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RANT: Czech-English dictionary compilers

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  • Gerald Turner
    In the Middle Ages dishonest craftsmen and tradesmen received appropriate punishment when convicted, e.g. a cheating baker being dragged through the city
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 2, 2010
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      In the Middle Ages dishonest craftsmen and tradesmen received appropriate
      punishment when convicted, e.g. a cheating baker being dragged through the
      city streets on a sled with the fraudulent bread tied around his neck.
      Perhaps colleagues might like to devise appropriate punishment for
      dictionary compilers who get paid for inserting non-existent English words
      when they cannot come up with an equivalent. Today's gem from Langsoft's
      online dictionary, by courtesy of Seznam.cz: vrstvit se = statity (sic!)

      Oh, and a Happy New Year from a snowy Babylon near Domažlice.

      Gerry



      --
      Ondříčkova 40
      130 00 Prague 3 - Žižkov
      Czech Republic
      Tel/fax: ++ 420 235 357 194
      Mobile: ++ 420 605 777 260

      To see a World in a Grain of Sand
      And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
      Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
      And Eternity in an hour.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Josef Hlavac
      Hmm.. is this frequent in that dictionary? It is possible that you have stumbled upon a copyright protection measure. Dictionary authors/publishers like to
      Message 2 of 11 , Jan 2, 2010
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        Hmm.. is this frequent in that dictionary? It is possible that you have
        stumbled upon a copyright protection measure. Dictionary
        authors/publishers like to insert a few purposeful errors here and there
        so that they can later present them as evidence that a competing
        dictionary contains their work.

        Josef

        Gerald Turner wrote:
        > In the Middle Ages dishonest craftsmen and tradesmen received appropriate
        > punishment when convicted, e.g. a cheating baker being dragged through the
        > city streets on a sled with the fraudulent bread tied around his neck.
        > Perhaps colleagues might like to devise appropriate punishment for
        > dictionary compilers who get paid for inserting non-existent English words
        > when they cannot come up with an equivalent. Today's gem from Langsoft's
        > online dictionary, by courtesy of Seznam.cz: vrstvit se = statity (sic!)
        >
        > Oh, and a Happy New Year from a snowy Babylon near Domažlice.
        >
        > Gerry
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • James Kirchner
        I feel your pain, Gerry. In my classes here in the States I have students using electronic dictionaries all over the room, and what I can t understand is why
        Message 3 of 11 , Jan 2, 2010
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          I feel your pain, Gerry.

          In my classes here in the States I have students using electronic dictionaries all over the room, and what I can't understand is why the Arabic and Chinese dictionaries appear to be so accurate, while the East European ones are so extremely pathetic, from Vilnius to Warsaw to Prague to Sofia.

          It appears to me that what has happened is that in Beirut or Cairo or Beijing programmers and business people were hired to assist lexicographers make real dictionaries electronically accessible. The most popular Arabic-English electronic dictionary my students have appears to be professionally supervised alignment of the American Heritage Dictionary with one of the most respected Arabic dictionaries, so that the students not only get accurate word and idiom translations but also precise usage notes along with them.

          Meanwhile, the East Europeans can't get an electronic dictionary that's worth a crap. It appears the programmers and business people bypassed the lexicographers completely. Yes, defenders say those dictionaries are often good sources of technical terminology, but the farther down you go toward everyday language the more rotten they get. To get the equivalent of what the Arabs and the Chinese in my classes have, the publishers of the SSJC would be collaborating with Oxford and Merriam-Webster, or even Longman, to align the dictionaries and produce an accurate, enduring database. For unknown reasons, nobody seems to have thought of this.

