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Exercises

1 Bring a specialized technical dictionary (or, if one isn't available, any

dictionary) to class and perform the following operations on it:

(a) Open it at random, find a word that catches your interest, and start

following the path down which it points you: looking up similar

words listed along with it; looking up interesting words listed under

these new entries, etc. Jot down everything of interest that you find:

words, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, sample sentences. Make

a mark in your notes every time you jump to a new dictionary entry.

Do this for ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes, then stop at any

reasonable stopping place and move on to:

(b) Now draw a picture of the information you've gathered. The picture

can be a schematic diagram of the complex interrelations between

words and dictionary entries; or it can be a complex representation

of the words' referents, all fitted into a scene that seems to bring

them all together (a city, a factory, a home, a forest, etc.).

2 Search the web for a complex scientific, technical or medical/

pharmaceutical text in your usual source language. Pick a single paragraph

that contains several words you've never seen, and cut and paste it to a

word-processing document. Put the url and title of the site at the top of

the document, followed by a short (one-/two-line) description of the

site and the type of text it contains (what field, what probable audience,

level of difficulty).

Now pick from the paragraph the word you have the least idea

about in your target language, and research its possible target-language

equivalents on the web:

(a) Look it up in Eurodicautom (click "all fields"). Cut and paste what

you find to your word-processing document. Mark it clearly as

"Eurodicautom."

(b) Look them up in at least two other on-line term databases or

glossaries (see p. 225 for examples). Cut and paste everything you

find to the same word-processing document, marking the results for

each database clearly with its name.

(c) Make a tentative choice, based on what you have so far, of the best

translation of the difficult word. Highlight it in the text.

(d) Now check your choice by running a web search on it, preferably

in Google (http://www.google.com/) or Weberawler ( h t t p : //

web.webcrawler.com/d/search/p/webcrawler/), or, for a medical

topic, Medline (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi).

Write the number of hits you got after the highlighted word in

your file, in parentheses. Scan through the results for sites that look

like they are on topics closely related to your text, and pick five

of them to open. Find (ctrl-F) your word in each site, and copy

the paragraph(s) it appears in to your word-processing document,

marking each with the url and title of the site in which you found

it. Make a judgment: based on the evidence from these five sites, is

this the right word for your translation?

(e) Now double-check your decision by running web searches on two

other possible translations, and performing the same operations on

them as in (d). With this new evidence in view, does your initial

choice still seem like the best one? Why or why not?

(f) If you live in the country where your target language is natively

spoken, get on the phone with an expert in that field, introduce

yourself as a translator, and beg him or her for two minutes of his

or her time. Explain that you have a source text in X language that

mentions a word meaning abed (describe the thing or idea described

in the source text), and you are leaning toward translating it as Y —

give your first choice. Ask whether that sounds right. Thank the

person for his or her time.

(g) If you are subscribed to a translation listserv, send a term query

to it, giving the type of text you're working on, the source-text

paragraph you selected (or, if the context is clear enough, just the

sentence your word is in), and the target-language equivalent you've

selected. Ask whether anybody sees anything wrong with this

translation.

(h) Now, drawing on all the evidence from (a—g), make a final choice,

and write up a brief explanation justifying it.

3 Research a specific workplace or type of work by visiting it and talking

to the people who work there. Compile a list of the fifty most common

words and phrases that they use; then make a video of you (or your

group) using all fifty words and phrases in natural-sounding conversation.

Try to sound as much as possible like the working people you studied;

if possible, make the video in the natural setting of the work. (If you

don't have access to video equipment, present your "natural-sounding

conversation" in front of the class.)