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May 09, 2007

Article in MSDN Magazine

I had an article printed in the current issue of MSDN Magazine. It's in their "End Bracket" section, which is a free-form essay. You can read my article here. What you will probably notice is that it is a reworking of a blog post here called Programming: Art and Engineering.

Because it is in MSDN Magazine, it is automatically translated into 11 other languages. So you can read my pithy insights in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. You will notice that the title "End Bracket" only has a translation in two languages, French and Italian (the translations mean roughly "In Parentheses", which isn't bad).

Here is the first paragraph, in a mix of languages:

"À la fin de mes études universitaires, lembro-me de uma conversa com um colega de ciência da computação que ia trabalhar em um banco de investimentos. Er erklärte mir, er werde mit dem Softwaredesign zu tun haben, würde sich aber nicht mit der banalen Aufgabe des Programmierens abgeben müssen. Questo sarebbe stato il compito di un programmatore, evidentemente una specie meno evoluta. In other words, me. Viniendo de un entorno universitario en el que la capacidad de meterse en el código era de lo más prestigioso, me sentí un poco insultado."

If you can speak one of those languages, I'm curious on your feedback on the translation (the whole article, I mean). I read the French and thought it was a bit "off". It turns out there is an explanation, but I'll let people read it first.

Posted by AdamBa at May 9, 2007 09:27 PM

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Funny, how you advertise your article. I couldn't just skim it, I had to read it thoroughly twice, in German and in English.

Now comes the hard part of judging a translation. There are at least two schools of thought about this.

One is to analyze whether the translated text has an invariant effect on the target audience in the target culture.
By this metric (and my opinion), the German translation is excellent.

The other school of thought of translation quality assessment is based on a transcendental notion of exactness, that is, whether the translation follows the original as precisely as possible.
This is easier to satisfy than the other metric, e.g. by using Translation Memory, Terminology and Collocation Databases meticulously.

Here the translation has some, but not too many weaknesses. The reason, I guess, is that the translator is a student of the first school (a good thing) and not a trained software engineer or experienced Microsoft software text translator (room for improvement).

In summary, I wish every German Microsoft translation had the same quality as this one.

It is so often the case that I just instantly know the translator didn't have the slightest idea what they were translating. Just as if somebody had run the resource files through a generic TM system and called it done.

Finally, about your text. Almost agree. I'm a proud engineer as well. But when I'm asked "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", I pull the Architect job description.

In those moments I have Software Architects like Don Box in mind.

Gets to build one foundation after the other and to write lot's of code for it and talks about it with ease and passion.

Show me the architect in construction that gets away with that.

Posted by: Henry Boehlert at May 9, 2007 11:36 PM

Interesting. The French reads like it was machine translated (which is how it is originally done, with human edit afterwards). Certain phrases like "So do I feel like taking the theoretical next step" and "I know this is not the glory work of programming" are translated too literally for the intended meaning to carry over.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at May 10, 2007 09:38 PM

Russian is definetly machine translated, because "ведь в университетской среде умение работа с кодом считалась элементарной" in the end of first paragraph even isn't correct russian phrase. Worst of all, difference between coder and developer totally lost during translation :(

Posted by: Sergey Simakov at May 11, 2007 02:18 PM