A Lesson in Polish

I have always loved the Polish language – the letter W everywhere, the consonants, and the interesting punctuation. It has always been one of my favorite languages to work with during my 17 years in the localization industry. I am finally at a point where I can tell the difference between Czech and Polish by sight, but it did take a few years I can also tell the difference, by sound, between Russian and Polish, but they sound very similar and this has also taken many years!

Having two children who are half-Polish, and were blessed with a long surname that can be hard to spell, I decided to delve into the language and find out more about it.

Polish is spoken by 50 million people and is part of the western branch of Slavic languages, belonging to the Indo-European family, along with Slovak and Czech. Although there was pressure from non-Polish administrations in Poland to suppress the native language, Polish is currently the largest, in terms of speakers, of the West Slavic group. It is also the second most widely spoken Slavic language, preceded only by Russian.

Polish is the official language, obviously, of Poland but it is also spoken as a second language in some parts of Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. This is due to migration of the Polish people and border changes after World War II.

Some interesting facts about the Polish language:

  • There is no Q, V, or X in the Polish alphabet.
  • Many words in the Polish language were borrowed from German due to its close proximity.
  • The Polish call their language jÄ™zyk polski or polszczyzna.
  • Slovak is similar to Polish as German is to Swiss German, with more than 70% of vocabulary shared.
  • Polish and Russian are like Spanish and Italian, with 55-60% of vocabulary similar.
  • While Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian use the Cyrillic script, Czech and Polish use the Latin-based script.
  • After learning Polish, you will have a real advantage learning any other Slavonic language: Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovene, Serbian and Ukrainian.
  • The Polish have a special fondness for English and it is the most popular foreign language in Poland.
  • The Polish word meaning “to be” (być) sounds exactly like the English word “bitch“. You’ll want to be careful with that one!
  • Poland is one of the few countries in the world where courteous hand-kissing is still a common practice and this high level of politeness is reflected in the already very formal language.
  • There are big Polish-speaking communities in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Lithuania, the UK, the Ukraine, the US and Russia (among many other countries).
  • The Polish language is one of the more difficult languages to learn due to its tongue-bending pronunciation, complex gender system, seven cases, aspect as a grammatical category of the verb and a tendency to avoid internationalisms for “real” Polish words.

The first complete sentence in modern Polish spelling dates back to 1270 and was recorded in the Book of Henrykow, which described the everyday life at that time. A husband says to his working wife:

Daj, ać ja pobruszę, a ty poczywaj: You rest, and I will grind.

Some common Polish phrases:

  • Dzien dobry : Good Day
  • Dobry wieczor : Good Evening
  • Dobranoc : Good Night
  • Czesc : Hi/Hello
  • Do widzenia : Goodbye
  • Prosze : Please
  • Dziekuje : Thank You
  • Dzieki : Thanks (less formal)

This blog posting was written by our Sr. Localization Manager/Social Media Manager, Robyn.  To read more of her blogs, visit: http://www.languagelovah.blogspot.com/

Advice to freelance translators on MT post-editing projects

MT post-editing projects can be divided into two main categories, depending on the expected level of quality of the final output:

  • Perfection: The objective is to get final files indistinguishable from files that would have been handled only by humans through a standard translation process.
  • Readability: The objective is to get final files that have the same meaning as the source files, are correct from grammar, spelling, and terminology standpoints, but whose style is not necessarily perfect.

For marketing content, “perfection” is clearly a must, but for technical manuals, “readability” can be deemed sufficient.

Thanks to the large number of projects we have been handling at e2f translations, an English to French single language vendor, we have been able to categorize them as “Good” or “Bad” from a production perspective. Unfortunately, we often had to wait until the post-mortem phase to know whether the project was “Good” or “Bad!”

The following are some of the characteristics of a “Good” project:

  • Source files have been written or edited for machine translation: either the source text was written in very simple and consistent language, with short sentences, straightforward word order and little redundancy, or the files have been processed through a “content cleaning software,” such as Acrolinx in order to achieve the same results.
  • The glossary is comprehensive and well translated, and the engine uses it in a systematic manner.
  • The project is large, it has been divided into batches and each batch is processed individually, after incorporation into the MT engine of final output from the previous batch.
  • Specific linguist feedback is incorporated into the engine (fine-tuning of grammar rules, updates to the glossary, etc.), and the linguist is financially rewarded for this step.

When all of the above is true, the linguist feels involved and the quality of the output increases throughout the project, along with the productivity and happiness of the linguist!

In “Bad” projects, the opposite happens:

  • Source files are poorly written, terminology is inconsistent, sentences are long, grammar is awkward, etc.
  • The glossary is too small or inadequate and/or it’s not being used consistently by the engine.
  • Even though the project is large, the machine translation engine has been run only once at the onset.

In this type of project, the linguist gets increasingly frustrated as the same mistakes have to be corrected over and over again, while the overall productivity remains unchanged.

In order to increase productivity while editing MT output, we have found that it is best to abide by the following rules:

  • Read the sentence in the target language first:
    • If the sentence is very long, erase it and translate from scratch (the longer the sentence, the more likely it is that the engine will have made a large number of mistakes and that it will be faster to start over).
    • If the sentence is short but does not make sense, erase it and translate from scratch (if you are going to change most of the words, you might as well start over).
    • Otherwise, read the source text and edit the target text, as little as possible.
  • Don’t overcorrect for styles and synonyms.

To summarize, the best advice we can give to freelance translators willing to take the plunge into MT post-editing is:

  • Clarify expectations at the project onset (so you don’t end up getting paid for “Readable” quality while providing “Perfect” quality).
  • Look for “Good” projects and stay away from “Bad” projects, unless you would rather feel frustrated than involved!
  • Use best post-editing practices to increase your productivity.
  • Finally, calculate your productivity and adapt your rate accordingly!

Very similar advice can be applied to standard translation projects, which proves that MT engines are just another tool and not the revolution some linguists are scared about!

This post is an excerpt of the article published in GALAxy newsletter.

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