Monthly Archives: May 2011

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When converting a PDF file to a DOC/DOCX file for translation, you may end up with a bunch of “Optional Hyphens”—or as SDL Trados 2009 refers to them, “softbreakhyphens”.  Academic publications are particularly affected.  These symbols in your source text can trigger some annoying tag verification errors in Trados.


What’s so irritating?  Beyond the useless tag verification errors, the hyphens can also confuse tools like Lingvo X3 and prevent matching within translation memories. There can literally be hundreds of these irritations in an article.  There are no less than five (highlighted in yellow) in the abstract below. 

The annoying hyphens in this PDF are highlighted in yellow.

They don’t go away, even after converting a PDF to DOC/DOCX.

After converting to DOC/DOCX, the hyphens remain.

Here’s a trick to quickly get rid of them before parsing the converted DOC/DOCX file with translation software such as SDL Trados.

  1. Bring up the Find and Replace dialog. (CTRL+H)
  2. For the “Find what” field, select “Optional Hyphen” from the Special drop down menu.
  3. Leave the “Replace with” field empty.
  4. Click “Replace All”.

Say goodbye to the unhelpful hyphens.


An expert misusing terminology obliterates confidence

I recently translated more than 50 pages of Russian—nearly 16,000 words–for a video course about Microsoft Word 2010.  Half of the job was supposed to be proofreading a previous, partial translation.  Unfortunately, I had to retranslate from scratch, because the original translation was utterly unacceptable.

Utterly unacceptable?  Well, how much confidence would you place in a mechanic who wants to sell you a “grease change” instead of “oil change”?  Or a doctor who recommends a “physical quiz” rather than a “physical exam”?  If I don’t have confidence in your ability to teach me about Microsoft Word 2010, then I won’t be watching your video course.  And if the content of your Microsoft Word video course casts doubts in my mind, I won’t likely trust any of your other content.  Nearly everything worth translating has specialized terminology that must be used correctly. 

Video courses for text editors are no exception.  During my proofreading, I found terminology used incorrectly.  Consider the following Russian text about applying text effects in Microsoft Word 2010:

Также вы можете добавлять эффекты по одному, для этого раскройте один из списков: структура, тень, отражение или свечение и выберете один из предложенных вариантов.

Here is the original—and utterly unacceptable—translation:

You can also add effects one by one. To do this, open one of the lists: structure, shadow, reflection or luminescence and select one of the offered options.

The Russian text refers to a specific part of the user interface.  A proper translation must make the connection between the user interface and the terminology used.  Here’s my translation:

You can also add effects one at a time.  To do this, open one of the submenus: Outline, Shadow, Reflection, or Glow–and select one of the options.

Note the correlation between the list of submenus and the relevant part of the user interface.  The original translation uses “structure” rather than “Outline” and “luminescence” rather than “Glow”.  Do you trust a Microsoft Word expert that’s telling you how to change the “text structure” or apply a “luminescence effect”?


Friends don’t let friends use ABBYY PDF Transformer 3.0 on academic papers

I’m translating an academic paper on image registration.  The paper is published online as a PDF by E. V. Mjasnikov at Samara State Aerospace University, but I what I wanted was a Word document.  I thought I’d give ABBYY PDF Transformer 3.0 a whirl.  Fail.  It destroys mathematical symbols and formulae.  Not the right tool for the job.  For example, this equation for the mutual correlation between two images


becomes this:

II /i (ti, t2 ) / 2 (ti -Ti, t2-T2 ).

Of course, that was before I realized that I needed to add Greek to the list of PDF Document Languages:


While that improved the results, it did not satisfy me.  The improved-yet-unsatisfactory results follow:

ΣΣ7ι (‘ι,’2)12 (‘ι-τι,h-Т2)

C (τι,

ΣΣ722 (‘ι -τι,’2 -τ2)

If ABBYY’s PDF Transformer 3.0 is not the right tool for the job, what is?  Any suggestions?

English translation of Russian personal investment marketing materials

Have you ever needed marketing materials for an investment fund translated from Russian to English?  I can help.  As always, I welcome any feedback on this sample translation.

Russian source text

English target text

К началу мая наш Фонд подошел с перевесом экспозиции в шорт на 50% капитала. С такой экспозицией мы чувствуем себя вполне комфортно в сложившейся рыночной ситуации и рассчитываем реализовать ее с прибылью на ожидаемом нами в ближайшее время снижении рыночных индексов.

Существенное влияние на капитал фонда оказали ряд сделок: дважды за месяц мы загружались в покупку и затем реализовывали с прибылью акциями компании ITT Educational Services, Inc. (NYSE: ESI), одной из крупнейших американских образовательных компаний.

