître lança par l’écoutille:
– File en grand !

Sa retenue tranchée à la hache, le grelin disparut par le sabord en fouettant l’air, abandonnant l’ancre d’embossage au fond du Tage. Une bouée en liège se dandinant au bout de son orin indiquerait dans le sillage l’emplacement de ce matériel de la couronne à la barge dc l’arsenal qui viendrait le récupérer. Les signaux d’appareillage furent halés bas, ordonnant aux autres navires de la flotte de déraper dans l’ordre de préséance de leurs capitaines.
– À hisser le petit hunier !

L’ordre lâcha les gabiers impatients à l’assaut des haubans du mât de misaine. Ceux du grand hunier se tenaient prêts au pied du grand mât. Quand la caraque prit de l’erre en avant, le maître peaufina tranquillement son échafaudage de toile, ajoutant encore quelques croix du Christ dans le ciel. Depuis le temps où Henri le Navigateur en était le gouverneur, ces croix peintes sur la toile grège symbolisaient la foi chrétienne et affirmaient le poids moral de l’ordre dans la motivation des découvertes. Elles rappelaient aussi sa participation déterminante à leur financement quand le Portugal n’était encore qu’un petit État pauvre. C’était avant qu’il devienne le plus riche du monde et que les cours étrangères surnomment avec une aigre envie Manuel Ier le roi du poivre.
– À hisser le grand hunier! Largue l’artimon!

Le triangle de l’artimon se déploya brusquement et prit le vent en claquant comme un coup de mousquet au-dessus du château arrière, faisant reculer les gens importants qui s’y sentaient déjà marins.

Le maître se signa et confia la caraque aux ordres du pilote de la barre du Tage. Toutes ses voiles dehors et pleines, Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo courait au grand largue prête à manœuvrer rapidement pour franchir les passes, entraînant la flotte derrière elle. L’autorité du maitre, sa science ésotérique capable de faire évoluer le monstrueux navire, de le plier à sa voix comme un cheval dompté avaient médusé les témoins. Brusquement, François cria « Bravo ! » et la foule explosa en applaudissements, en rires et en commentaires animés. Sur la dunette, le vice-roi lui-même, qui avait montré un front soucieux, battit des mains avec élégance, entraînant aussitôt les félicitations du capitaine et les applaudissements courtisans de leur entourage. Ne supportant pas l’hommage inconsidéré rendu à l’habilité d’un rustre, le pilote-major pour la haute mer s’était retiré avant la fin de la manœuvre en affichant un air préoccupé.

1650 mots

A warship by any other name

A warship by any other name

Steve Dyson explores naval terminology across borders*

This paper is intended for journalists, technical communicators and translators writing in English about naval programmes originating in non-English-speaking countries.

Let’s begin with naval prefixes like HMS and USS which are part of a ship’s official name. First, it’s very rare to see HMS (His/Her Majesty’s Ship) in the long form, even in, say, daily newspapers which normally explain all acronyms and abbreviations. The same goes for USS (United States Ship) and USNS (United States Navy Ship) in the US. There are at least two reasons for this: these abbreviations are listed in most general–purpose dictionaries and they are already familiar to most readers. Less common warship abbreviations are often explicated, but not always fully, especially in specialist publications. SSBN, for example, is rarely seen in its formal but distinctly odd-sounding long form ‘ship submersible ballistic nuclear’. The more natural sounding ‘nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine’ is much more common but leaves the ‘SS’ unexplained.

Some navies, including the French and Spanish, do not use prefixes in their official languages. Despite this, some English-language writers apply their own prefixes to the names of ships operated by these navies. In so doing, these writers have created a new category of prefix that is not part of the ship’s official name. While a NATO staffer may have good reasons (involving uniformity, etc.) for using prefixes of one sort or another with the names of all ships, irrespective of their country of origin, this writer’s needs, aims and context differ significantly from those of a translator or journalist who earns his living writing in English to promote the French naval defence industry.

Technical writers and journalists need to know that these designations do not follow the normal ‘rules’ for explaining abbreviations. Among other functions, the unwritten code behind this – and all jargon – may be to help specialists set themselves apart from the uninitiated.

In the generic term ‘amphibious assault ship’ the adjective ‘amphibious’ qualifies the noun string ‘assault ship’, not the head word ‘ship’. This is not at all obvious to non-specialists and is even less so when the term is shortened, as it commonly is, to ‘amphibious ship’. Anyone unfamiliar with the notion is likely to conjure up a comical image of a huge ship trundling up a beach and across the dunes to face the enemy...

