Common English to Russian Translation Errors. Part 2


October 28th, 2013, Roman Mironov

I always thought Microsoft was a leader in terms of translation quality. But, surprisingly, the examples for this second post in the series come from Microsoft.

Noun phrases

In noun phrases such as “server cabinet,” the first noun serves as an adjective, not a singular noun, as it appears to be. As a result, these noun phrases can be a challenge to translate for a non-native English speaker, because a literal, singular-noun translation is often incorrect. In the “server cabinet” example, “server” appears “singular,” but rendering it with a respective singular noun may be wrong if the holds has several servers.

Windows example

Russian_localization error_disk

In this example, the Russian translation of “disk configuration” is confusing, because it says “loading the configuration of one disk,” as if there were just one disk on the system. Although this is quite a subtle distinction and is by no means a mistranslation (one could even technically get away with it by “explaining” that this utility is loading the configurations of each disk one by one), it is a good example anyway. As you can see on the left and the right of the image, the same “disk configuration” is translated correctly with the plural form: “Управление дисками.” Which makes the translation in this example not only inaccurate, but also inconsistent with the text next to it.

Another example

The server cabinet is a modular system.

INCORRECT: Шкаф с сервером представляет собой модульную систему. Let’s imagine that the singular “сервер” in the translation is incorrect, because later on, we come across this sentence, which clearly shows that there are several servers in the cabinet: “The cabinet contains the data management equipment and servers.”

CORRECT: Серверный шкаф/Шкаф с серверами представляет собой модульную систему.

As the example shows, you have two options:

  1. The easiest is to translate the noun phrase as an adjective + a noun, as in the example: “серверный шкаф.”
  2. Whenever this is impossible, look for clues as to whether the noun is singular or plural, as I did above. As usual, context is everything in translation.

“Online”

Even though “online” is a relatively simple term, its translation is often a challenge that many fail to tackle properly. The most common meanings include:

  1. “On the Internet.” “Online shopping” is “покупки в Интернете.”
  2. “Connected to a network, server, etc.” “The PC is online” is “ПК подключен к сети.”
  3. “Operational” as opposed to “offline” (not operational). “The machinery is online now” is “Оборудование запущено в эксплуатацию.”

The most common errors are:

Translating “online” as “interactive” when it means “on the Internet” or “connected to a network”

Example

The app allows you to negotiate rates with hotels online.

INCORRECT: С помощью этого приложения можно вести переговоры по ставкам с отелями в интерактивном режиме.

CORRECT: С помощью этго приложения можно вести с отелями переговоры по ценам через Интернет.

Translating “online” as “connected to a network” when it means simply “operational”

Windows example

Russian_localization error

Online

INCORRECT: В сети

CORRECT: Работает

The translation says that the HDD is “on a network.” Obviously, this HDD is not connected to any network. “В строю” would have been a much better translation, and a funnier one, too.

In conclusion

Let’s hope that Microsoft, one of the long-term leaders in the field of IT translation, is still committed to being a leader, and the examples used here are just blunders that can happen despite multiple levels of quality assurance. For more examples of localization errors in Russian software, read the article about issues in the Russian version of Adobe Reader.

Other articles in this series

Common English to Russian translation Errors. Part 1

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