My home on the web - featuring my real-life persona!

Normal, Light, Minimum

I am translating some device strings, and sometimes you run into strings that just seem so wrong. Right now, I am working on a device that triggers a measurement when a user presses down on the measurement head. The user can select how much pressure has to be put on the device, and the options are Normal, Light and Minimum.

This just seems so wrong to me, shouldn’t “Normal” be the middle value and the choices should be Firm, Normal, Light or so? Ts…firmware engineers :-)

Check spelling in HTML files

This is an interesting test - is anyone still listening/reading? It has been very quiet here while I was finishing my BS in Computer Science (look how I casually slipped that in!) and we had some huge projects at work - one increased my work load to handling 14 languages.

Anyway, I believe I am not the only one who translates a lot of HTML files. I use TagEditor and I like it (yes I do, I am not getting paid to say this) but one of it’s shortcomings is the spell checker. Like many, I have used workarounds to make sure my spelling is OK. Usually, I copy the text into Word to check the spelling. If I find a typo or want to change a sentence, I go back into TagEditor, make the change there to update the TM and then export another target file. And I always wished, I could just check the spelling in the HTML file itself.

I know a lot of WYSIWYG HTML editors have a spell checker. I can also open the HTML file in Word and make changes directly in Word. Either solution is not recommended because more often than not, they mess with the HTML code. Sometimes, it is just the indentation of the code but often they add or change tags which can cause problems on client site or even worse, corrupt the page.

The other problem is that you cannot see the file in its “natural habitat”, ie. processed by a browser. Word tries to show you what the page may look like but it is IE exclusive. Most WYSIWYG editors also emulate/integrate one browser or another to display the page but especially when using CSS styles, they usually fail.

I have been looking for a spell checker that works directly in Firefox, my default browser. There are many spell checkers that work in input locations, for example text boxes and fields, but nothing worked in the display static text of a web page. I looked back, and in December 2007 I was on the hunt the last time. Apparently I didn’t run into web pages issues since then because only today this problem came up again. Again, I did a quick search and low and behold, there now is a bookmarklet/plugin that works! I am trying to track down the origins, and I believe it originated from Urbano’s Blog written by alex. On a lot of other sites I found an additional link using that JavaScript that you can just drag and drop onto your bookmark toolbar in FF: Spellcheck Anywhere

Using it couldn’t be easier. Open the HTML page you want to check in Firefox (and this should be the default when double-clicking an HTML page anyway), then click on the bookmarklet and there you go, spell checking in your browser window! You can change the language to whatever spell checker you have installed - just click Ctrl-A to highlight all text, then right-click on any text portion and in the context menu select the desired language from Languages. If you need more languages, you can download those for free from Firefox Dictionaries & Language Packs

There is one small problem though, while it looks like it allows you to edit the HTML page, the changes are are not saved when you try to save the edited file. This is a little unfortunate because it would spare me the extra step of saving the target file in TagEditor again, but nevertheless, this will make my life so much easier!

Cool Tool - ExamDiff Pro

Yeah, I am still alive but barely and I believe my brain is quite worn out. We had released several new products and launched a separate website specifically for the photo market (

I also designed a webpage (, I turned 40, we took a few short trips during the summer and we just had nice weather so I rather stay outside.

During one of my projects I had to send out Word documents for review. I told everyone to please turn on “Tracking” in Word and correct the files so I can update my translation memories. These were long (70 pages), big (60 MB) documents with a lot of formatting, grouped elements and images.

Unfortunately, people either don’t like or are not familiar with the tracking function (and are afraid to ask), so I got a variety of documents back, each markked up in a creative way - or not at all.

Now, I know that Word has a Compare function, but I have never been happy with the results. The view is very messy, it highlights ever little “font hiccup” and some ominous language changes and I’d say it is not usable in general.

Fortunately, I remember the little compare tool I use for XML files, it is called ExamDiff and I wondered what it would do with a binary format like a Word document. Well, it handles them like a champ! I have created a doc with a partial Microsoft EULA and changed a copy. ExamDiff shows both documents in a window split vertically or horizontally, highlighting the lines that changed and marking the particular change.

