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GUIDE TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEXTS – READING ONLINE THROUGH Translate.Google.Com

Advice and experience offered by Guven Witteveen,

Déjà Lu readers will find all articles accompanied by English language abstracts, but the full text may or may not be offered in English. The following advice may help readers with little or no experience of a given language to work through the text. Likewise for authors who wish their article to appear in English or another language, the same online approaches can produce a usable draft of the text.

Q. I have a limited reading knowledge of several languages, but wish to see the article in my own language as a convenience and cross-check of my comprehension. As a reader how can I make my own translation of articles in languages I sort-of know and also the ones I do not know?

A. Each month the volunteers for the online translation service at http://translate.google.com add more depth and accuracy to the website by correcting errors little by little. The best results come from pasting phrases or whole sentences into the website. It works best on short, direct sentences. But much scholarly work is long and structured with dependent clauses or qualifications or other conditions to limit the author’s truth claims. It may be poetic or use indirect expression, too. While a complete document can be automatically be changed into another language, the result may include many nonsensical constructions. So it is best to render one fragment or phrase at a time. Getting a native-speaker colleague to polish the rough translation will make a good article, but if you only need the gist of the article, the online magic of translate.google.com may be good enough.

Q. I would like my featured Déjà Lu article to be offered in English (or language of the author’s choosing). If I do not have time or talent for this, what are some possible options?

A. There are professional services locally or online, but reasonable results are possible with Google Translate, too: Make a rough draft to the target language (e.g. English) one sentence or phrase at a time, because whole paragraphs’ or documents’ automatic translation often produces errors. Then partner with a native speaker of the language (e.g. English) to polish the rough translation. A few questions will arise and this will require some clarification or discussion.

Q. I read an article in the source language (not English, for example) but now I wish to share with colleagues who read only English. How can I make the translation for them?

A. The same process, above, goes from small segments of machine translation and then polishing by high-proficiency or native speaker of the target language. But if polish is not needed for the purpose of skimming or seeking specific elements and citations, then there are two ways to translate entire documents automatically, imperfect though the result will be: either paste the entirety of the source text into the Input Box at translate.google.com [up to maybe 5000 characters (keystrokes) for each translation job], or else by using the Chrome browser there is a built-in tool to make the entire page or document display into another language. Right-click near the top of the main body of the webpage to see a pop-up menu for "translate this page." There is an options menu to specify your target language, just one time or as default. At the translate.google.com location, as well, there is the traditional technique of back-translation: press the reverse arrows to see if the supplied string of translated text arrives back at a good approximation of the original language.