Volume 4, No. 1 
January 2000

Jan Oldenburg




Happy 2000!
by Gabe Bokor
Index 1997-2000
  Translator Profiles
Love, Languages, and Translation
by Peter Griffin
  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
When Trust Is Broken
ASTM Standard for Language Translation
by Steve Lank
Translating the Web: Into the Future
by Jan Oldenburg
Science or Translation?
by Maria Karra
  Translators in the Media
Translators and the Media—Part 1
Translators and the Media—Part 2
  Business & Finance
Translating a Brazilian Balance Sheet
by Danilo Nogueira
  Translating Development
Neologisms in International Development
by Alexandra Russell-Bitting
The Arabic Language and Folk Literature
by Srpko Lestaric
  Science & Technology
A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature XVIII
by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph.D.
  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
  Translators’ Tools
WordFisher for MS Word
by Tibor Környei
Translators’ Emporium
Translators’ Events
Letters to the Editor
Call for Papers
Translation Journal
The Profession

Translating the Web:

into the Future

by Jan Oldenburg

raditionally, translating is very much a document-based process where, more often than not, both source and target texts are provided in print. Over the past decades exciting new media have emerged that will have their influence on the way translators approach their job. Multimedia presentations, e.g. on CDs, the Internet and Intranets all require an adequate and modern way of approaching their translation.

Whereas traditional documents are, so to speak, stand-alone, the new media is characterized by the links to other, often related, documents it contains.
Whereas traditional documents are, so to speak, stand-alone, the new media is characterized by the links to other, often related, documents it contains. This requires strict terminology integrity control and makes creative translation an unrealistic enterprise. Yet, users of new media differ only slightly from the traditional reader, the most striking difference being the time viewers are willing to spend on contemplating a boring text.

The first mandate for the translator then, is somewhat ambiguous: strict control of terminology integrity, yet avoiding boring repetitive documents. It is not impossible to perform this miracle, but a thorough comprehension of both the contents and the way new media are constructed, is imperative.

In many cases the best way to approach the translation of modern media is to pretend constructing a copy of it in the target language. To do this in a proper way, any translation and terminology integrity control would start from and make use of a site-map. As this has been the origin of any site document, basic terminology and content will be found here, as well as an indication of the order in which the site documents will have to be translated. As documents will be linked to one another, working top-down through the side map will provide as little loss in terminology integrity as possible.

Even this top-down method, however, is no guaranty for a readable and effective site in the target language. Commercial sites will often offer a variety of extra's, like the possibility of ordering by email, which are largely based on databases. Whereas the site is available to the public, the database is not, even though it may be used on the site. The content of these databases will often provide information such as product names etc, set in a monolingual environment. That is to say, the language used in the database depends totally on the corporate language and the data will be linked to other applications used within the company. Translation of the data, by consequence, is not a viable option, as any change in data generated from within the company will flaw the translated site. An alternative would be to leave all data coming from the database as it is, that is: in the source language. But this would greatly affect readability and lead to a significant loss in effectiveness. The only traditional way to go around the problem is to "double up" and provide data in both source and target language. Whereas, theoretically and technically speaking, it would be efficient to double up only on those items that provide links to other documents, in practice the translator will still encounter problems.

Translated sites will generally generate response in the target language, even when forms are being used to process responses. Failing to consider this aspect while translating a commercial Web site may easily lead to a loss of effectiveness of the site. Orders might be lost due to faulty processing of data, business opportunities lost due to simple misinterpretation of responses. Moreover, it will demand human effort to enter received information into the corporate databases, as they will still be monolingual in spite of the site being translated. Again, the "double up" method may bring some relieve to the problem but does provide the viewer with an undesirable spaghetti translation, possibly resulting in boredom and loss of interest.

In search of a solution, translators may find themselves constructing terminology bases to connect to the database generating the information used on the site, as this is the most effective way to a secure terminology integrity control. The ideal translation of a maintainable Web site would start with the incorporation of a terminology base within the corporate environment. Realization of this solution demands untraditional skills from the translator. Dictionaries no longer serve solely as reference, building them has become part of the job. Besides this lexicographer's skill, the translator of new media will also have at least intermediate programmer's skills and be able to handle databases.

In conclusion, translators no longer sell a service like they did in the past. In the era of electronic commerce, translations will be full-fledged products, causing the translation business to evolve into a knowledge industry offering complete linguistic solutions.