Monday, 6 August 2018

Translators and small things: 5 peculiar quirks

Translators have peculiar quirks and habits, especially when it comes to small things in language! While some of these are essential to the job, to outsiders they’re likely to come across as oddities. The following list of translators’ peculiar quirks is by no means exhaustive:

1. Translators can become agitated about a misplaced or omitted apostrophe or (yikes!) a spelling mistake in a book.

2. Translators don’t normally sleep too well following the identification of an error in one of their recently submitted translations.

3. If it turns out a product name is not correctly hyphenated on a label, a translator may no longer want to buy that product on her next supermarket shop.

4. It is not at all unusual for a translator to be engaged in a phone conversation with a client in regard to “that comma on page 27”.

5. Translators show great zeal in discussing even the smallest of words, and often invest lots of time in the hunt for that one word that is spot on.


Translators are extremely sensitive to details in language, and their detail-orientedness may seem odd or exaggerated to outsiders. It’s very often small things in language that they notice, have to be mindful of, and even get worked up about!


Translators often get worked up about small things in language!

Monday, 2 July 2018

The 5-step guide to switching into minimalist work mode

This is my easy-to-implement guide to switching into minimalist office work mode for increased productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction:

1) Remove physical clutter.

Physical clutter invariably leads to mental clutter. Studies demonstrate that physical clutter around you tends to pull at your attention and hence impacts your ability to concentrate in a negative way. Therefore, creating a distraction-free environment by removing all physical clutter from your office will greatly boost your concentration.

2) Create a 3-item to-do list every morning.

I’ve already blogged here on the benefits of a minimal to-do list. I recommend it wholeheartedly! Having a 3-item to-do list in place will create amazing momentum that’ll keep you going until you’ve finished the 3 tasks that you’ve made your primary focus of the day.

3) Keep to your own natural rhythm of the day.

Whether it’s the early morning hours or late in the evening, it is vital to understand when your most productive part of the day is. Then make the most of that time! For example, I function best in the mornings, so I set aside mornings for essential work tasks.


It is vital to understand when your most productive part of the day is!


4) Gear up for concentration.

I find that in my work as a translator – especially ahead of preparing the very important final version of a translation – I can best tap into the power of concentration if I “gear up” for it. For me, this usually involves taking in some fresh air on the morning school run, sitting down at the kitchen table to enjoy a cup of espresso mindfully, or having a power nap during the day.

5) Block out all distractions.

I love shutting out the outside world completely to create a hushed, tranquil and productive work atmosphere. I then most relish being a “minimalist translator” in that there’s just me and my translation for a while – with Twitter notifications, personal e-mail and everything else far away.

Switching into minimalist work mode will remove many motivational barriers and help you become proactive and productive. Try it out!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Why eliminating non-physical stuff benefits translators

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.” (Eleanor Brownn)

Are there any ideas, relationships and habits in a translator’s (or indeed anybody’s) life that had better be thrown overboard because they’re detrimental to our sanity or well-being?


"Clutter is anything that does not support your better self." (Eleanor Brownn)

Old ideas
The same old misconceptions about the translation profession annoyingly crop up again and again. Rooting out a few of them would require going out into the world to convince others. Yes, you need to be highly skilled to work as a translator. Yes, it is a good way to earn money. Yes, it is an enjoyable activity, as is working alone at home!

Toxic relationships
Is now perhaps the time to disconnect from people on social media who you constantly get worked up about? Or is the time ripe for saying goodbye to a few clients who, for whatever reasons, you don’t enjoy working with? Track down clients who are amazing, and surround yourself with people who are respectful and supportive.

Bad habits

Bad habits I personally struggle to overcome: being distracted by the news when I should be working; squeezing in rushed jobs, although my order book is already overfull; and eating too much junk towards the end of the day. Quitting bad habits means being intentional about what you would like to change and accomplish.

