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The Journal of Specialised Translation - page 4 / 16





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The Journal of Specialised Translation

Issue 8 - July 2007

the raw MT output was 2.39, and of the revised output 3.38 (out of a possible 5.0). Almost 80% of errors were successfully corrected (though one must bear in mind that MT output contains many more gross, easily spotted errors than human translation). Unfortunately the remaining uncorrected errors were typically ones that would seriously mislead the reader about the meaning of the source text. Most notable were cases where the MT system misrecognized the part of speech in the source text—a type of error that would rarely be found in human translation. Only about half the errors of this type were successfully remedied by the revisers, who attempted to use world knowledge and context to guess the intent and commonly ended up with sentences wildly different in meaning from the source text.

This finding raises what is perhaps the central practical issue in revision and self-revision: will the reviser find and correct the most serious mistakes, or only correct large numbers of minor errors?

Experience in the field of the text Standard EN 15038 stipulates, in section 3.2.3 (Professional competences of revisers) that they “should have translating experience in the domain under consideration”. This is a recommendation rather than a requirement (“should”, not “shall”), perhaps reflecting the fact that in practice, translators are commonly asked to revise material in fields in which they do not in fact have translating experience. The following study is relevant to this question. The study also reflects another common occurrence: the reviser has no contact with either the translator or the author of the source text.

3. Künzli, Alexander (2006). “Translation revision - A study of the performance of ten professional translators revising a technical text” in Maurizio Gotti & Susan Sarcevic (eds), Insights into specialized translation, Bern/Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 195-214.

In this study, ten professional translators’ spoken comments were recorded as they revised French-German translations, and then a freelance technical translator with a degree in engineering evaluated their revision work. All but one subject had previous experience revising. None were specialised in technical translation. The entire article is devoted to how the revisers dealt with a single terminological problem, where the draft translation had four possible equivalents as alternatives. Only one of the ten revised it correctly— yet another rather alarming result! The spoken comments reveal that only this one translator considered the relationship of the term to the rest of the sentence in which it appeared, and realized that it was a synonym of a term used earlier in the sentence. The others only considered the term in isolation, researching it in term banks and


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