Nov 21, 2003

Learning software internationalization the hard way. Software developers of the world: please don't use adjectives without nouns as submenus or values in tables, because when you translate them into a language that is flexed according to number and gender, all hell breaks loose. I'm testing software this week. I feel like a recluse and a bonehead. A bonehead recluse who dreams about locating software strings in three sets of files all night long, after the work's day is done.

After four days of non-stop, gruelling bug reporting, I finally figured out where 'most of' my strings are coming from. In a recent talk I gave I said that in software localization the easy things are difficult to figure out and the difficult things are easy to figure out. The text you find in error messages, in the Help is repetitive, easy to translate, boring to the extreme, if it weren't for the consistency requirement, I could probably translate large segments of help files while peeling potatoes or knitting or playing chess. It doesn't require that much translating ability or good writing style. Now comes a single string such as 'All' and you have to wake up from your drowsy state. All can be translated in Portuguese as Tudo, Todos, Todas. Now what happens when this same little string, this little bugger is going to pop up under Doctors>All and Clinics>All and Hospitals>All ? A hell of a nightmare, that's what. Because you are supposed to say Médicos>Todos, Clínicas>Todas and Hospitais>Todos. You can go even as far as trying the compromise solution Tudo. But Médicos>Tudo does quite cut it, because doctors are people and Tudo refers to objects.

In short: I'm having major headaches to fix this software and the only person to blame is the software developer, not the localization team. I can't even begin to imagine the troubles my colleagues from other languages had. Portuguese is often the last language in the pipeline, we come after FIGS (French, Italian, German and Spanish.)

A job like this makes me yearn for translating journalism or marketing, where I spent hours wrecking my brain on the difficult not the easy stuff. But again it's the plague of specialization. Once you get specialized, no matter how hard you try to avoid these jobs they land on your desk. Attractive rates, large volumes: you end up taking them and then you just want to kick yourself and be done with them so you never have to look at those wretched strings again.

I often say to my colleagues that everyday I sit on my desk and wish I had a single, nice and neat Word file to translate, with no two-page long instructions or three glossaries to comply with or five pdfs with previous terminology to read through.

Okay, I confess I would probably end up translating it in Trados or Deja-Vu because they are more efficient and I'm so used to confining my translations to segment boxes.

I guess working is like that: the really difficult and tricky stuff is what makes you the most money. And perhaps I shouldn'be complaining at all: so many of my friends want to break into the profession, acquire experience or get more jobs. As for me, my sole desire this morning is inserting a dynamite stick in my D: drive.


Nov 10, 2003

The Translator Help Wiki. For when your head is feeling all fuzzy and you want to shoot the Trados help writer.

A review of Budapeste (previously featured at the EM) in English

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Nov 9, 2003

Nov 6, 2003

Got to love those American towns for their geographical boldness...

I'm suddenly interested in Weimar and Jena because there is a possibility the HH will entice us to live there some time next year while he pursues his phD on a sandwich scholarship. I find the prospect exciting because it will give me the opportunity of learning a new language or at least moving forward from my near-0 German skill level.

But I worry about the Mermaid Jr. It took her so long to begin to speak Portuguese and she still stumbles constantly: conjugations, verb tenses, prepositions it's amazing how my girl has a gift for mangling her own language. We're just about to get discharge from speech therapy even though she can't handle two phonemes yet: the R of rato and the sh of xixi.

German sounds daunting considering that she still refuses to speak English. I suspect she understands a good deal of it but she doesn't bother to speak it or repeat the English words I try to teach her. It's not easy when language gets tangled up with the emotional mess: English is the language spoken by her father whose name predictably begins with the letter R.

Maybe she will turn out to be a genius in German precisely due to the reasons explained above. Who knows...


Nov 5, 2003

After 33 days in São Paulo. Jeremy has just posted a great account of his 33 days in São Paulo over at La Beta Corpo. Once upon a time I used to teach English as a foreign language too, so I loved his description of pointless 3-hour long bus rides just to mark Didn't Show Up in an attendance card.

"Você me vê mais uma cerveja? " really means "Could you please get me another beer" or you can just throw the waiter those two taps on the bottle and he'll get it. Beer is indeed incredibly cheap in Brazil, the Giant Jalapeno never ceased to marvel at how affordable it was to get drunk out of one's mind. He also was thrilled to see that many roads don't have lanes painted on them, so you can basically squeeze the other drivers out of your way without getting a ticket.

As for the motorcycle messengers, they are nicknamed "bauzeiros" because of that document-carrying case mounted to the seat. They make traffic infernal and have the audacity to honk at you while they are cutting off the traffic to warn you that here come the daredevils, don't even think about moving your car 2 inches to the right or they will be caught in the middle of your car and the car on the lane to your left.

São Paulo is a horrible place to live. The Giant Jalapeno hates it and so does the Hairy Hungarian. But I love it. Born here, raised here, too used to ugliness and chaos to ever find it intolerable.

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Localizing Documentation. For translation geeks only.


Nov 3, 2003

yours truly on a day that will live in infamy for the Bulls

riding limos everywhere...


Ladies and gentlemen, time for our commercials again...


Pedantry. Hmm, where is he getting at exactly? Is his grant about comparing machine-translation texts with human-translated texts?

Peer review, being somewhat easier to arrange than divine inspiration, is now widely accepted as the best general approach to insuring translation quality. However, it is no less labour intensive than translation itself and consequently tends to be reserved for literary and scholarly works. It is generally minimal or non-existent in common commercial practice except in areas of unusually high liability like medical documentation and legal materials.

I disagree with the vision that peer review has a limited scope in the translation industry. Most of the stuff I translate gets peer-reviewed, client-reviewed, project-manager reviewed inside out. Only the All-Seeing is missing from the localization quality assurance cycle and some of my project managers have such attention to detail that I suspect they could qualify for the title.


Back from Windy City. Last Saturday I arrived from a most excellent trip to Chicago. I was there interpreting for a conference and had a wonderful time with the group of executives.

I got a chance to take a peek of Milwakee too. Sadly not long enough to take the Miller brewery tasting tour.

I had never been to Chicago and simply adored the city. It's much more beautiful and tourist-friendly than NY. I have some pictures. I especially like the one showing Denise and I in the booth, I will try to upload them later. Still on the subject of first times, during this trip I had my first hands-on experiences of an NBA game and a SUV limo, dubbed "The Centipede" by the awestruck Brazilians. We stayed at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, which was gorgeous for a Hilton. I didn't have time to see any museums or even the aquarium, but boy did I get stuffed on baby back ribs. Brazilians love ribs, who would have imagined. To sum it up, it was great, though I didn't get to see everything I wanted and almost had a ribs overdose. I hope I can visit Chicago again soon.

On the plane back to Brazil I sat next to an IT manager who was not only charming and cute but also has tons of documentation to translate into Portuguese. How lucky is that?


GILT Industry Ethics: Guidelines and Model Contract. This is the draft version of the LISA ethic guidelines. LISA rocks.