The benefits of saying goodbye to old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits will be astonishing: more job satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and greater well-being in the long run!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Must-have "tidy" tools for translators and interpreters

On 5 May 2018, ITI Cymru Wales hosted an afternoon workshop entitled “Tidy tools for translators and interpreters”. The programme included short presentations about tools designed to improve translators’ and interpreters’ efficiency and productivity as well as the quality of translations, including: Dragon, APSIC Xbench, Protemos, ProjectTermExtract for SDL Trados Studio, PerfectIt, IntelliWebSearch, and ZipDX.

More efficiency: "tidy" tools for translators and interpreters

The event took place on a day blessed with glorious sunshine in the gorgeous city of Cardiff, which I last set foot in for the ITI conference 2017. Cycling down to Bristol Temple Meads train station, heading over to Cardiff on the train and cutting through Cardiff centre on my walk to the event venue (the Centre of Lifelong Learning on Senghennydd Road) therefore brought up lots of good memories for me!

I had chosen to attend because I was keen to catch a glimpse into tools I had heard about before, but had never had a chance (or actually time) to try or see on the screen, such as the much talked-about Dragon. The first thing I learnt, though, was that the word “tidy” in the event name has nothing to do with “neat” or “not messy” (as I had indeed erroneously assumed!), but is a Welsh word meaning “good” or “satisfactory”.


I have gained rudimentary knowledge of tools I had heard about in the past, but had never seen in action. All in all, it was a really worthwhile event and for me a very enjoyable day out, too. Thank you to the organisers of ITI Cymru Wales for putting it on!

I have written up the event for the ITI German network’s newsletter. To request a copy of my write-up, please contact me.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The minimalist approach to getting extra things done

Is your to-do list overflowing? Do you have no leeway to squeeze in extra things that, albeit not urgent, are somehow important to you? Would you like to have a go at something such as a new hobby or learning a language, but simply cannot find the time for it?

If you’re itching for it, but your life is already filled to the brim with work tasks, family commitments and social duties, then you might want to try out my minimalist approach to getting extra things done. It has worked for me, so chances are it might work for you, too.

Taking minimal steps is better than taking no steps at all!

My minimalist approach to getting extra things done involves building up short, bite-sized habits and incorporating them into your daily routine. Even if you focus on them for just a few minutes per day, commit to repeating these habits every day. They may seem insignificant, but can have immense effects on what you’re aiming to achieve!

I, for example, took to learning some basic computer programming (Visual Basic, Android and PHP) at a time when I was already spending crazily long hours at my computer in my translation job. More screen time was certainly the last thing in the world I was in the mood for. However, I realised that computer programming was relevant to my line of work, so I started reading books on programming and having a go at it on my computer in small but regular steps.

The minimalist approach to getting extra things done by bite-sized, daily habits is easily manageable and won’t take big chunks out of your day. Taking minimal steps is better than taking no steps at all!

If you liked this post, the following posts on this blog may also be relevant to you:
- Super-easy decluttering for busy people
- The minimal to-do list
- 8 Proven ways of minimising screen time

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

How to feel great instantly

Research suggests our brains are hardwired to automatically focus on the negative (as described in the article "Your Brain is Built for Negativity"). It seems to be our brains’ default mode, and it’s neither pleasant nor good for our well-being. But there is a simple technique to combat such negative thinking. It is effective and easy to apply: think back over the last 24 hours and call up in your mind what’s been positive for you.

This can be anything. For example, what happened in the last 24 hours that you can be grateful for? Your children? Was there something that went well? Did you bump into a good friend? Did a client drop you a nice comment, or is there something else about your clients that you appreciate?

There is a simple technique to combat negative thinking.

The mind has a natural tendency to dwell on the negative, which is why it takes a conscious effort to turn our thoughts to the positive. And once we set off this thought-process, there will definitely be a couple of things that we can think of and feel good about.

On a minimalism-related note, there is also a danger that, once we stop appreciating the good things in life, we become prone to turning to an excess of physical objects. Minimalism teaches us that physical objects will not make us feel content. Instead, it is always better to turn inward.

