The Linguist

The Linguist 52,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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TRANSLATORS' WEB On better terms Tim Cooper looks at the challenge of translating specialist concepts and offers advice on using an invaluable EU database, available freely in 24 languages erminology is not primarily about terms. It is fundamentally about concepts (and, of course, the terms used to denote those concepts). As translators, we have to understand the meaning behind the source text and render that meaning in another language. Most of the texts we translate are a mixture of language for general purposes (LGP) and language for special purposes (LSP), which present different challenges. To translate LGP requires a thorough understanding of the source language, the subject matter, and the purpose of the original document and of the translation, and the ability to write well in the target language. Information that was implicit in the source text may need to be made explicit in the translation, and vice versa. Translating LSP requires complementary skills. When reading the source text, the translator identifies terms (ie, words or phrases with a precise meaning in the relevant technical field); identifies the concepts those terms denote; and renders those concepts in the target language by using the equivalent terms. There is generally less variation in the vocabulary available to the translator, as the correct technical term should be used. However, considerations of register still apply – different terms may be used in texts for specialists or for a broader readership (eg, 'myocardial infarction' vs. 'heart attack') – and a noun may be replaced by a pronoun or even a verb. Therefore, a technical term appearing in a source sentence may not appear in the translation and vice versa. T 24 The Linguist Translation memory (TM) software helps translators work quickly and efficiently, by comparing every new sentence to be translated with all previously translated sentences. This saves time, as you do not have to re-translate what has already been translated, and enhances consistency. Sentence (or segment) matching is particularly useful for LGP, and concordance searching for LSP. A concordance search will show you every instance of the search string in the context of the original sentence, alongside the translation into your target language, indicating the source document. When working in a large organisation, such as the European Commission, you can benefit not only from your own previous translations, but also from those of your fellow translators (both in-house and freelance). You can see that a particular translator rendered a particular term in a particular way in a particular document, but the TM won't tell you why. If you find alternative translations of a technical term, which one should you choose? Did the translator research the term thoroughly and come up with the right solution, or might the translated term be wrong because the translator lacked the time, knowledge or search skills to find the right term? This is where a terminology database, such as the EU's InterActive Terminology for Europe (IATE;, comes in. Ideally, it should contain one – and only one – entry for every relevant concept. Unfortunately, IATE, which is available freely to the general public, contains many duplicate entries, but we are working on consolidating them. AUGUST/SEPTEMBER Unless a term is self-explanatory, the concept it denotes should be defined in at least one language, which should be the anchor language for the entire entry. In IATE, the anchor language is usually English (and sometimes French) for general concepts; the language of the country concerned for country-specific concepts; and Latin for species of animals and plants, which are identified by their Latin names. Unfortunately, the anchor language is not identified as such in the public version of IATE. If definitions are added in other languages, they must define the same concept, and all terms for that entry, in all languages, must denote that concept. If a terminologist or translator cannot find or write a suitable definition in the time available, a snippet of text – usually a sentence but sometimes several paragraphs – taken from a reliable published source, can be sufficient to identify the concept. For instance, a French text about nuclear power might explain that the cœur is the core of the reactor, whereas a medical text might explain that the cœur is the heart.

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