Another example is the term ‘power projection ship’, which has emerged as a higher-level generic covering aircraft carriers, helicopter carriers, assault ships and similar vessels and reflecting modern-day naval doctrines. Aside from sounding fresher, new terms carry additional weight when they refer to a new doctrine or other transformational change, to use another term that is now de rigueur. Time will tell whether ‘power projection ship’ takes hold or not, the pacesetters being technical journalists and naval shipbuilders’ marketing departments. Similarly, some shipbuilders’ marketing departments now appear to avoid the word ‘assault’, possibly because of the negative connotations, possibly because they promote themselves as naval defence contractors, with due stress on the word ‘defence’.

A few words about why USN short-form designations. Without going into the details of US Navy designations, it’s worth pointing out that many are designed to overcome difficulties arising from the fact that English is a left-branching language. In English, we say “yellow rope”, whereas the French, who speak a right-branching language, say “corde jaune”. When cataloguing in a right-branching language, alphabetization automatically results in items of the same general type being listed together. In English, quartermasters, cataloguers and others must adopt artificial right-branching structures, often with commas (e.g. “rope, yellow” or “ship, submersible, ballistic, nuclear”), to achieve the same result. Military designations in English adopt this practice, in part or in full, to structure catalogues and lists. Unfortunately, the complex conventions adopted are far from transparent to the uninitiated, let alone non-native speakers and inexperienced translators. Some designations appear to derive from a mix of left- and right-branching rules, but I have yet to master the logic (if there is one).

Things become even more complicated when writing in one language about programmes (and their abbreviations) created in another. Consider the French Navy’s BPC programme (where BPC stands for ‘bâtiment de projection et de commandement’). When writing about this in English, it’s obviously important to mention not only the official designation (BPC), but also what it means. The shipbuilder, DCN, uses ‘BPC force projection and command vessel’. This reads well and has a certain rhythm to it despite the fact that it effectively says the same thing twice (once in the French abbreviation and again in full in English). Jane’s Naval Forces, a publication many look to for guidance in such matters, once called it an ‘amphibious assault, command and power projection ship (BPC)’ which, to me, doesn’t read as well.

French ships, including Le Triomphant-class SSBNs, with names including the French definite article ‘Le’ may, in addition, take the English definite article, although different authors have different opinions on the matter… In either case, writers can help layout teams to avoid ugly line breaks between words that should not be separated by replacing the space after ‘Le’ by a hard space.

On 7 October 2004, Jane’s Navy International (see Jane’s homepage and Jane’s Naval Forces) carried an article entitled “French Navy’s first Mistral assault ship takes to the water”, stating “the French Navy’s amphibious force regeneration plans achieved a major milestone on 6 October 2004 with the launch of FS Mistral, the amphibious assault, command and power projection ship (BPC), from DCN’s shipyard in Brest.”

FS stands for French ship. Jane’s and other English-language publications sometimes use this prefix and others like it, despite the fact that it’s unknown to the Navy in question. While the RN’s HMS Ocean is marked as such, the French Navy’s Mistral certainly doesn’t carry the English-language marking FS and I’ve yet to see a French officer writing in English use it.                                                                                                            
The US magazine SeaWaves uses the abbreviation FS consistently when referring to French vessels.
Note also that Jane’s Navy International, like other publications that write frequently about programmes originally named in other languages, is perfectly comfortable with a French acronym (here BPC) accompanied by a long-form designation or other explanation in English.                                                                              
Yet another detail of presentation that can take a while to get used to.
Other examples include: ENS for Egyptian Naval Ship, FGS for Federal German Ship, HS for Hellenic Ship, etc. For more, see http://www.seawaves.com/prefixes.htm.

So what are the lessons from all this? Although naval terminology might be expected to follow a highly structured nomenclature, there is huge variation. It would take a much longer article to consider all the challenges facing copywriters and translators trying to reconcile their clients’ entrenched habits with the need for more consistent designations and yet another to consider the impact on rhythm and readability. In the meantime, language professionals need to research their clients’ preferences and model their texts accordingly. And if you are commissioning translations, providing glossaries and style guides helps ensure that the end product is accurate and in line with client expectations.

