January 31, 2012

A Few Guidelines on Writing Translation Friendly Articles

The guidelines for writing readable English are valid and applicable to writing translation friendly articles. Using the active form of the verbs, preferring concrete rather than abstract terms, avoiding pompous discourse and using as few words as possible are a few of the advices that we heard from our writing teachers or editors in our work places. Hence, even before thinking of making our write-ups translation friendly, we must make sure that our writings adhere to the time-tested principles taught to us by our English teachers.

A good number of language translators have sprung up to help us read articles that were written in a foreign language. Google Translator appears to be one of the best well-known free translation services available in the Internet. Unfortunately, most of these translators at best can only provide dismal results. This is because the words are simply translated verbatim using a two-language dictionary and arranged in the same manner as in the original. This in most cases does not work. Results lack cohesion, are often confusing, and difficult to comprehend. And yet, people around the world had to make do with what these translators can deliver if they need the information urgently.

Writers may be able to help mitigate the translation problem by firstly writing in a direct and simple way and by avoiding passages that make automatic translation fail. Software cannot yet approximate the power of the human mind in translating from one language to another. But if we craft our written works in such a way as to make automatic translation more effective, then we could have contributed much to a greater understanding among the world's population. Here then are a few guidelines that may prove useful.

When writing articles that may later be translated, be explicit in writing your sentences. Avoid omitting understood words in English. One of the most omitted words in English is the preposition that. Editors may sometimes strike this word out in your write-up in the interest of economy of words and for the reason that the meaning of the sentence remains the same even if that word is omitted. However, retaining this word can make the translated version clearer and more readable.

Idiomatic expressions are a bane for software translators. Only a human mind can correctly interpret the meaning of these words. As computers are not yet able to experience living in a particular culture, they are unable to interpret idioms correctly and insert the corresponding correct translation in the target language. It is true that our write-up may lose the flavor and glamor of our articles if we avoid using idioms. However, we have to refrain from using them if our writings are to reach a wider audience.

As much as possible, writers need to use standard English in writing articles that are destined to be published in the Internet. Our slang terms and colloquialisms may not have acceptable equivalents in other languages. Hence, these words should not find their way in the articles that we are writing. Using a thesaurus could hopefully help us find a more standard version that can be readily translated in the target languages.

If you're writing in another language, your language may have regional dialects that use different terms for the same meaning. Avoid using dialect terms and stick to the form used in the standard national language. Dialect terms may not be present in the dictionaries used by translators and will thus remain as is in the translated version.

Use complicated sentence structures sparingly. The thought of the sentence could easily get lost when long winding and complicated sentences are translated to a language that may have a different sentence structure. This may make your writing a little terse so you may have to compensate on other means of making your write-up interesting. What you want to accomplish is the preservation of the thought or idea behind the sentence when translated by a machine. Assume that your work will be translated by an idiot with an immense vocabulary of words in the source and target languages.

The Internet has opened up an effective medium by which we could communicate our thoughts and ideas to a world-wide audience. Unfortunately, our languages are vastly different and it is regrettable that a large number of our audience are not able to read our write-ups simply because they don't understand the language that we have chosen to write on. Let us help our foreign readers more fully understand our written works by making our articles easier to be translated in other languages.

Read my other article on writing faster and controlling the length of your web article with phrase outlining at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/write-faster-and-control-length-of-your.html.

Read my other article on a generalized article writing template for something that you want to write about at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/03/generalized-article-writing-template.html.