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FRE491( 05 May 2001): Independent Study

Using the World Wide Web as a Resource for Translation
Aurélie Névéol

Structure of the project:

2.Test of an Online Translation Software Package
3.Study of a few texts
4.Example of a vocabulary search on the web
5.Uses of the World Wide Web for Translation
5.1 Advantages of the World Wide Web compared to a classical paper dictionary
5.2 Other uses of the World Wide Web


The World Wide Web gives access to a huge amount of information and documents written in various languages. English and French are among the most widely represented languages, either independently in monolingual sites, or together in bilingual sites. The purpose of this project is a/ to show how translators can use this situation to find idiomatic and accurate translations of words or expressions in a general context as well as in specific uses and b/ to show how the www provides translations that are beyond the scope of dictionaries or other traditional translation tools. Examples will be taken from two representative fields, and through the translation of several texts from English to French and from French to English I will describe the possibilities and limits of the help provided by the web. The study will include the use of bilingual sites, monolingual sites in related topics, and on-line translation tools. This web format report, using hypertextual links will enhance the illustration of each point. The icon followed by a date indicates when the page referred to was visited, as some links may become obsolete.

2.Test of an Online Translation Software Package

A study of a BabelFish translation. (Italicized words and expressions are examples illustrating the comments bellow the text on Babelfish's automatic translation)
Gloups, je suis un poisson

3.Study of a few texts

To determine how to use the world wide web in translation, I started by translating some texts related to a general field, cinema and to a more technical field, wine growing.

Et là bas quelle heure est-il?

La vie revée d'Elodie

Wine growing

Wine and Health

The practical translation of these texts pointed out what needs translation created, and how the World Wide Web responded to them. Each word or expression in the texts that has been commented on appears in bold letters both in the text and in its translation.

4. Example of a vocabulary search on the web

Here is a practical example showing how a vocabulary search can be conducted using the web. One of the problems I encountered in Et là bas quelle heure est-il? was to translate the sentence "Il est seul, face à une mort dont on porte le deuil", and more specifically finding an equivalent for the French expression "porter le deuil".

BabelFish translation for "porter le deuil": "to carry mourning".

Google search : "porter le deuil mourning"
(I already knew that "mourning" is the English term for "deuil"; entering both terms almost ensures to find bilingual sites on the topic)

http://www.dnd.ca/admfincs/subjects/qr_o/vol1/ch017_e.asp( 30 Jul. 2001) is an official site of the government of Canada. The translation they offer is: "to wear mourning"

http://www.iq.ca/lys/parulines.html( 30 Jul. 2001) is a French Canadian site about birds. However, they comment that "En anglais, le mot "mourning" peut vouloir dire: porter le deuil et aussi: se plaindre, se lamenter."

We are now left with two possible translations for "porter le deuil": "mourning" and "to wear mourning". Additionnal searches will give us clues on the actual use of each expression.

Google search : "to wear mourning"

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cfu/liki2/liki233.htm( 30 Jul. 2001) is a web site describing the mourning rites in ancient China. It is a highly formal text translates from Chinese.

http://www.quilthistory.com/VMC.htm( 30 Jul. 2001) describes Victorian mourning customs (quoted from Collier's Cyclopedia 1901) in a very formal way.

http://www.costumegallery.com/LHJ/June_1895/Mourning/Materials.htm( 30 Jul. 2001) is another historical text about formal mourning habits.

Google search : "porter le deuil"

http://www.sudouest.com/papon/retro/971217/( 30 Jul. 2001) is a newspaper article about a war criminal's trial.

http://www.miditext.com/Textes/35752.htm( 30 Jul. 2001) gives the lyrics of a song by Liane Foly, a French artist.

http://www.secourspopulaire.asso.fr/Convergence/0104/enterrement.html( 30 Jul. 2001) is the site of a French charity association.