* An earlier version of this paper was published in the Winter 2005 issue of Communicator, the quarterly journal of the UK-based Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators.
USN hull classification symbols (aka hull codes) are explained at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hull_classification_symbol
Steve Dyson writes (in English) and translates (from French) technical journalism and technical and corporate brochures, websites, datasheets and press releases for Europe’s naval defence industry.

In response to this article, Tony Eyre of MISTC wrote:
“It might interest readers to know that, here at Rolls Royce, we use a convention when writing submarine names that is agreed and preferred by the Navy.
Single ships in commission (that is, in active service, even if laid up for repair) are written in upper case: HMS TRAFALGAR.
Ships of the same class are written with initial capitals but without ‘HMS’ : Trafalgar Class (not HMS Trafalgar Class).
Decommissioned ships are written with initial capitals but lose their HMS status: Valiant.”


22 June 2017

Transcreating technical journalism, conference presentation

On Saturday 17 June, I at spoke at the TransLisboa 2017 conference organised by Aptrad. My presentation was entitled
Transcreating technical journalism.

To give this presentation, I prepared a Word file for the first part and a PowerPoint file for the second part. The contents of the Word file appears below.
The files area available on request.

In this talk I will
  • describe a niche market for translation and transcreation,
  • explain how real commitment to a niche market can improve your job satisfaction and income, and
  • show how this niche, like others, depends on fundamental skills.

The skills I refer to include:
  • understanding what your client wants
  • knowledge of the source language and culture
  • technical knowledge of the client’s industry and technologies
  • writing skills and flexibility in the target language.
The niche I will be discussing involves the transcreation into English of technical journalism on the French naval and maritime sectors.
For a definition of transcreation, see The truth about transcreation by Michael Farrell.

First, a word to the younger translators in the room

You will, I trust, have learned that our industry is extremely fragmented, by which I mean that different translators often specialise in quite different language services.
This means that what some translators say about their services may directly contradict what others say about theirs or even things that your teachers or mentors have taught you.
Do not let these contradictions worry you. They are just part of our fragmented industry.


Transcreation of technical journalism can be viewed as a three-step process:
  1. First, translate the original.
  2. Then, a day or two later, review and, where necessary, rewrite the document with the same sort of rigour and severity as a copy editor (o editor ou chefe de redacção) might — specifically a copy editor of the type of publication you have chosen to emulate. In my case, Jane’s Navy International.
  3. Review again to double-check that you have fully taken into account the target readership’s information needs.

Negotiating a mandate

  1. Define the target readership and their information needs. Also identify the readership’s other sources of information in the target language on the topic of interest. One of these sources may be a good candidate for emulation.
  2. Reconcile and negotiate your client’s goals and your own aims. For example, if you are aiming to establish a reputation as a transcreator and the client wants a less ambitious translation, you may have to ask yourself if this client is for you.
  3. Should the client express interest in the details of your process — which is extremely rare in my experience — produce a test document for discussion then explain your method and the devices you use. The devices may include:
  • geographical information omitted or added
  • other content omitted or added
  • passages reorganised
  • passages where the focus has been changed or shifted.
  1. Whether talking to yourself as you transcreate, holding imaginary conversations with a curious client or responding to actual client queries, you will — or should — find yourself constantly referring to the end readers’ needs, which is to say the needs of your client’s customers.

Best practice

In my opinion, best practice in this sort of work also calls for:
  • a Microsoft Word stylesheet (previously called a ‘template’), typically in *.dotm file format, to ensure consistent formatting
  • a Style Guide* covering all relevant points of style, including preferred spellings, punctuation, use of acronyms and abbreviations, use of italics, etc., etc.
  • instructions for graphics layout teams, webmasters and anyone else contributing to the final layout.

My mandate

My client, a small team of journalists who call themselves Mer et Marine, produces a daily French-language newsletter called Toute l’actualité maritime, and a monthly English-language newsletter called Maritime News based primarily on articles that previously appeared in the French version.
My mandate for Maritime News is to transcreate, from French into English for English-speaking readers based primarily in north-western Europe (i.e. UK, Germany, Scandinavia). Most of these readers have technical qualifications and a professional interest in naval and maritime engineering and allied areas. The prime aim of the English version is to promote French technologies and innovations. The second aim is to promote the companies concerned and their products. The order of these priorities for the English version is the reverse of that for the French version.
To support this mandate:
  • I drafted a definition of the target readership
  • proposed a Word stylesheet
  • drafted and regularly update a Style Guide and instructions for the layout team
  • discussed all of the above with the client.
For the record, I should explain that many of the instructions for the layout team have yet to be adopted because the team is reusing an html template originally developed solely for the French version which cannot take into account some of my suggestions. One example is standfirsts containing full sentences. This last point is rather frustrating.
Publication to emulate: Jane’s Navy International.

