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Translation Guide and Tips

Automatic Translation Guide

For a thorough understanding of the uses, benefits, and limitations of automatic translation (or "machine translation"), download the pdf MT_BPG.pdf (Implementing Machine Translation: Best Practices Guide).

This guide by Mike Dillinger, PhD, and Arle Lommel offers a thorough examination of machine translation - how it is implemented, the benefits for businesses and governments, how to evaluate a system, and how to establish an effective translation workflow.

Translation Tips: How to Get the Best Translations

Computer translation has improved tremendously in recent years, and LEC provides the highest quality desktop translation available anywhere. Still, when it comes to understanding language, computers lack many skills that people use automatically. Computers do not know about the social context in which language is used and cannot take that into account. They cannot consider complexities of subject matter or emotional nuances that affect the meaning of a sentence. Computers also stumble over misspellings, ideas left inexplicit because the writer knows that readers will assume them, and words used in a “poetic” rather than literal sense.

For all these reasons, a little extra care when writing text for translation, as illustrated in the tips below and the Best Practices Guide, can make a tremendous difference in the accuracy of your results.

Use LEC Product Features

In our Translate and Power Translator Product lines, and the Translate DotNet subscription service, LEC gives users a simple tool for assessing and improving translation accuracy. The “Translate Back” feature in our LogoTrans application translates the target (translated) text back into the source language. By comparing the original and "translated back" text, you can determine problem words and phrases and adjust the source text to get more accurate translation.

Translate Pro, and Power Translator 11 Pro and Euro also provide the ability to create user dictionaries, which can improve accuracy even more. For example, user dictionaries can be used to assign a specific meaning to a word which has multiple definitions.

Write Explicitly

Do not omit important words (for example relative clause pronouns such as that, which, who, and whom) or phrases. Avoid unclear references such as pronouns that refer to things which are not clearly identified in the sentence.

Like this: I know that the fax machine worked yesterday.
Not Like This: I know the fax worked yesterday.

Write Clearly and Simply

Aiming for simple, direct language that is easily understood will lead to better translations than aiming for colorful language or for a unique style. Avoid using slang, unusual expressions, or infrequently encountered words which may not be included in Translate’s dictionaries. Avoid words or phrases that can have more than one meaning.

Like this: Both people felt nervous after the brief silence.
Not Like This: A pregnant pause ushered in a tense hiatus in the conversation.

Be Concise

Brief sentences translate better. As a rule of thumb, limit sentences to between 15 and 20 words. Break long and complex sentences into shorter and simpler sentences. Revise awkward sentences to make them clearer and more concise.

Like this: When confronted with a sentence that has many long clauses, divide it into two or more sentences. Each sentence should be no longer than 20 words. Make sure that the sentence contains all of the elements that correct grammar requires.

Not Like This: When confronted with a sentence that has many long clauses, be sure that you divide it into two or more sentences, each of which should be no longer than 20 words, but whatever you do, make sure that the sentence contains all the elements which are required by correct grammar.

Use Proper Grammar and Spelling

Complete sentences translate much better than single words or short phrases. Well-organized and well-constructed sentences translate much better than poorly structured ones.
Make sure to use proper spelling. Although Translate’s dictionaries include common misspellings and alternate spellings for words, Translate can not interpret many misspelled words.

Because Translate uses spacing and punctuation marks to find the beginning and end of sentences, be sure to use spacing and punctuation properly. For example, use question marks for questions and periods at the end of declarative sentences.

Additional Tips

Here are some more tips to help you generate more accurate results with LEC Translate.

1. Write your documents in standard, formal language

Aim for clear, formal writing, which is easiest for your reader to understand -- the kind of writing you would use in a business letter. Informal language -- the way you would speak in a conversation -- does not follow grammatical rules as closely and does not result in the best translations.

2. Avoid figures of speech

Figures of speech, also called idioms or metaphorical expressions, frequently do not translate well. When translated literally, the words in a different language may have a completely different meaning from what you intend.

Like this: His presentation was a big success.
Not Like This: He hit a home run with his presentation.

3. Use a pronoun before each verb

In many languages, the form of a verb depends upon the gender and number of the pronoun that precedes it.

Like this: I saw that movie, but I did not like it.
Not Like This: I saw that movie but did not like it.

4. Do not split compound verbs, such as ‘pick up’ and ‘look up’

Like this: I will have to look up the time of our appointment.
Not Like This: I have to look the time of our appointment up.

5. Clearly indicate the beginning and end of each sentence

A hard return is interpreted as the end of the sentence, so remove any return characters from the middle of sentences. (Email messages frequently have a return character at the end of each line.)

Make headings explicit, for example by capitalizing the first letter of each word or by ending the heading with a period, return character, or blank line. If the document contains numbered or bulleted lists, consider making each one into a complete sentence, especially if they do not translate well.

How to write for good machine translation quality

This article (write_for_mt.pdf) explains how writing text in a controlled language results in better machine translations. The article provides 10 simple rules for writing.