Negative thinking can be instantly offset if we consciously replay in our minds what we enjoyed in the last 24 hours – what made us smile or what we can be grateful for.

You may also want to check out my blog post "The baffling solution to clearing mental clutter".

Note: You can find a German translation of this blog post here.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The minimalist approach to Twitter


Twitter can be, but doesn’t necessarily have to be, overwhelming. It can instead be used minimally and in an organised, systematic way.

There is obviously no one right approach to Twitter. Some of us have several accounts, while others manage their tweets via just one account. Some Twitterers send out tweets strictly limited to work, whereas others mix in tweets of a more personal nature, too. Some of us are very active, while others just lurk on Twitter. And all these approaches are okay.

One comment by Alison Hughes, the presenter at a workshop hosted by ITI's Western Regional Group in Bristol in June 2017, sparked the idea for me to write the present blog post. Alison commented that she generally avoids information overload, as well as overloading others on Twitter.

Twitter can be used minimally and in an organised, systematic way.

It struck a chord with me in that I, too, generally try to avoid Twitter overload: I aim not to overload others and not to overload myself. It’s become part of what I call my “minimalist approach to Twitter”, which involves the following:

1) Restricting Twitter to my personal needs

If you’re in business, Twitter can be a brilliant marketing tool for acquiring more customers: it may be used in a targeted way to achieve specific marketing goals by engaging with companies and potential clients. Twitter offers a plethora of opportunities and ways for individuals and businesses to interact.

However, I do not see the need to use Twitter in this way. Instead, I use it merely for extracting useful articles and information. I also enjoy having the possibility of socialising with others occasionally as I’m working on my own at home. Restricting myself to this use of Twitter involves less strategising and organising on my part.

2) Minimising Twitter overload by setting up lists

Whenever I visit Twitter, I go straight into one of my personalised Twitter lists, depending on what I’m interested in reading right at that moment. For instance, to catch up on what my ITI colleagues have tweeted, I visit my ITI list. If I want to catch up on the latest Brexit news, I call up my Brexit news list. Or if I feel like indulging in the most recent minimalism tweets, I access my minimalism list.

Lists on Twitter are great for managing tweets: jumping straight into one of them means I won’t get lost in the masses of unrelated tweets that would jump out at me and overwhelm me straight away. For instructions on how to set up Twitter lists, see http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Twitter-List.

3) Reducing Twitter activities

It’s a simple mechanism: the more you tweet, the more followers you’ll gain, and the more popular you’ll become eventually. Maximising your Twitter presence will help you stand out. By contrast, not being present on Twitter often enough may mean losing followers or missing out on interesting discussions or trends.

However, I’ve decided to sidestep those rules and keep Twitter use to a minimum. I don’t visit it every day, and even sometimes have Twitter breaks. As a general rule, I aim to be selective about what I tweet.

As with all things at our fingertips (especially apps on our phones!), it is very easy for them to take over our lives. However, by applying minimalist techniques, I find that Twitter consequently has not taken over my life.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Better and happier at work by slowing down

In the past few years I’ve turned into a keen runner and have even come to enjoy fast running! As of late, though, I’ve become a bit fed up with trying to run as fast as I can. Although I won’t deny that achieving a new Personal Best does give me an immense sense of satisfaction, I’ve switched to a slower pace.

The benefits of slower running are manifold: I do not just eliminate the risk of potentially collapsing with exhaustion at the end, but also consciously enjoy the activity in itself much more. I notice more of the little things in nature around me. And it has the pleasurable effect that running thereby is now (almost!) relaxing.

Pomphrey Hill parkrun, Mangotsfield, Bristol (image courtesy of Heli-air Imaging)

I’ve noticed a striking parallel between running and my job in translation. Working too fast involves running the risk of failing to pick up nuances in meaning, of missing minor details in the text, or of failing to see errors in the vicinity of other errors that I did spot. So reducing the speed (within reason) in whatever we do in our jobs has clear benefits, too.