What are the benefits of all this?

  • higher job satisfaction
  • higher client esteem
  • possibly higher income (… rates need to be high to very high, but for some people — including me — this type of work can take a long time to produce)
  • work with your head rather than boring and sometimes stressful translation tools.

Examples from Translating Technical Journalism:

The most important fundamental skill

Earlier on, I mentioned the skills required for professional transcreation. They are:
  1. what your client wants
  2. source language and culture
  3. technical knowledge
  4. target-language writing skills.

Which do you think is the most critical and the most difficult to find when building a team? Also the skill that I personally find — despite my years — needs the most work?

Anyone like to suggest an answer?

Well, in my experience, it’s mother-tongue writing skills.
While proud of my work, I often feel that my texts should flow better and be more concise. In a word, they should be more snappy. Why? Because, in English, it is how well an article flows that determines how much is read and retained which, in turn, determines the article’s impact on the target readership. And that, of course, is precisely what your client wants. Sure my articles flow, at least some of the time. But I’d be happier still if they not only flowed, but sang.

A closer look at what ‘technical’ means

Given, first, that most of you are Portuguese mother tongue speakers: second, that I only work from French to English; and third, that few of you will benefit from detailed examples of technical French, allow me to conduct an experiment.
I want to do this because, despite the challenges, technical detail is fundamental not only to my topic, but also to my approach.
So, let me show some slides adapted from a presentation that I gave here in November 2010 presenting examples in English from Jane’s publications. I leave you to imagine what might be needed in order to produce a high-quality into-Portuguese transcreation of each.

Open Transcreating TJ_Lx_June2017_v2.ppt.

13 June 2017

Multiple qualifiers

Despite the fact that long strings of qualifiers are frowned upon by style guides, they are widely used, especially in technical writing and journalism for the simple reason that they offer a handy solution to a frequent problem, namely the clear, extended, multi-dimensional qualification of technical terms.

The challenges raised by how to order qualifiers probably explains why OSASCOMP: Applied analysis is by far the most frequently consulted post on this blog.

Many who have blogged, posted and tweeted on this, including me (see OSASCOMP in the news and OSASCOMP in the news), have failed to stress sufficiently that OSASCOMP only applies to unpunctuated strings of adjectives.

In Hysteria over hyphens, Johnson points out:
English is a Germanic language that allows for many different kinds of compounds, including those made from two adjectives (“blue-green”), two nouns (“kitchen sink”), adjective-noun (“darkroom”), noun-adjective (“slate-blue”) and so on. But which ones should be written separately, which hyphenated and which closed up?
To this I would add "And in what order should they be arranged where multiple qualifiers with different grammatical categories occur in combination?"

Johnson adds (my bold):
A bestselling guide to punctuation was subtitled “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”. Punctuation pros sniggered. The Economist, like most other publications, would require a hyphen (“Zero-Tolerance”) here.
This hyphen is starkly different from the one in “arch-rival”. It has a critical grammatical function, not just a stylistic one. It tells the readers that several words are to be taken together as a single modifier. You can write “we have zero tolerance for bad punctuation,” but when “zero tolerance” is used to modify a noun, it acts a bit like an adjective. It does not become an adjective, as many people think. But taken together, as a modifier, “zero-tolerance” functions like a single word; hence the hyphen.
Reading means parsing grammar on the fly, a tricky task requiring concentration. Everything that helps with that does a favour to the reader. Strings of words with no punctuation can often be parsed in several ways. The hyphen eliminates one possibility. This not only speeds up comprehension, but in some (rare) cases, is crucial for avoiding ambiguity.
I have written repeatedly on OSASCOMP and multiple qualifiers, and will no doubt come back to the topic again and again, given that many challenges remain. Still, Hysteria over hyphens definitely takes us a few steps forward.