          Jamie

          On Jan 2, 2010, at 5:47 AM, Gerald Turner wrote:

          > In the Middle Ages dishonest craftsmen and tradesmen received appropriate
          > punishment when convicted, e.g. a cheating baker being dragged through the
          > city streets on a sled with the fraudulent bread tied around his neck.
          > Perhaps colleagues might like to devise appropriate punishment for
          > dictionary compilers who get paid for inserting non-existent English words
          > when they cannot come up with an equivalent. Today's gem from Langsoft's
          > online dictionary, by courtesy of Seznam.cz: vrstvit se = statity (sic!)
          >
          > Oh, and a Happy New Year from a snowy Babylon near Domažlice.
          >
          > Gerry
          >
          > --
          > Ondříčkova 40
          > 130 00 Prague 3 - Žižkov
          > Czech Republic
          > Tel/fax: ++ 420 235 357 194
          > Mobile: ++ 420 605 777 260
          >
          > To see a World in a Grain of Sand
          > And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
          > Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
          > And Eternity in an hour.
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Petr
          Podle meho nazoru je to otazka penez. Kdo zaplati opravdu kvalitni slovnik pro ubohych 10 milionu lidi? Kdy by se ty naklady vratily? Petr Adamek ... To get
          Message 4 of 11 , Jan 2, 2010
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            Podle meho nazoru je to otazka penez. Kdo zaplati opravdu kvalitni slovnik pro ubohych 10 milionu lidi? Kdy by se ty naklady vratily?
            Petr Adamek
            --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, James Kirchner <jpklists@...> wrote:
            >
            To get the equivalent of what the Arabs and the Chinese in my classes have, the publishers of the SSJC would be collaborating with Oxford and Merriam-Webster, or even Longman, to align the dictionaries and produce an accurate, enduring database. For unknown reasons, nobody seems to have thought of this.
          • James Kirchner
            It can t be only a matter of money. Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- just two examples! -- have populations smaller than that of the Czech Republic, and their
            Message 5 of 11 , Jan 2, 2010
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              It can't be only a matter of money. Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- just two examples! -- have populations smaller than that of the Czech Republic, and their dictionaries are quite good!

              I think there are other factors at work:

              1. After the Velvet Revolution the tech heads moved faster on their own than the legitimate dictionary publishers did, and certain very bad terminology databases took on a life of their own and began to spread and gain acceptance. Standards were very low not only for cheap dictionaries but for absolutely any sort of language instruction publication. (I think of publications in horrible English, such as "Reading About the English-Speaking Countries" by Jana Odehnalov�, along with some awful things for children.)

              2. You people will beat me over the head for this, but in my experience Czechs produce more fraudulent work in the language field than people do in the West. (Actually, I shouldn't say just Czechs, but Czechs and native English speakers resident in the Czech Republic.) When I work on projects in which I can look at other people's translation memory, I do see work by German or French translators who are incompetent, just as I see work by Czechs, Americans and Brits who are incompetent. However, only with the Czech language do I get translations that are literally fraudulent -- in which some Czech, Brit or American either plagiarized another translation that didn't have the same meaning, or even just completely made up the text, seemingly without understanding or caring what the original meant or what the target version should mean, and hoping he doesn't get caught. With this behavior, it is not far-fetched to think that a lot of what passes for electronic lexicography is not only incompetent, but also fraudulent.

              Jamie

              On Jan 2, 2010, at 9:24 AM, Petr wrote:

              > Podle meho nazoru je to otazka penez. Kdo zaplati opravdu kvalitni slovnik pro ubohych 10 milionu lidi? Kdy by se ty naklady vratily?
              > Petr Adamek
              > --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, James Kirchner <jpklists@...> wrote:
              > >
              > To get the equivalent of what the Arabs and the Chinese in my classes have, the publishers of the SSJC would be collaborating with Oxford and Merriam-Webster, or even Longman, to align the dictionaries and produce an accurate, enduring database. For unknown reasons, nobody seems to have thought of this.
              >
              >



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Petr
              ... Samozrejme ze velkou roli hraje to, ze jsme byli az do 90. let odriznuti od zapadniho sveta a na tom, aby tu lide umeli kvalitne anglicky, nemel tehdejsi
              Message 6 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                > It can't be only a matter of money. Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- just two examples! -- have populations smaller than that of the Czech Republic, and their dictionaries are quite good!
                > I think there are other factors at work:
                > 1. After the Velvet Revolution the tech heads moved faster on their own than the legitimate dictionary publishers did, and certain very bad terminology databases took on a life of their own and began to spread and gain acceptance. Standards were very low not only for cheap dictionaries but for absolutely any sort of language instruction publication. (I think of publications in horrible English, such as "Reading About the English-Speaking Countries" by Jana Odehnalov�, along with some awful things for children.)

