As many other professions of today, translation is tightly interconnected with the Internet. Some of the ways translators use it in their daily work include researching the subject matter to understand the original text and finding the commonly used target language terminology. But which websites can be considered trusted sources of reference materials? I’ve recently worked on an English to Russian translation concerning innovative disease treatment methods and referred to the Internet extensively to find terminology that is not in the dictionaries yet. I was, however, frustrated with the low efficiency of my research because the search engines continuously yielded tons of unusable results. This post summarizes my general opinion on this matter.
The average quality and trustworthiness of the search results I scan through while searching for the reference materials on the Internet are decreasing. The quality is diluted since useful content is just a fraction of the total content volume added daily. I can think of two potential reasons behind this:
- As I use the search engines to research Russian terms, I increasingly stumble upon the automatically generated texts. A major source of such content is the machine translation (MT). The webmasters simply feed English (or other language) content into the MT engines and publish the resulting Russian text without any editing. Another significant source is the software that generates “unique” content by stealing someone else’s text and replacing as many words as possible by synonyms. As seen by the search engine crawlers, this content is indeed unique, but for the human users and especially translators who look for the commonly used terminology it’s of no practical use and is really a time waster.
- The abundant human translations also contribute to diluting the content quality. While the Internet is certainly home to many well-crafted translations, a huge portion of translated content gives rise to concern. In particular, I find it hard to trust the terminology. For this reason, I rarely use translations as the reference materials. The odds of a literal or incorrect translation are just too high for me to take the chances. I’d rather invest more time in finding content written by the subject matter experts using their native language.
In the light of these observations, I am often surprised by the criticism of Wikipedia. I do realize that it’s not ideal, just as nearly any other crowdsourced initiative. But, as a whole, it might be one of the best general knowledge resources we’ve got on the Internet, simply because there is no other website that provides the same amount of reliable content under one roof. The additional benefit is the well-structured, easy-to-use GUI. Naturally, the translators should not use it as their only source, but at least it’s a good place to start—you can develop a basic understanding of the subject matter and then go deeper with your research by using the available links or keywords.
You can read more about how the Internet helps translators in this post.
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