A Mind @ Play

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Category: Translation Page 1 of 2

memoQ and XSLT: Fun with Namespaces

Using memoQ to translate standard XLIFF (XML Localisation Interchange File Format) files can be made that bit more user friendly when you take advantage of the built-in feature to use XSLT transformations. Since I can’t get my head around namespaces, my simple transformation ended up strewn with unreadable references to local-name() nodes. As ever, there is an easier way.

Take a standard XLIFF file along the lines of:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xliff version="1.0" xmlns="urn:oasis:names:tc:xliff:document:1.2">
   <file source-language="en" datatype="plaintext" original="Project">
         <trans-unit id="string">
            <source>This is the source content.</source>

We can identify the nodes in the source using standard XPath syntax having defined the namespaces in the header:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0"
   exclude-result-prefixes="xsl xlf xsi"
<xsl:output method="html" omit-xml-declaration="yes" />
<xsl:template match="/">
<xsl:text disable-output-escaping='yes'><!DOCTYPE html></xsl:text>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en">
   <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="yourStyles.css" />
   <title>XML Preview</title>
   <h1><xsl:value-of select="xlf:xliff/xlf:file/@original"/></h1>
   <xsl:for-each select="xlf:xliff/xlf:file/xlf:body/xlf:trans-unit">
      <div class="id"><xsl:value-of select="@id"/></div>
      <div class="content"><xsl:value-of select="xlf:source"/></div><br>   </xsl:for-each>

This produces a basic, ugly but ultimately workable HTML file which memoQ can display in its preview pane:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en">
      <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="yourStyles.css"/>
      <title>XML Preview</title>
      <div class="id">string</div>
      <div class="content">This is the source content.</div>

Obviously you can add references to any other information available in your XLIFF files, and then serve and style up the resulting HTML in any desired shape or form, but this basic scaffolding might help someone out there avoid the namespace minefield I ran into!

[Image courtesy of @emilep]

Ein kleiner Kniff für die Qualitätssicherung bei memoQ

This post is also available in English.

Die Übersetzungssoftware memoQ verfügt über eine nützliche Funktion als teil des QA-Checks, wodurch in der Zielsprache nach verdoppelten Wörtern geprüft wird. In meinem Fall hat es schon mehrmals auf kleine Tippfehler hingewiesen, wo ich versehentlich ein „and and“ oder ein „to to“ geschrieben habe. Dennoch bleibt der Vorteil dieses Checks etwas eingeschränkt, wenn man in seiner Sprache regelmäßig solche Formen hat, die diese Verdoppelung verlangen. Im Deutschen denkt man an Sätze, die die Wörter „die die“ verlangen. Der französische Übersetzer wiederum rauft sich die Haare, als ihm memoQ zum zigsten Mal ein „nous nous“ ankreidet.

Doch mithilfe der relativ neu eingebauten Regex-Funktion kann man dieses Problem tatsächlich beheben. Editiert man seinen Regelsatz für die Qualitätssicherung, kann man den Standardcheck unter dem Konsistenz-Reiter ausschalten, dafür unter dem Regex-Reiter eine neue Regel erstellen, die diesen Check ersetzt aber Rücksicht auf Ausnahmen nimmt. Für Französisch zum Beispiel kann man die folgende Regel als Forbidden regex match in target1Leider sind die Hilfsseiten von Kilgray auf Deutsch nicht aktuell, daher hier die englischen Namen. eingeben:


Wenn aktiviert, prüft diese Regel weiterhin nach doppelten Wörtern in der Zielsprache, einschließlich üblicher Interpunktionszeichen wie bspw. Apostrophen, ignoriert jedoch jeder Fall von „nous nous“ oder „vous vous“. Die Ausnahmen in der Regel vorne kann man dann beliebig erweitern, je nach Bedarf. Die Regel ist bestimmt nicht fehlerlos, aber sie kann die Anzahl der falschen Warnungen enorm verringern, ohne dass man auf diesen Check komplett verzichten muss.

[Foto von Ilya Pavlov auf Unsplash]

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1. Leider sind die Hilfsseiten von Kilgray auf Deutsch nicht aktuell, daher hier die englischen Namen.

memoQ QA Check Tweak

Dieser Eintrag ist auch auf Deutsch verfügbar.

memoQ has a handy little feature as part of its QA check which warns you whenever you double up a word in the target language. I’ve had it catch numerous little and ands and to tos which slip into my work on occasion. However certain combinations of doubled up words are fairly commonplace, which can lead to this feature producing lots of unnecessary false errors. A classic example in English might be two hads in a sentence like ‘I had had enough,’ but that pales in comparison to a language like French, which sees plenty of doubled up words in pronominal verbs (nous nous lavons, vous vous souvenez etc.)

One way to fix this is to make use of the relatively new regex feature built into the QA check. Untick the option to check for duplicate words in the target under the Consistency tab. Then under the Regex tab we can replicate this functionality, while including our own exception to the rule. Add a new rule of the type Forbidden regex match in target, give it a relevant description, and then add this target regex:


When active, this rule will continue to highlight any duplicate words in the translation, including all the usual punctuation marks, but ignores any occurrences of nous nous or vous vous. Obviously these exceptions at the front can be replaced with whatever is required in the target language. The rule isn’t by any means flawless, and will for example also complain about repeated sequences of numbers, but it can help to reduce the number of false positives without having to abandon the check altogether.

[Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash]

Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation

Mouse or Rat?Whilst I can’t claim to have had massive expectations from this book, the author’s reputation, experience, and the subject matter piqued my interest at first glance. This book is a collection of essays roughly sewn together reflecting the author’s personal experiences in the field of translation, either via conversations and experiences with translators and translations of his own works, or through translating by his own hand.