A helping hand from Johnson

Following the publication of Hysteria over hyphens by the incomparable Johnson, I posted this comment:
As a French-to-English translator freelancing for the French naval defence industry, I have long been bothered by the ambiguity of terms using "amphibious assault" as a qualifier. For some, "amphibious assault ship" presumably conjures up the comical image of a ship moving up a beach and across the dunes ... For the first time, Johnson has made clear the reason for the ambiguity and the solution. So, despite the fact that I have never seen "amphibious-assault" as a hyphenated qualifier in any naval document that has come my way, I have resolved, from today, to adopt it. Many thanks.
I then updated my translation archives by replacing the qualifier "amphibious assault" by "amphibious-assault" to help me remember today's resolution.

While the point of punctuation is relatively minor, I allowed myself to be misled by naval journalists and writers that I usually consider worthy of emulation (cf. Translation by emulation, take #1). It took me decades to discover my mistake, but at least I found it. Thank you, once again, Johnson!

06 April 2017

Transcreation, examples from an online newsletter, #5

French:  Triton : Le nouveau navire du DRASSM
English: H2X delivers archaeological research boat

The original focuses on the organisation (DRASSM), its activities and its vessels.
The English focuses on the organisation's activities and the types of vessels it operates while highlighting the boatbuilder's openness to the client's highly specialised needs.

Transcreation: Different readership, different approach.

I will be discussing how and why I do all this at the following conference in Lisbon on 17 June.

Associação Profissional e Universidade, juntas pela tradução!
A APTRAD vai organizar em parceria com a FCSH/NOVA de Lisboa (obrigada David William Hardisty) um evento de tradução para os seus associados, alunos de tradução e não só!. Será um evento, de partilha de experiências e conhecimentos, de profissionais para profissionais (e alunos), limitado a um número máximo de participantes.
O que significa isto?
Significa que os oradores deste evento serão os associados da Aptrad, os professores, os alunos e todos os profissionais que estejam disponíveis para fazer parte do painel de oradores do evento.
Querem participar? O desafio está lançado. Inscrevam-se como oradores enviando para o email: formacao@aptrad.pt a vossa proposta (título e pequena descrição da sessão a apresentar).
Local: Lisboa FCSH/NOVA
Data: 17 Junho 2017 das 09.00 às 17.00
Tema: "Como reforçar a importância do tradutor humano na indústria da tradução?"
Vamos fazer deste um evento inesquecível!

M&M Maritime News, April issue

The April issue of Mer et Marine's monthly Maritime News is now online. Subscribers received the following email version.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 edition

Lacroix: In the confidential world of decoys

They are often considered the final bastion against missiles. Since the appearance of this kind of weapon in naval combat nearly 50 years ago, decoys have evolved in keeping pace with the ever-increasing sophistication of missile technology by deploying new tactics to...

DCNS tests augmented reality

French naval shipbuilder DCNS is testing the benefits of augmented reality for warship design, construction and maintenance.Augmented reality offers a real-time view of the user’s surroundings enhanced with computer-generated information. The technology has now advanced...

Gowind, from concept to reality

The first DCNS-designed and -built Gowind 2500 corvette recently completed its first sea trials, a big step towards ‘sea-proven’ status.On Friday 17 March, the first Gowind 2500 corvette designed by French naval shipbuilder DCNS and built at the group’s Lorient yard...

Brittany Ferries: now with French scrubbers

To ensure compliance with the latest standards, six Brittany Ferries’ vessels have been fitted with scrubbers, three of them designed and produced in France.Sulphur oxides (SOx) in a ship’s exhaust gases can be removed by cleaning systems commonly referred to as...

Sirius, a multi-purpose service vessel for Belgium

French shipbuilder Socarenam has delivered a multi-role service vessel to Belgian group DAB Vloot for a range of harbour and coastal duties.Buoy laying, hydrographic surveys, pilot transfers, assistance to vessels in distress, firefighting and more. The Sirius is a truly...

H2X delivers archaeological research boat

The Triton is a special-purpose boat built by H2X for a French organisation specialising in underwater archaeology.In December 2016, DRASSM* took delivery of the Triton, its latest archaeological research vessel. In addition to its overall responsibility for France’s...
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Please note that the article on Etienne Lacroix was produced by the company.

Please note also that I have informed the CMF that their message "Towards the Blue Growth" desperately needs to be first withdrawn, then rewritten by an English-speaking specialist.
A reasonable retranslation back into French might read:
Vers l'excroissance bleue.

The other articles were translated and adapted, or transcreated, by me.
Comments and feedback welcome.

Translation and disruption #5

If the translation industry is indeed on the brink of disruptive innovation some of the things that may happen could include: change will ...