In my most recent role as a Product Owner, I've been catching up on our Translation Review and Translation Preview features. To my chagrin, I've even accidentally written one when I clearly meant the other.
One of our senior QA engineers Yevgeniy Bruhov noted that though we sometimes focus on the technical details, preview is all about presenting context to translators. Understand that:
Let's repeat this from the perspective of our users.
Anna, one of our user experience personas I mentioned in my privileges posts, might think:
"As a content editor, I want to review the translator's work before accepting the job to ensure a timely, high quality translation. This will save time by letting us complete such reviews without requiring us to repeat translation jobs."
Whereas Maureen, our professional translator persona, might feel:
"As a translator, I want to preview the translation work to understand the context of the source and target content to provide the best quality translation to my clients."
Yevgeniy suggested a creative way to really understand "in context" preview is through a game of sorts to explore cases of mistaken context. Perhaps someone will introduce this in a demo where the audience sees the segment to translate and must guess the context. "Now, guess would you translate the word 'stool' here."
Instead of exploring yet another ice breaker, I was inspired to start an internal discussion on the company intranet asking for examples of translations that lacked context.
My colleagues responded with a few "lessons learned" from the field, including these generalized, anonymous examples.
“Exit” in English
Software versus navigation
"Exit" was interpreted in the context of exiting an application versus the expected freeway or highway exit (“Afsluiten” vs. “Afslag” in Dutch)
“Disabled” in English
Software versus medical / legal
"Disabled" was translated as deactivated (not enabled as in software) rather than in a medical or legal context (e.g. "people with disabilities" or "disabled parking permit").
“Stool” in English
Household objects versus medical
"Stool" was translated as a chair instead of the biological/medical term for poop/***/excrement (as in “stool sample”).
"Insert" in English
Computer hardware versus medical
"Insert" correctly translated in a medical context (insert suppository) was incorrectly used in the phrase, "insert CD for new user."
"House" in Dutch
Assumed website navigation, but meant household decorations in an online store where the navigation displayed things like shoes, accessories, and "startpagina."
"Sentence" in Russian
("предложение" vs "приговор")
Grammar versus legal
Linguistic sentence ("proposal") versus legal sentence (sentencing) as a great example from Yevgeniy
Tools versus software where "file" was translated as a tool as in carpenter's file or nail file.
Note that this was seen awhile back with Machine Translation where a human might not have made the same mistake. Either way, in-context review or "preview" with a human translator might have helped.
Another term that stumped earlier Machine Translation that assumed the context of buildings and views instead of proper names in software (i.e. Microsoft Vista)
Batteries in vehicles versus devices
English has a single term for "battery" which has different translations in Spanish depending on context ("bateria" for vehicles but "pilla" for mobile devices)
One colleague explained:
I once had a translation for toothbrushes that allowed you to choose a mode to polish your teeth. The problem was that it was translated in such a way that the meaning told the customer to apply "a polish person to your teeth".
Yevgeniy pointed out words in a given language can have several definitions as seen in this infographic from Dictionary.com and Kaplan University that highlights a few English words with dozens of meanings.
My colleagues also posted several of online examples related to poor translations and mistaken context including "Fish and Ships," "Tiny Grass is Dreaming," and a restaurant in Bucharest apparently residing in the "Zona Crepusculara" as reflected in their English menu (see the images at the bottom of the post).
SDL Consultant and e-learning specialist Ali Coldwell shared examples from a seminar she presented about at Learning Technologies 2016. Her matching blog post features a visual example of a diesel fuel truck with a "no smoking" warning that has on its side, in English:
"DIESEL FUEL in Arbic [sic]"
"NOSMOKING IN ARABIC"
"DIESEL FUEL in Arbic [sic]"
"NOSMOKING IN ARABIC"
I'm not even sure this counts as a translation, but for sure someone or something missed the context on several levels in this variation of literal cake requests (coincidentally, that post features the same fuel truck example, recognizing it really isn't a cake).
She also noted this example of how violators will feel after littering.
Architect Iulian cited a Wikipedia entry that referenced a translated out-of-office message in Wales, which apparently reads, "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated." Ali was kind enough to share an image of the actual sign:
Though some of these are just examples of poor translations, hopefully this post helps illustrate why editorial review and in-context preview are important from a content and language perspective. The exercise did give me a chance to connect and share stories with several colleagues. And though I'm quite excited and impressed about our "contextual" features, you don't have to use our software to appreciate the importance of p/reviewing translations in context.
Do you have other examples of why context matters to translation? Feel free to leave a comment below.
If you need want that technical perspective for see the Translation Review and Preview recording from the 2016 Tridion Developer Summit. Technical readers might also appreciate knowing why your $variable will not work in Polish.
*These are definitely not the original user stories but rather my attempt to create sticky ways to remember editorial review and translator preview. Credit for the original requirements and design go to Alexandra, Lars, Yuriy, and several other colleagues and predecessors.
**As with any online source, be wary of stories that are too good to be true. Definitely fact check or corroborate examples with sites like Snopes.