Toward the beginning of May our Fund approached short exposure in excess of 50% of our capital. With such exposure, we feel at ease in existing market conditions and anticipate taking a profit by executing short sales during the soon-expected drop in market indices


A series of transactions has substantially influenced the fund’s capital. Twice in one month, we purchased and subsequently realized a profit on shares of ITT Educational Services, Inc. (NYSE: ESI), one of the major American educational companies.

English translation of Russian transcript of interview with entrepreneur Dennis Crowley

Another sample translation.  This one is an excerpt from a interview with Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare.  Any feedback?

Russian source text (126 words)

English target text (144)

— Ваша первая фирма, которую вы продали Google в 2005 году, называлась Dodgeball («вышибалы»), а теперь у вас Foursquare («игра в квадрат»). Продолжение темы?

— Обе игры — для развлечения. Жесткой конкуренции нет. Тема Foursquare — веселье и игра, и площадкой становится весь город. Я очень вдохновляюсь видеоиграми. Как сделать так, чтобы поиски хорошего ресторана суши были похожи на поиски бумеранга в «Легенде о Зельде»?

— Теперь вам приходится серьезно конкурировать с Facebook и их новой геолокационной функцией Places.

— Всегда приятно видеть, как люди подтверждают наши идеи. В ближайшем будущем мы останемся лидерами в данной сфере. Суть — в наборе вещей, которые можно делать на Foursquare: зарабатывать очки и значки за посещение разных мест, становиться мэром, соревноваться с незнакомцами — все это делает сервис привлекательным, это не просто скидки в магазинах и ресторанах.

—Your first company, which you sold to Google in 2005, was called Dodgeball. And now you have Foursquare. Does this continue a theme?

—Both are games for entertainment, not tough competition. Foursquare is fun and games where the playground is the entire city. I’m very much inspired by videogames. How can I make something as dry as finding a good restaurant like finding the boomerang in the Legend of Zelda?


—Now you’ll have to seriously compete with Facebook and their new geolocational feature, Places.

—It’s always nice to see how people confirm our ideas. In the near future we will become the leaders in this area. The heart of everything you can do on Foursquare–earn points and badges for visiting different places, become the mayor, compete with strangers–it all makes the service attractive. It’s not just the discounts to stores and restaurants.

Resources for learning Russian online: The Russian Alphabet

A catchy tune can enhance learning.  Children are often taught the English alphabet to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  This works very well for our 26 letters.  The Russian alphabet, however, has 33 letters.  This requires a different tune.  This video by the folks at Sesame Street is great!

Stay tuned for more helpful resources in subsequent posts!

Humorous mistranslations

A midlife career change is serious business, but translation isn’t all cold and somber.  I’m currently reading Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas Robinson.  The book thoughtfully presents 11 theses related to the theoretical processes of translation—useful, but not light reading.  However, in the midst of a discussion of abductive reasoning Robinson tosses some linguistic brain candy our way in the form mistranslations.  Thank you, Mr. Robinson.


Here are a few of the gems found on page 101.  Enjoy!

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”

On the door of a Moscow hotel room: “If this is your first visit to Russia, you are welcome to it.”

In the office of a Roman doctor: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”

From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn.  Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”

What’s the funniest (or most catastrophic) mistranslation that you’ve come across?

English translation of political Russian text (Statement by Dmitry Medvedev)

I enjoy translating Russian political texts: speeches, news, press releases, editorials, commentaries, etc.  Yesterday Dmitry Medvedev met with government officials to discuss various security issues.

Here is my translation of the first few paragraphs of the transcript.  Please let me know what you think of this translation.  Thanks!

Russian source text (184 words)

English target text (187 words)

Д.МЕДВЕДЕВ: У нас сегодня расширенное совещание по вопросам безопасности, нежели обычно проходит с участием постоянных членов Совета Безопасности. Несколько вопросов, один из них касается обеспечения безопасности объектов Российской Федерации, а также наших людей, которые там работают – и дипломатических сотрудников, и просто тех, кто находятся в этот момент за границей, – в условиях возникновения чрезвычайных ситуаций.

Таковых за последнее время было много, имею в виду и те кризисные события, которые произошли на Ближнем Востоке, на севере Африки, и чрезвычайное происшествие, которое произошло в Японии: техногенную катастрофу, которая была связана с ранее случившимся стихийным бедствием. И вообще таких происшествий традиционно довольно много происходит в течение года.