But for me the best was the report function. Since I had to communicate all the changes back to my Italian translator, this was very important. ExamDiff created an HTML document (other formats are also available) that basically looked exactly like the comparison I saw in the application window. It had a little legend that explains what the colors mean and I was able to just send this document to my translator who was easily able to update his translation memory with these changes. Report generated by ExamDiff

Maybe there are a lot of tools like this out there, but ExamDiff has always been wonderful when comparing XML files or source code with 10,000+ lines of code, but until now I was not aware that it can do other files.
Now, as for versions, we are using the older version ExamDiff Pro 3.5. The new version 4.5 costs $35 and is available at PrestoSoft

Context please!

I am just going through my old list email. Since I filter them to different directories it doesn’t bother my inbox I don’t care much if they accumulate. They never have attachments, so even a few thousand emails don’t amount to any significant file size.

One of my pet peeves are translation questions without context. Actually, it applies not only to translation mailing lists but to all types of online communication and all sorts of topics. If you have a computer question, you should always include your computer specs or what exactly the problem is and how it started. The question “What should I do if my computer doesn’t boot anymore?” is impossible to answer.

I am never sure why people do not add the specifics or the sentence before and/or after to their questions. Sometimes, if you are in a hurry, you may forget it and just slap the sentence into an email and send it off. It happens, that’s OK. Unfortunately, you sometimes see an elaborate email that omits the context and in that case you know it was not written in a rush. So, what makes those people omit the oh-so-important context?

A few possible reasons come to mind:

  • The asker feels the context is not relevant
    This is a poor judgment call given the fact that the asker didn’t understand the sentence well enough to translate it in the first place. To a native speaker, the sentence before and after is often the deciding factor for a translation. This is not a “need-to-know” situation, unless the asker is translating highly confidential material for the CIA or FBI. Let the mailing list decide how much additional information they need, but give them as much as possible.
  • The asker feels the context is obvious
    This may be true in some cases, but in most cases it is just obvious to the asker because his mind is “in the text”. The people on the mailing list have no idea what the translation is about. And even if they know the general context, it is usually important to know who said something, the frame of mind of the narrator, the time frame - or for technical items, if it is a description, a caption, a menu item, a catalog entry etc.
  • The asker finds it more appropriate to explain the context
    This is my favorite. In this case, the mailing list has to trust that the asker actually understood the parts before and after, which can be dubitable. He didn’t understand the sentence he is asking about, so how can he be sure he understood the sentence before and after properly? The target language explanation is a translation of his understanding which doubles the error rate. First the context is possibly misunderstood, and second it is possibly mistranslated.

In the end, it is a big waste of time for everyone involved. People who are trying to help send possible solutions that are totally useless within the context - which they couldn’t tell because there was no context. Members of the mailing list get annoyed to the point where they don’t even answer anymore, but just roll their eyes and hit the “Delete” key. The mailing list gets swamped with a back-and-forth of emails with the context slowly unfolding and with the new information, people “re-answer”.

In one of those discussions a couple of months back, a fellow translator and ATA/GLD member Karin Bauchrowitz replied with a great comment (she was quoting someone from a conference):

Beginners translate word by word, then it goes up to sentence by sentence, then paragraph by paragraph, but only the experienced translators go by the entire text, meaning that they take the entire text under consideration.

Considering the topic of this post - do your fellow list members a favor: don’t ask for help posting a word or sentence. For a proper translation, give them at least a paragraph of the text!

The Linguists - Tonight (Feb. 26) on PBS

I just saw this in a magazine - tonight on PBS (10pm EST on my PBS station):

The Linguists is a hilarious and poignant chronicle of two scientists—David Harrison and Gregory Anderson—racing to document languages on the verge of extinction. In Siberia, India, and Bolivia, the linguists confront head-on the very forces silencing languages: racism, humiliation, and violent economic unrest. David and Greg’s journey takes them deep into the heart of the cultures, knowledge, and communities at risk when a language dies.

Before airing on PBS, The Linguists world premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and screened at more than 40 festivals worldwide. The Linguists is produced and directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger of Ironbound Films, and based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. 0452417 and 0438121 and by the Nonprofit Media Group.

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