In translation projects we sometimes whizz through texts, either because of time constraints, or because we’re revising somebody else’s excellent translation that doesn’t require many changes, or because we’ve worked through one of our own texts often enough already. Don’t we sometimes simply want to get the job over and done with to have it out of the way?

When preparing the first translation draft, I tend to work at a fairly high speed. Needless to say, raw translation as I’m rephrasing the text in German calls for creativity, too; however, it is in a way also “mechanical”. This is because for my first draft I make abundant use of internet resources, translation memory segments from previous projects already stored in my CAT tool, as well as some machine translation.

However, I work more slowly on subsequent drafts, especially the final version of the text! I usually prepare the final version in a distraction-free setting, when I’m completely alone at home. As a general rule, I’m up for this in the morning while I’m still feeling fresh in my mind. I then also notice and appreciate the little things in it.

Is it perhaps the consequence of what happens when we do something habitually day in, day out? I’m under the impression that as translators over time we tend to lose the appreciation of the beauty of language a bit. Isn’t beauty to be found in the words of even the most technical or driest of texts? They’re words, after all: the small, beautiful components of language that can be turned into something amazing when put together in a translation.

Reducing my running pace has made me realise that the benefits of slowing down at work are manifold, too. They include an even greater eye for detail, a reduced likelihood of overlooking errors and more appreciation of the words and the text. Slowing down has made me better and happier at work.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Machine translation in human translation workflows

With the cognitive computing age approaching at mind-boggling speed (before humans and technology likely will merge from about 2040), there seems to be a certain urgency in the need to familiarise ourselves with Artificial Intelligence. For translators this involves thinking about how (and if!) to integrate machine translation into their workflows.

Post-editing a translation is not the same as revising it!

On 24 January 2018 an event on the use of machine translation in professional contexts was held at Clifton Hill House in Bristol. It had been organised by the University of Bristol in partnership with Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville and the ITI Western Regional Group (WRG), attracting academics, professional translators, translation companies and technology providers.

My main takeaways from the event:

The job of post-editor is a relatively new profession. Post-editing nowadays is either offered as a service in its own right or just used as a tool that is incorporated into the translation process.

Post-editing has been defined in the ISO 18587 standard. Yet, although it’s been defined and hence should be clear-cut, in practice it’s more complicated since clients tend to have different requirements.


Machine translations often are over-edited, rather than under-edited. It is therefore important to note that post-editing a translation is not the same as revising it! They are two different skills.

Ideally, MT should be regarded as an additional tool, or translation memory, or source of reference, which for certain projects (!) can help improve efficiency and productivity.


There will inevitably need to be a move from word count-based pricing to time-based pricing for projects involving the post-editing of machine translations.

There has been a notable shift in the perception towards MT among translators because it’s becoming more capable of producing results that are usable. However, feelings of uneasiness, or strong dislike, towards MT continue to persist.


News headlines about advances in machine translation have led to inflated expectations by clients of what such tools can do. It’s worth bearing in mind we’re still very far from the point where the machines can take over from us!

The upside of such news headlines, on the other hand, is they’ve drawn attention to professional translation and interpreting, an industry which had previously often been overlooked.

My thoughts after the event:

There is a bizarre discrepancy between “human translators are a dying breed” headlines and the real situation human translators find themselves in: All the translators who I know are up to their ears in work. Constantly. And the demand for translations seems to be steadily increasing.

So contrary to what headlines want to make us believe: No, translators are not a dying breed. So where does machine translation come in? Well, it’s been introduced as a new, additional type of translation activity. (And fair enough, perhaps the term “translation” is no longer an appropriate description of this new activity.)

The cognitive computing age is just around the corner, so should all translators integrate machine translation into their workflows? Well, it’s up to each one of us to decide that. As succinctly put by a colleague in an e-mail conversion on that same topic recently: “People are always free to choose what they want to do both with regard to work and life in general.”

Find out more about this week’s event on the use of machine translation in human translation workflows by looking up the hashtag #MTBristol on Twitter.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Minimalism in punctuation

Web page visitors will click away and never return if what they see is a bit too hard to read. It therefore makes perfect sense to implement subtle measures to make such reading easier.