В этом смысле у нас должен быть рабочий алгоритм реагирования на эти происшествия, позволяющий защищать и наши представительства, и тех людей, которые находятся на территории этих представительств, а также в достаточно быстром темпе эвакуировать наших туристов, наших деловых людей, находящихся на территории тех или иных стран, где происходят такие достаточно негативные события, которые могут причинить ущерб нашим интересам и даже повлечь гибель наших людей. Этот алгоритм должен быть достаточно универсальным, хорошо проработанным, ориентированным на возможность его использования в самых разных ситуациях.

D. Medvedev: We’re having a more expanded meeting on security issues today than is usually held with the regular members of the Security Council. There are several matters to discuss. One of them has to do with providing for the security of Russian Federation subjects as well as our people who work in them–diplomats and those who just happen to be abroad at the moment–in emergency situations.


Lately, there have been many such events: the crises which have transpired in the Middle East and northern Africa, the emergency in Japan–a manmade catastrophe connected to the preceding natural disaster. Generally, in the course of a year these incidents traditionally happen quite enough.



In this respect we must have an incident response operational plan which allows us to protect our offices and their staff; and also to evacuate our tourists and business people quickly enough–those who are in any country where such sufficiently negative events are happening which might harm our interests and even provoke killing our people. This plan must be sufficiently universal, well studied, and designed for use in the most varied situations.

Russian to English translation of economic news

The short story: As I begin my career as a freelance translator, I am eager to demonstrate and develop my translation and writing skills.  I have zero years of paid translation experience.  However, my language skills are progressing daily.  My love for Russian began when I lived and worked in Russia for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Upon my return I pursued a career in software development, earning a BS and MS in Computer Science and taking a job at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.  I left Microsoft at the beginning of 2011 after more than five years of employment.  Now I’m chasing my dream to be a freelance Russian translator.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Andrei Babitskii on  Please critique the translation.  Thanks!

Russian source text

English target text

Microsoft согласилась купить Skype за $8,5 млрд, решение о сделке уже одобрено советами директоров компаний. Это крупнейшая покупка, которую когда-либо совершала компания Стива Балмера. Могла бы быть второй, но катастрофическая идея купить за $47,5 млрд Yahoo, к счастью, потерпела неудачу в 2008 году.

Google и Facebook, вероятно, надо признать неудачниками: еще несколько дней назад обе компании вели переговоры о покупке или масштабном партнерстве со Skype. Акционерам Skype, напротив, несказанно повезло. Если бы не война за трафик, затеянная интернет-гигантами, они никогда бы не получили и половины от нынешней суммы (ради продажи им придется отказаться от планов публичного размещения, на котором они привлекли бы первые сотни миллионов долларов при несравненно более низкой оценке бизнеса). Microsoft в выигрыше хотя бы потому, что не допустил покупки Skype конкурентами. Сайты Microsoft и так отстают в популярности от сайтов Google и Facebook, а могли бы отстать безнадежно.

Как бы ни была сладка победа над Эриком Шмидтом, вряд ли Стив Балмер отдал $8,5 млрд только для того, чтобы не дать убежать конкурентам. Еще менее вероятно, что он рассматривал эту покупку как инвестиционный проект — кто будет платить десять выручек за компанию, которая поставляет услуги каждому десятому человеку на Земле и при этом уже много лет не может выйти в прибыль. Microsoft попытается каким-нибудь образом встроить Skype в свою линейку продуктов. Вопрос только в том, каким именно.

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. The boards of both companies have already approved the deal. This is the largest purchase Steve Ballmer has ever made. It would have been second largest, but the catastrophic idea to buy Yahoo for $47.5 billion, fortunately, failed in 2008.


Google and Facebook must be acknowledged as failures here; just a few days ago both companies held talks about either a purchase or a significant partnership with Skype. Skype shareholders, on the other hand, are inexpressibly lucky. If not for the traffic war being waged by the Internet giants, they never would have received even half of today’s sum. (Because of the sale they will need to abandon plans for a public offering which, given the far lower business valuation, would have attracted just a few hundred million dollars.) Microsoft is the winner at the very least for not allowing its rivals to purchase Skype. Microsoft’s sites would have lagged in popularity behind those of Google and Facebook, perhaps hopelessly.


No matter how sweet the victory over Eric Schmidt, it is unlikely that Steve Ballmer would hand over $8.5 billion for that alone–to not allow his rivals to break away. Less likely still is that he considers this purchase an investment project. Who would pay ten percent of earnings for a company that serves one out of every ten people on the Earth but still hasn’t made a profit for years. Microsoft will try in some way to integrate Skype into its own product line–the only question is exactly which way.