More about Translation

Curiously, the only kind of translation for which I have used Google Translate so far is the literary translation. There are descriptions of military operations in the novel that are boring, do I just put them in GT.

For medical, I haven’t used it because the client has a glossary of the terms they use and they need complete compliance with the glossary. For the Ukrainian videos, I didn’t need it because there’s nothing people say in Ukrainian that I can’t say in English. For a both company, they give me .pdfs where parts of the document are handwritten in Ukrainian. All of the translations I do are Ukrainian or Russian into English. And GT sucks ass with Ukrainian anyway.

10 thoughts on “More about Translation

  1. Pro tip from another translator … DeepL is significantly better than Google Translate (though it doesn’t have Ukrainian). It’s also nice because you can click on each word in the translation and get a drop-down list of alternatives that aren’t mere synonyms – they often reflect an entirely different approach to that word/phrase. Not perfect at all – I still end up fiddling with the syntax, style, words, etc. a ton, but it saves time in getting a good starting point in the instances you mentioned.


      1. Spanish to English. I should have put a caveat that it’s great for that combination and probably other Romance languages, but I could easily imagine it being not nearly as good with Russian yet.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cool! I put Spanish as one of my languages but there have been no takers because, I assume, it’s harder to find a Ukrainian – English translator at this time.


    1. ” I still end up fiddling with the syntax, style, words, etc. a ton”

      That’s what I use google translate for… the results are almost never acceptable without almost rewriting it (so what’s the point?) but it’s completely great for helping me get into a sentence or to think of better alternatives… (I don’t like its suggestions but it does help me think of what I do want).

      Just checked out a paragraph from a Polish news site and DeepL seems a bit…. more coherent than google translate. Usual problems but not the flat out weirdness that I get from GT.

      I noticed polish-to-english google translate suffered a lot around a year ago, someone told me it was from high school students (and younger) doing their homework there…. it’s gotten a bit better since then but still very very rough….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, as I mentioned above, I’m sure it’s rougher with non-Romance languages, though I’m sure it’ll get better in time.

        It reflects well on you that you think its results are almost never acceptable without rewriting, because I’m pretty sure the vast majority of users couldn’t tell the difference between the translationese these tools spit out and good, stylish English. Translators who work into their non-native language tend to depend on MT with their dear life and are just happy to get a translation free of grammatical errors – most have near-zero ability to judge if the text is overly literal, stilted, stiff, off, boring (a need to vary the structure within a paragraph to keep the flow), etc. and couldn’t rewrite it even if ordered to. They can only “convert” text (like a math equation), not write and improvise. And when non-translators use MT, it’s generally just to get the gist of some foreign text – they don’t need it to be prizeworthy.

        I don’t have my head in the sand about it, as I know the use of MT and surrounding hype is growing very fast. Agencies increasingly feel forced to lower rates and offer discounts to clients to compete, paying translators less to do what they call MTPE – machine translation post-editing. Most know that the quality sucks, and discerning clients realize that what they get is garbage (they don’t always know why – there are tons of bad practices in translation land). That said, I don’t feel threatened by MT and happily pay a subscription for DeepL premium to get CAT tool integration.


        1. ” the vast majority of users couldn’t tell the difference between the translationese these tools spit out and good, stylish English”

          one quick example:

          original: Kobieta nie kryje się specjalnie z tym, że mimo niemal czterdziestki na karku, wciąż chciałaby być nastolatką.

          DeepL: The woman doesn’t make any special secret of the fact that, despite being almost forty at the neck, she still wishes she were a teenager.

          google: The woman does not hide the fact that despite the fact that she is almost 40 on the back of her neck, she still wants to be a teenager.

          DeepL generally wins…


          “The woman”: in context this is better translated as “She” – writers in Polish are trained to avoid third person subject pronouns as much as possible and journalese is full of weird convulations to get around them.

          “forty at the neck” a too literal (though not literally accurate) translation of an idiom meaning that someone is too old to be in the situation they’re in… in English “despite” is probably enough

          my version:
          She makes no special secret of the fact that despite being almost forty years-old, she wishes she were still a teenager. (I really want to write “was still a teenager” but I’ll defer to traditional rules)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. See? Even with a simple sentence like this one, it’s impossible to automate. Language is what makes us human. You can’t automate humanity.


            1. “Even with a simple sentence like this one”

              And most of the translations I do are academic…. (roughly in history and political science often touching on issues of law and often related to neighboring countries as well). Polish academic ‘style’ tends toward the ornate and obtuse and many writers take… liberties with traditional meanings and syntax which means that machines often turn it into gibberish).

              The articles themselves are often interesting (like the history of a famous cultural building in Berlin or competing historical narratives about in a city in NE Poland that used to be German or the effect of covid border closures. But… i earn every penny I make from them.


  2. BTW, left you a note about what it does with Japanese, but WordPress may have eaten it …


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.