I recently came across a fascinating article entitled “Why you should be a punctuation minimalist” on the Articulate blog. It includes tips on the minimal use of punctuation, advocating the idea that “needless punctuation is a speed bump for readers”.

Web page visitors will click away if what they see is too hard to read.
 
The writing approach favoured by Articulate is “to minimise everything that gets between our words and the reader’s brain”. This includes, e.g., replacing punctuation marks with words, not using the “Oxford comma” before an “and” in a list, and writing dates without superscripts.

As an aspiring “writing minimalist”, I already aim to give precedence to shorter over longer words when producing online content. And in the editing stage I eliminate as many unnecessary words as possible. However, I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve my writing.

As writers, we choose our words carefully, but how much thought goes into the use of punctuation? It’s clear why applying some minimalist thinking to punctuation, too, is likely to attract more readers and keep them on the page.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The minimalist way of dealing with criticism

When someone upsets or criticises you, what’s your usual reaction? Which coping mechanism do you use?

As I was leafing through the OM Yoga Magazine edition in which my article about my Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth had been published, I was thrilled to find an article contribution by Leo Babauta in it. Leo Babauta is an American minimalist, who writes extensively about minimalism.

It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share with you a fantastic, easily implementable way of how not to bother when someone is inconsiderate towards you or criticises you. Leo Babauta sets out this coping mechanism in his e-book, “The Little Book of Contentment”:

Leo argues that the problem never is the other person’s actions: instead the problem is your reaction, or rather your action based on that reaction. He contends that other people’s actions, such as rude behaviour or unfair criticism, are just an outside stimulus.

Other people’s actions are like a leaf falling outside, or a rock falling in front of us on a mountain path. Isn’t his analogy just brilliant? Ponder this: when a rock falls, we don’t get angry at the rock, we go around it to continue on our way!

Criticism is like a rock falling in front of you in the mountains.

I’m allowed to share this tip with you as Leo’s e-book is uncopyrighted. Accordingly, no permission is required to copy, reuse or quote the text of his book.

Leo Babauta suggests dealing with criticism by thinking of it as a rock falling in front of you in the mountains: go around it, carry on walking and forget about it. Simple.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Christmas 2017 donation to OneDollarGlasses

Dear blog readers, merry Christmas and very best wishes for 2018!

In the same minimalist vein as in previous years, I have once again donated to a charity instead of spending money on Christmas cards and gifts.

Over 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it.

I have chosen the OneDollarGlasses aid scheme. Since I suspect I will need glasses myself soon, it appeals to me a lot. This aid organisation is based in Erlangen in Germany (where, incidentally, I‘d lived for a few years before I moved to the UK in 2003).

Worldwide, more than 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it. They can not learn, can not work and can not provide for their families. OneDollarGlasses consist of a lightweight, flexible spring steel frame and prefab lenses and can be locally manufactured with simple bending machines. The material costs: approximately 1 US $ (source: OneDollarGlasses website).

If this charitable cause appeals to you too, you can donate to OneDollarGlasses here.

You can find the German translation of this blog entry here.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference

In a world in which machine translation (MT) is becoming ubiquitous, the theme of the 17th Portsmouth Translation Conference “Translation and Disruption: Global and Local Perspectives” on 4 November 2017, at which MT attracted special attention, couldn’t have been more topical. It brought together translation researchers and students, language professionals and industry stakeholders, who were all keen to discuss human and the latest technological aspects of translation.



Isn’t it stunning how often the word “magic” appears in descriptions of Neural Machine Translation (NMT)? NMT already outperforms Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). However, the mechanisms of NMT are indeed so complicated that often its intricacies are not even fully understood by its developers. According to Prof. Dorothy Kenny from Dublin City University, one of the keynote speakers, the most worrying part of NMT therefore is its opacity, which opens the door to error and misuse.