An altavista search gives similar results. We can observe that "to wear mourning" is used in English exclusively in formal and historical contexts, whereas it is a lot more common in French. In fact it occurs in everyday documents such as songs and newspaper articles, as the term "mourning" does in English. Therefore, we can conclude that "mourning" is a translation for "porter le deuil" in informal and everyday situations, while "to wear mourning" is used in more formal contexts.

This search took about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

The choice of the expression to use in the translation depends on the specific meaning implied by the context, and on the syntax of the sentence as well. In fact, "mourning" is a gerundive whereas "to wear mourning" is a verbal expression. In our case, the actual expression used is "porter le deuil de quelquechose" (specifically, "porter le deuil d'une mort") and the English equivalent for this is the verbal form "to mourn something". Therefore, we can translate "Il est seul, face à une mort dont on porte le deuil" by: " He is alone, faced with a death that is already mourned".

5. Uses of the World Wide Web for Translation

5.1 Advantages of the World Wide Web compared to a classical paper dictionary

Extensive glossaries and lexicons, even in specific areas

One of the main problems that arises during translation is to choose vocabulary in the most accurate way possible. There are quite a few on-line dictionaries to help with this task. "Eurodicautom", provided by the European Union is quite complete, and highly reliable as it is based on translations used in official European documents. However, one has to be careful while using them, as some of these tools are totally non official, and sometimes even based on the user's suggestions for the translations. (e.g. http://sun-recomgen.univ-rennes1.fr/FR-Eng.html( 30 Jul. 2001)
A lot of specialized lexicons providing translations for specific and/or technical words or expressions (e.g. http://www.afif.asso.fr/francais/conseils/conseil41.html ( 30 Jul. 2001) or http://french.about.com/homework/french/library/express/blex_proverb.htm ( 30 Jul. 2001) are also available, filling a gap left by classical paper dictionaries.

Context and usage information

After a vocabulary search, one is often left with two or more suitable translations for the same word or expression. To help the translator make the right choice, the Web gives access to many texts and documents about all topics. It is easy, with a research engine, to retrieve texts using the very words or expressions that are questionable, and observe how the matter is adressed in the target language. It often becomes clear that between the two original choices, one will fit better with the context. Once again, it is important to check the origin of the texts used as reference. First, they can give major clues on the use of the words (formal or informal context, British or American expression...), and it is also important to evaluate the reliability of the author (a non anglophone writer may use less specific vocabulary, or make syntax errors).
Bilingual sites such as those of the Government of Canada combine the two advantages: they offer an official translation for a given word, and provide the context in which the word is used in both languages.

Basically, the Web quickly gives access to a lot more information than a paper dictionary or library, but it implies some additional work to check the reliability of the information found. However, it also provides the means to verify the accuracy and double check the usage of the solutions found because of the huge sum of official and non official documents available.

5.2 Other uses of the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web also gives acces to various translating tools such as BabelFish( 30 Jul. 2001), which are useful to get a general grasp of the text, but certainly not powerful enough to offer a translation with no grammar or meaning errors.
The World Wide Web is also very up to date. It's an evolving source of information where new words, new technologies and everyday news appear long before they are published in an updated version of a paper dictionary. For example, we can find on the Web that "courriel" or "mel" are used as French equivalents of "e-mail", and we can also find an official translation for movie or book titles, however recent they are. This also applies to awards, prizes, or other specific titles.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, this study shows that the World Wide Web is definitely a useful resource for translation. It gives access to all the information contained in classical paper dictionaries, specialized lexicons and encyclopediaes with a significant gain of space.
Moreover, it also gives precious information about the use of words and expressions thanks to the large range of documents available, be it official texts, newspaper articles or movie reviews.
Using these resources implies checking the reliability of documents thoroughly, but it is still an efficient method time wise.
On-line automatic translation tools are not efficient enough to this day to produce a polished translation of a document, but trying to insert a module performing web searches for vocabulary and usage could be an idea for further improvement.
Therefore, it seems that using the World Wide Web for translation could be profitable for both human and automatic translation.

August 2001