2009-01-13

It's a noun, not an adjective...

I had been teaching translation a few years back, but these days it's mostly interpreting. (I'm an interpreter, after all...) There has however been a kind of translation course that I always wanted to teach, but never had a chance to, until now: software localisation, "l10n".

L10n is very different from regular translation courses because what students translate is not just meant for their teacher to see and then throw away after he decided on a grade, here the translation actually gets used by people - and students learn how to actually apply (a term very popular and mostly equally meaningless at foreign language departments in Taiwan) the language they learned.

That I have this course now is more an accident, and currently I'm also not quite happy with it. The better students ("good" and "bad" are relative terms, right?) have long done their share this semester, the not-so-interested students are through too and what I am left with the last few days are those students who did not care at all and now suddenly woke up and noticed they might need to do something if they want to pass the semester.

I have not been teaching "normal" translation courses recently, so I also did not teach these students - but I assume that they must have had some translation classes since they are fourth year now. This is something I need to rely on, because in this course there are plenty of other things to learn, so there is no time for translation basics.

I doubt that you ever had to do with "Pootle". It is a server software to create a l10n site. It is technically not always easy to handle and took me a long time to get it running in an ISPConfig user account, but on the language front it is very nice indeed: You can permit all kinds of actions to translators, for example just let them make suggestions (what I do now), so a senior translator or editor (or teacher) can pick the best one - and still evaluate all others.

In this mode, there may be a few suggestions lined up under a source language term/phrase. Everyone can see previous suggestions, so it is not necessary (especially if your teacher told you so) to write again what someone else wrote already. But still I get four or more times the same "translation" suggested...

Pootle comes with a glossary and will itself make suggestions based on that in a separate field, and if that suggestions is suitable you can copy it with just one click. You can even create translation memory, so work gets easier the longer you use Pootle to do translations. Unfortunately, that help seems now misunderstood as the one and only correct translation. The glossary for example will suggest a term and its translation if the term is part of a word/phrase in the source language field.

So I have "credits" (we are translating a few open source games now), not the monetary kind, I speak of mentioning the people who contributed. The word "edit" is contained in "credits", so the glossary (filled mostly with computer-related terms) suggests "edit 編輯". And 4.5 out of seven students write right that as suggestion. (The half one wrote 編輯者) The four who wrote 編輯 did so consecutively one after the other...

Or let's take "difficulty". (still doing games) The suggestions: four 困難, one 困難的, one 困境 and one even "Difficulty". Gettext PO files allow translator comments and Pootle supports this feature, so I used it for a hint: "This is a noun, not an adjective." Nobody noticed.

And for such gems I am supposed (at least those students expect it) to issue a score. Don't ask me what I get if there are longer or multiple sentences, not just single words...

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