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public comment

  • To: translation-programme@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: public comment
  • From: Mark Crispin <mrc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008 10:52:45 -0800 (PST)

The start of the document looks like it was developed in a non-English language and imperfectly translated into British English; "programme" does not exist in American English; and its meaning seems to encompass quite a bit more than the American English word "program". The grammar is also quite obtuse.

Fortunately, once the reader moves beyond the "fluff" at the start, the actual "meat" of the proposal is written quite differently. This suggests that the offending "fluff" was layered on.

This should sensitizes us to the problem that non-English speakers must face in encountering documents in their language that were poorly translated from English; also how people must feel when confronted with a translation that is in a different dialect from their native dialect.

Since the goal is "an equal level of access", I propose the following:

I agree with Ms Umezu's (PSI-Japan) comment that "the translation should have a deep knowledge of the industry and the situations in each country." Note in particular her final comment that "ICANN should have the translations done in each country by local translation agents to ensure localization of the ideas ICANN wants to express."

Translators must be skilled not only in technical matters, but also in proper writing. As Mark Twain wrote, a writer shall
 . say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it
 . use the right word, not its second cousin
 . eschew surplusage
 . not omit necessary details
 . avoid slovenliness of form
 . use good grammar
 . employ a simple and straightforward style

Translators with these skill don't come easily or cheaply. At times be multiple translations for the same language to suit local conditions. English, Spanish, and Chinese come immediately to mind; there is only one version of this document for each of these three languages when there should be at least two.

Nonetheless, if it is worth doing, then it is worth doing properly. I doubt that anyone is happy with the status quo of English-only, and bad English at that.

I also agree with the sentiments that only official sources be used as references.


Mark Crispin
University of Washington
Seattle, WA

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