Sarah Griffin-Mason, ITI chair and senior lecturer in translation studies at the University of Portsmouth, enthused us with her optimism about the future of professional translators and interpreters. Without a doubt, there will always be sectors with a need for premium suppliers. She encouraged us to make a big noise about what we humans do – what machines can’t do – and why we’re so brilliant!


The conference was rich in insights and furthered an understanding of the underlying issues of machine translation and what’s at stake for language professionals. The way forward amidst the impending disruption seems to lie in adapting appropriately to the challenges ahead. In other words, we need to work out “where we fit” – and then communicate this clearly to clients!

The 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference focused on machine translation.
 
In summary, the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference provided a powerful glimpse into the future of translation and interpreting. I came away from it feeling passionate about my profession and confident that, despite the recent hype about Neural Machine Translation, a safe future exists for all translation and interpreting professionals who remain committed to the cause.

It was generally felt that, although machine translation might fundamentally change how we work, the overall outlook remains positive. There seemed to be a general consensus that machine translation is no longer to be looked down upon as a “dirty” activity, as it is perceived by many in the industry. Finally, it should no longer be regarded as the taboo issue that no one wants (or dares) to talk about.

The overall outlook for translation and interpreting remains positive.

You can find out more about the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference by looking up the hashtag #2017portxl8 on Twitter.

I've written a more in-depth article about this conference, which will appear in the January/February 2018 issue of the ITI Bulletin.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

I am in OM Yoga Magazine this month!

I am excited to report that an article about my recent Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth in South Devon, which I had originally written for the ITI German network’s newsletter, has just been published in the October edition of OM Yoga Magazine

Find my Jala Flow Yoga retreat article on pages 125-126.
 
Translators and other desk-bound workers often suffer from neck, shoulder or back pain as a result of working and sitting hunched in front of their computer screens in an unnatural position over prolonged periods.

Find out why I think yoga is excellent for easing and releasing tension and stiffness, why I wholeheartedly recommend a yoga retreat with Tom and Louise Hunt from Jala Flow Yoga, and how I even almost forgot about my minimalist principles during my stay in Sidmouth!

Order your copy of OM Yoga Magazine, in which you’ll find my article on pages 125-126, here. Or contact me to request your free copy of my article as a PDF.
 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

DeepL: Tool or threat for translators?

The end of August saw the launch of DeepL, a new machine translation tool developed by Cologne-based start-up DeepL GmbH (formerly Linguee GmbH). It was born from Linguee, a translation tool that has been around for some years and is a popular resource amongst us translators.

DeepL apparently performs better than any of its rivals’ products because it’s based on the relatively new Neural Machine Translation (NMT) approach, in which the processing of data is modelled on thought processes as they occur in the human brain. Its makers also claim to have created one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, conveniently located in Iceland (where electricity costs are lower than elsewhere).

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is modelled on thought processes in the human brain.

Curious about these latest developments in machine translation (MT), I incorporated DeepL into my own work last week so I could familiarise myself with it. Since I’d heard it supposedly is excellent at what it does, I started off my experiment with a bit of a feeling of dread in my stomach. I was soon relieved, though, when I realised it’s basically yet just another tool. However, unlike many of its predecessors, it produces some output that is actually usable!

Having said that, I also encountered severe (in some text types potentially even dangerous!) issues in the DeepL MT output. They may seem minor or insignificant if you don’t work with language professionally; yet in translation for the commercial world they do matter. They do, in fact, matter very much!

I’m going to list a handful of these issues from the patent I was translating assisted by DeepL. (Note that for this article I’ve deliberately picked just shorter sentences or terms from shorter sentences, as DeepL couldn’t cope with longer sentences or shorter sentences with more convoluted syntax.)

“In one embodiment, the guide tube 106 includes an opening 105 on a first end which receives the medications.”
Although I was supplied with a sentence in perfect German grammar, so at first sight there seemed nothing wrong with it, DeepL had incorrectly assumed that the relative pronoun refers back to “a first end”, whereas its actual antecedent is “an opening”.


