Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Parameters and Coefficients

I've discovered that there is one Chinese word which can mean in English - parameters and in other cases coefficients.

The Chinese word is 系数 (xi shu). It's extremely common in the kind of texts I work with. Particularly in physics or electronics and computing stuff.

You'll find a lot of websites with translations either way:

www.pinggu.org/bbs/b71i303671.html - uses parameter

dict.cnki.net/dict_source_d.aspx?searchword=coefficient&t=系数
- uses coefficient

So that leaves the translator with the problem of figuring out which is which from the context.


My first impression is that the English words are basically the same, but a dictionary search reveals:

Parameter (according to Princeton Dictionary)
  • a constant in the equation of a curve that can be varied to yield a family of similar curves
  • any factor that defines a system and determines (or limits) its performance
  • argument: (computer science) a reference or value that is passed to a function, procedure, subroutine, command, or program
  • a quantity (such as the mean or variance) that characterizes a statistical population and that can be estimated by calculations from sample data
Coefficient (according to the same source)

a constant number that serves as a measure of some property or characteristic


So obviously in computing, it is going to be parameter.

But both definitions are possible in Physics or maths stuff.

Sometimes there seems no way to be 100% sure. It's just a matter of educated guesses, dertermining things from context, and so on.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Exc ess Data

I just completed a translation where in the source text, they had specified "taken into the stomach by the mouth". I originally translated it as "taken orally", but then I started wondering why they had specified "into the stomach".

So then I went backwards and forwards translating it as "taken orally into the stomach", "taken into the stomach" and so on. I wish I could have got in touch with the writer of the source text, but I couldn't.

In the end I decided to translate as "taken into the stomach orally".

I'm sure there is a lot that can be learned from that kind of problem. I guess if your source text is odd, then even the best translation will be odd.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Patent Translation

Patent translation is an area that you could write millions of articles on. I'm currently working on a pretty technical patent, and it's making me think about the differences in format between the various nations.

Is there any reason why all patents in the world, couldn't follow a particular standard (section 1 = prior art, section 2 = content etc). It's so frustrating that the patents from the various Chinese speaking regions have different formats. So I can't just run it through my translation memory to save a bit of time.

On the other hand, the lack of any logical interaction gives me a way to show my skills to the client.