Foreign Expressions

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Not only are foreign expressions often a source of trouble for language students, but they present difficulties to computerized translation programs as well. Natural language processing algorithms and programming techniques have improved over the last few years, but they still generally provide translations that may not be suitable for some demanding applications. Some computer-assisted translation programs, though, are able to process foreign expressions with enough competency for many common purposes.

The two main types of computerized translation are machine translation and computer-assisted translation. In machine translation, the user helps the machine, usually by inputting the source text and editing the target text. In computer-assisted translation, the computer helps the user, providing reference material and letting the translator format and construct the feel of the text.

Translating Foreign Expressions with Fidelity and Transparency

The goal of machine-assisted translation is to produce perfectly translated text, or to produce target text with a high degree of equivalence to the source text. Having equivalence in translation is the combined product of having "fidelity" and "transparency," two traditional goals for translation. Fidelity means that the target text is perfectly in sync with the source text. Transparency is more subjective, and deals with the whether the target text has the same literary quality as the source text or not.

In general, machine-translated documents have better fidelity than transparency. Many native speakers of the target language may be able to tell immediately that the resulting text has been translated (it may feel awkward) due to the feel that machine translation sometimes gives to text. Computer-assisted translation relies on the user to imbue the target text with "style," and is generally capable of producing more transparent translations of many foreign expressions.


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