“treatment of the surface of the guide tube 106 that comes in contact with the pill
Here we have the same issue as above: The antecedent of the relative pronoun “that” in this particular context is “surface”, i.e. not “guide tube”, because the surface comes into contact with the pill. How can a computer decide what the antecedent of a relative pronoun is? It can’t.

“The shape of the guide tube 106, the orientation of the guide tube 106 to the force of gravity or other source of force, and the coefficients of friction and drag can be specifically designed to orient the axis of each pill in the direction of travel or with the axis of the tube 106.
“direction of travel” was nonsensically translated by DeepL as “Fahrtrichtung”, which would, of course, be the correct term in automotive contexts, whereas here it simply means the pill is moving in a particular direction.

ridges
Translated by DeepL as “Rillen”. Further down in the text, though, and especially when I looked at the technical drawings, it became clear that “Erhöhungen” or a synonymous term is more appropriate because the ridges on the internal (i.e. not the external) surface are described.

“low-distortion transparent material
Translated by DeepL as “verzerrungsarmes transparentes Material”, which does not make sense here since “low-distortion” in this particular context simply means the material in question isn’t prone to becoming deformed. (Also, DeepL omitted the important comma between the two adjectives in German.)

“cameras with fast shutters
Translated by DeepL as “Kameras mit schnellen Shuttern”; however, people working in this field tend to call them “Ultrakurzzeitkameras”.


“System 700 includes an image analyzer 704 and includes or has access to an image database 706.
Translated by DeepL as “Das System 700 verfügt über einen Bildanalysator 704 und eine Bilddatenbank 706”. Although the sentence is correct grammatically and sort of conveys the meaning, leaving out parts of a sentence is a no-go, especially in patent translation.

“In one embodiment, the light sources are continuous.
Translated by DeepL as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen durchgehend”. The grammar is impeccable, yet the sentence sounds odd. A human translator would likely opt for a more technically sounding translation such as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen Dauerlichtquellen.”

“optics
Translated by DeepL by “Optiken” in the plural. Difficult for a computer to get right, but Germans tend to use the term in the singular here to refer to an assembly of optical elements.

“electrophoresis (e.g., capillary)
Translated by DeepL as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillare)”. A human translator would likely elaborate a bit and render the whole phrase as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillarelektrophorese)” as otherwise it all somehow doesn’t fit together.

“limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed
“forms” was translated by DeepL literally as “Formen”. In this particular sentence, however, its meaning in the patent is “embodiments” or “forms of embodiment”, so it really should have been output as “Ausführungsformen”.

Following my experiment, I can confirm DeepL is indeed more precise and nuanced than any of the other machine translations that I’ve previously seen floating around the internet. So should we translators see DeepL as a threat? Will it disrupt the translation industry? I don’t believe it will. Machine translation is becoming more and more widespread, but: I am convinced human input will always be required for many text types.

For any change that looks potentially disruptive, there is both threat and opportunity. It’s ultimately all about how we respond to such changes! It’s also worth remembering there is a shortage of translators (read: good translators) across the board, while translation volumes are increasing year by year. So there is no other way than additionally employing machine translation for all the easier-to-handle-texts that require to be translated.

Machine translation or MT (also often referred to as instant, automated or automatic translation) was pioneered in the 1950s, and although this has taken a very long time, machines are gradually becoming better at translating. We have to acknowledge they are now no longer producing the hopeless gibberish of the early days of MT.

I have until recently been sceptical about the viability of post-editing machine translations as a new field of work in professional translation, simply because the MT output has typically been poor. But following these latest developments, I wonder if it is now worth exploring a bit more? Although DeepL hasn’t set out its vision yet, I wouldn’t mind if DeepL was made available for professionals at some stage – perhaps as a plug-in in the CAT software that we use?

If computers are indeed becoming more and more capable of taking over the boring bits of our work, then this can only be a welcome move forward. For it’ll mean we will at last be able to concentrate and spend more time on the bits in our texts that are actually interesting, that are blissfully complex and therefore worth getting our teeth into!