As a collection of personal reflections collected together in essay form, there are plenty of interesting and oft amusing anecdotes which Eco ties together to support his thesis of translation as a form of negotiation between cultures. Relying to a large extent on examples taken from the various translations of his own works, he illustrates how the idea of translation must be seen through the capacity of the medium. That is to say that a language provides only a limited resource, and one rooted in its culture, which makes the art of translation a constant battle, a question of compromise, of content and connotation, of rhyme and register, of familiarity and foreignness. Eco’s own works provide plenty of toothy work for the translator, which he here amply dissects and compares, and these are at times supplemented by no lesser fry than the likes of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, for example.

Eco’s thesis notwithstanding, there are problems with the book which for me detracted from its enjoyment. Firstly, as some other reviewers have pointed out, there are some pretty steep language requirements in order to really be able to fully understand many of Eco’s examples. Italian is, naturally, the most often quoted language, along with French and Spanish as a Romanic trio of languages, and German crops up on occasion. In the case of the latter, there were a number of obvious mistakes in the book, which no doubt rest to a large extent on it not being one of Eco’s stronger suits. Indeed, although nominally a work exploring translation as a whole, the author’s own (albeit impressive) lingual skills narrows it down to an investigation of translation between Romance languages and English, with really very little mention of non-Indo-European languages or cultures, where far more interesting problems doubtless arise.

Another important detractor is that as the book is a compilation of essays based on a lecture series, rather than one contiguous treatise, there were numerous occasions where Eco repeated himself relatively excessively. One example which springs to mind is his quotation of W. V. Quine that a sentence such as “neutrinos lack mass” is for some languages of the world untranslatable, a quotation which crops up three or four times in different essays.

One final criticism, although this is certainly more a matter of taste, is that with all that brain power, Eco tends to write with a lot of hubris. Another commenter quoted an excellent line which I think sums it up nicely: “Sometimes I ask myself if by chance I write novels purely in order to put in hermetic references that are comprehensible only to me. I feel like a painter who, in a landscape, puts among the leaves of the trees – almost invisible – the initials of his beloved. And it does not matter if not even she is able to identify them.” For all the fascination that the subject of translation has to offer, discussing the translation of symbols invisible to everyone but the author is certainly the most abstract and esoteric topic the author could have chosen to concentrate on.

Ultimately this book offers a very interesting read, but only for the right, qualified reader. I should say a command of at least one Romance language is a must, as well as a reasonable familiarity with the field of translation. For the uninitiated, a more basic but also more thorough and elaborate investigation of the world of translation can be found in the recent Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything.

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

Is that a Fish in your Ear?Dieser Eintrag ist auch auf Deutsch verfügbar.

In titling his book (or having his book titled?) “Is that a fish in your ear?”, David Bellos has certainly made categorising this work a difficult task. It looks and feels like it should belong firmly in the ‘popular science’ section, yet as other reviewers have pointed out, the writing sits it firmly in a half-way academic category. Still, the material covered should be of interest to a wide range of readers, with the book split into fairly short and relatively self-contained chapters, that one can really dip and choose or skip out the parts that are of little interest. The book covers a very wide range of topics, and skitters over numerous areas such as philosophy, biology, religion and of course linguistics.

One of the first things that struck me about the work as a whole was that Bellos was taking the opportunity to defend his profession, or at least his approach to the business of translation. Chapters often deal with a particular assault on translation or translators, mainly in the form of an every day platitude, which is then investigated, tested and (for the most part) satisfactorily overturned. I found myself disagreeing with his opinions on occasions, but the evidence is presented well enough that the reader can draw his own conclusions most of the time. Neverthelees, there appear to be some contradictions in the book, and some of his arguments felt at times overdrawn. For instance, he criticises a statement made by Nabokov regarding Pushkin’s poetry that ‘to reproduce the rhymes and yet translate the entire poem literally is mathematically impossible’. He then goes on to illustrate how the form of said poetry lent itself well to translation, and that the root of Nabokov’s statement lay in his reluctance to attempt it. Whilst this isn’t necessarily untrue, it doesn’t detract from Nabokov’s original statement about the impossibility of translating both form and content, nor does the statement that other gifted translators give a ‘good approximation of Pushkin’s verse’. Bellos’ own chapter on poetry, as another reviewer well pointed out, if anything confirms Nabokov in his statement.

In his defense of translation, Bellos covers a wide range of fields and periods, from Sumeria through the Bible to the EU, with humour, legalese and interpreting all playing a part. He depaints the difficulties the translator faces, having restrictions of space (e.g. comics), time (e.g. film subtitles/dubbing), dealing with grammatical features that are missing in target or source language, or simply requiring clarification of meaning where there is none to be had. The chapters covering the workings of the EU and the UN are particularly interesting, as is the thread running through the work about the dominant role of English and its potential effects on other languages through the work of translators. Another strong point is Bellos’ inclusion of plenty of examples and anecdotes that help to elucidate his points, both in terms of the difficulties and the successes.

Whilst there were a few statements in the book which I would consider ‘mistakes’, these were always peripheral to the main argument, and the work is otherwise extremely well-researched and detailed. Bellos writes with authority, and despite his strong points of view never comes across as condescending – in fact, a real sense of modesty peers through his writing, especially when dealing with areas of translation that are not his particular field.

Ultimately, this is a book that will definitely appeal to the right reader. Despite my finding some of his arguments to be not particularly convincing, Bellos presents enough information and evidence to allow his readers to make their own minds up. As an overall introduction and summary to the world of translations, this book is a thorough success, most suited to students of language, those considering becoming translators, and perhaps people interested in finding out more about the translations they themselves consume. Yet as others have pointed out, it isn’t as straightforward a read as the title or dustjacket make out, so a quick dip into Amazon’s “Look inside!” feature would probably save a few rumpled foreheads.

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