                Samozrejme ze velkou roli hraje to, ze jsme byli az do 90. let odriznuti od zapadniho sveta a na tom, aby tu lide umeli kvalitne anglicky, nemel tehdejsi rezim zajem. Takze ani lide, kteri pisi language instruction publications, idiomatickou anglictinu vlastne neumeji. A kdo anglicky dobre umi, zivi se lepe jinou praci nez sestavovanim slovniku. (Je vseobecne znamo, ze trebas prumerny Sved umi dobre anglicky, kdezto prumerny starsi Cech anglictinu v lepsim pripade lame, v horsim ji vubec neumi.)

                > 2. You people will beat me over the head for this, but in my experience Czechs produce more fraudulent work in the language field than people do in the West. (Actually, I shouldn't say just Czechs, but Czechs and native English speakers resident in the Czech Republic.) When I work on projects in which I can look at other people's translation memory, I do see work by German or French translators who are incompetent, just as I see work by Czechs, Americans and Brits who are incompetent. However, only with the Czech language do I get translations that are literally fraudulent -- in which some Czech, Brit or American either plagiarized another translation that didn't have the same meaning, or even just completely made up the text, seemingly without understanding or caring what the original meant or what the target version should mean, and hoping he doesn't get caught. With this behavior, it is not far-fetched to think that a lot of what passes for electronic lexicography is not only incompetent, but also fraudulent.
                >
                Ano, na to neupozornujete poprve a je to velmi zajimave. Od nikoho jineho jsem nic takoveho neslysel a sam jsem se s tim nikdy nesetkal (ze prekladatel nespravne pochopil nejakou vetu, to ano, ale ze by si cely text proste vymyslel, tak to jsem nikde nevidel). Bylo by dobre, kdyby se vyjadrili další English NSrs, jestli maji podobne zkusenosti.
                Petr A.
              • Liz Spacilova
                Happy 2010, ... I ll admit that some of my first translations - involving marketing materials for my husband s company back in the early 90s - did look like
                Message 7 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                  Happy 2010,

                  > Ano, na to neupozornujete poprve a je to velmi zajimave. Od nikoho jineho jsem nic takoveho neslysel a sam jsem se s tim nikdy nesetkal (ze prekladatel nespravne pochopil nejakou vetu, to ano, ale ze by si cely text proste vymyslel, tak to jsem nikde nevidel). Bylo by dobre, kdyby se vyjadrili další English NSrs, jestli maji podobne zkusenosti.
                  > Petr A.

                  I'll admit that some of my first translations - involving marketing materials for my husband's company back in the early 90s - did look like that. My Czech was still terrible, but I knew what his business was and took what he wrote as a clue for what I should include in his text; the thought of just translating his awkward stiff language made me cringe. He hated my redo, of course, but after a few battles we found something that actually said what he wanted to say and sounded OK.

                  Otherwise, over the past ten years I've seen misunderstood lines and some terrible "Czenglish", but never anything ad-libbed.

                  Cheers

                  Liz
                • James Kirchner
                  What you were doing with your husband s business materials was a valid form of translation, since it was important not to embarrass your husband s business by
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                    What you were doing with your husband's business materials was a valid form of translation, since it was important not to embarrass your husband's business by transferring the Czech style into English (whether he knew it or not).

                    One of my largest single jobs was translating a historical/technical book, most of which had already been "translated", if you can call it that. I would say that at least 40% of the English text -- very beautifully written, by the way -- had simply been made up from the translator's imagination using scattered words he saw in the source text as inspiration.

                    Then I have gotten product manuals in which the (apparently Czech) translator didn't bother to look up the difference between "lzice" and "lzicka", and just said "spoon" for both, creating catastrophic recipes, in combination with the other bizarre things he did, such as translating both wheat flour and rye flour as wheat flour everywhere in the text. The guy was clearly making a lot of it up also.

                    In another case, the target segments had been copied and pasted from a competitor's user manual without any real regard as to whether they meant the same thing.

                    Maybe I've gained the reputation of Mr. Fix-It or something, but I get things like that with relative frequency. Not every month, but at least a couple times a year.

