Towards a Participative Platform for Cultural Texts Translators

Towards a Participative Platform for Cultural Texts Translators

Aurélien Bénel (ICD/Tech-CICO Lab UTT, France) and Philippe Lacour (ENS, France & Marc Bloch Center, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4979-8.ch096


Although machine translation and translation memories are frequently used in business, they are inadequate to translate a text from a culture to another one. When faced with philosophy, literature or ancient texts, professional translators have to cope with the fact that the most important things to ‘translate’ are often in the style, in details, or even unwritten. We advocate for changing the user interfaces and use patterns of a few computer-assisted translation techniques so that they could fit the interpretative tradition of cultural sciences. In particular, we will focus on what could foster intertextuality and enable the confrontation of different points of view on the same opus (several translators in several languages). Provided as a participative Web platform, our software is designed as a collaboration and debate place for scholars around the world working on the same opus, author, time or genre. At the end of the chapter, this design is confronted with the observation of a face-to-face working session.
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Although computer-aided translation tools are widely used in business, they are carefully avoided in cultural sciences. In fact both machine translation and translation memories implicitly embed very questionable hypotheses concerning language.

From Machine Translation to Human Translation

Machine translation (see Figure1) embeds a language theory in which translating could be reduced to applying a set of rules from a source language to a target language. First, this would require that a form could be replaced by another while preserving the meaning. On the contrary, both language theory and practice show that form-to-form translation (e.g. ‘London’ to ‘Londres’) is rare at any level (term to sentence). For example, when a translator cannot express a connotation in a translated form, she can move it on a neighbour form. Second, this would require the existence of language rules. For current theories, rules exist for genre but not for a whole language. In other words, they are not universal rules, but practical norms in use (Rastier, 2007). This last objection to rule-based machine translation could explain the renewed interest in computer-aided translation based on human translation. Among them, statistical machine translation is still not accurate enough to be used by professional, but, on the contrary, translation memories are widely used in translation agencies.

Figure 1.

Machine translation of a poem (screenshot)

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