Structure of the project:
Related student projects:
Lexperimenta ( 27 Oct 2001)
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)
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.
bas quelle heure est-il?
vie revée d'Elodie
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.
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
4. Example of a vocabulary search on the web
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)
30 Jul. 2001) is an official site of the government of Canada. The translation
they offer is: "to wear mourning"
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"
30 Jul. 2001) is a web site describing the mourning rites in ancient China.
It is a highly formal text translates from Chinese.
30 Jul. 2001) describes Victorian mourning customs (quoted from Collier's
Cyclopedia 1901) in a very formal way.
30 Jul. 2001) is another historical text about formal mourning habits.
Google search : "porter le deuil"
30 Jul. 2001) is a newspaper article about a war criminal's trial.
30 Jul. 2001) gives the lyrics of a song by Liane Foly, a French artist.
30 Jul. 2001) is the site of a French charity association.
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".
5.1 Advantages of the World Wide Web compared
to a classical paper dictionary
5. Uses of the World Wide Web for Translation
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
( 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.
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