                    Jamie

                    On Jan 3, 2010, at 4:30 PM, Liz Spacilova wrote:

                    > I'll admit that some of my first translations - involving marketing materials for my husband's company back in the early 90s - did look like that. My Czech was still terrible, but I knew what his business was and took what he wrote as a clue for what I should include in his text; the thought of just translating his awkward stiff language made me cringe. He hated my redo, of course, but after a few battles we found something that actually said what he wanted to say and sounded OK.



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Pilucha, Jiri
                    Whilst, in general, many dictionaries deserve criticism, in this particular case are we not making too much fuss about a mere typo? Sounds like they meant to
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                      Whilst, in general, many dictionaries deserve criticism, in this particular case are we not making too much fuss about a mere typo? Sounds like they meant to say "stratify"

                      Jiri

                      ________________________________
                      From: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Czechlist@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Gerald Turner
                      Sent: Saturday, January 02, 2010 11:48 AM
                      To: czechlist
                      Subject: [Czechlist] RANT: Czech-English dictionary compilers



                      In the Middle Ages dishonest craftsmen and tradesmen received appropriate
                      punishment when convicted, e.g. a cheating baker being dragged through the
                      city streets on a sled with the fraudulent bread tied around his neck.
                      Perhaps colleagues might like to devise appropriate punishment for
                      dictionary compilers who get paid for inserting non-existent English words
                      when they cannot come up with an equivalent. Today's gem from Langsoft's
                      online dictionary, by courtesy of Seznam.cz: vrstvit se = statity (sic!)

                      Oh, and a Happy New Year from a snowy Babylon near Doma�lice.

                      Gerry

                      --
                      Ond���kova 40
                      130 00 Prague 3 - �i�kov
                      Czech Republic
                      Tel/fax: ++ 420 235 357 194
                      Mobile: ++ 420 605 777 260

                      To see a World in a Grain of Sand
                      And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
                      Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
                      And Eternity in an hour.

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Michael Trittipo
                      On Mon, 4 Jan 2010 01:00:56 +0000 ... Of course, it wouldn t be one typo, but two: t for f _and_ the omitted r. Moreover, I rather suspect the source is
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                        On Mon, 4 Jan 2010 01:00:56 +0000
                        "Pilucha, Jiri" <jiri.pilucha@...> wrote:
                        > Whilst, in general, many dictionaries deserve criticism, in this
                        > particular case are we not making too much fuss about a mere typo?
                        > Sounds like they meant to say "stratify"

                        Of course, it wouldn't be one typo, but two: "t" for "f" _and_ the
                        omitted "r." Moreover, I rather suspect the source is the big bugaboo
                        of too many electronic dictionaries: plagiarism. At
                        http://amapro.cz/wwww/cz_angl/v/vr.htm
                        you will find the supposed verb "statity" _conjugated_ so as to have
                        "he/she/it statitys" and "they statityd" in the past. That could be
                        taken to suggest that one of the two sites "vacuumed" the other. In
                        addition, Seznam already has "stratify" correctly spelled.
                      • Josef Hlavac
                        Thanks for the details, Jamie. At first, I was inclined to think that it could have been cases of badly aligned TM or unedited fuzzy matches. However, now that
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jan 3, 2010
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                          Thanks for the details, Jamie. At first, I was inclined to think that it
                          could have been cases of badly aligned TM or unedited fuzzy matches.

                          However, now that you mention it, I recall a case of plagiarism I saw
                          [=I had to fix] myself -- a translator was asked to translate a
                          technical standard. For copyright and other reasons, we could not simply
                          use an existing but copyrighted translation by a Czech standardization
                          body. However, the guy simply grabbed the copyrighted translation of a
                          different revision (!) of the standard, and tried to pass it off as his
                          own work.

                          Now, the saddest part is that due to the circumstances (the actual
                          client & their internal processes), it is quite likely that he got away
                          with it and instead of being dragged through the courts, he even got
                          paid (perhaps with an insignificant, maybe 20%, "penalty").

                          Josef

                          James Kirchner wrote:
                          > [...]
                          > In another case, the target segments had been copied and pasted from a competitor's user manual without any real regard as to whether they meant the same thing.
                          >
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