When you are proposing a new class, feature, or value in your RFC, you are forced with the challenge of providing a proper English translation. I need to explain that this initial English translation is entered into the system language “ETIM English”. This system language is considered as the working language and the true source of all meaning. As local languages ETIM also comprises English (US) and English (UK). And it wouldn’t surprise me that we will have an English version for down-under soon as we recently welcomed Australia and New Zealand as our newest ETIM chapter. Supplying this “ETIM English” translation might be easy if you are native speaker, but unfortunately, most of our contributors aren't. To keep this article simple, we will stay away from semantic discussions between native speakers, because that is a subject on its own. The importance of getting the initial English translation right is overlooked quite often. Simply applying literal translations can lead to total misconceptions when contributors from other countries try to translate it from English to their own native language, effecting the quality of the ETIM model. In reviewing RFCs, we take English translations of new entities very seriously. I would like to further elaborate on this followed by looking closer at the process of getting to a translation of good quality. Let’s start by looking at common causes why translations to English are failing. Do not overestimate your own English skills Over the years I have had the luxury of working with English native speakers who were kind enough to give me the feedback I needed to come to this conclusion. Being a native Dutch speaker myself, I consider myself fluent in English, but know now that that still doesn’t come close to being a native speaker. As a great entertaining reminder here some funny examples Dutch people come up with when trying to communicate in English: https://www.dunglish.nl/ Technical jargon does not let itself translate easily If you have been making a career in any technical industry, you probably already have encountered the many quirky wordings used for explaining industry specific technical aspects, objects and processes. Some people use a more academic terminology like for instance “permeability”, and others use more practical terminology like for instance “Water absorption”. When making a translation to English this also becomes a factor to take into consideration, and choosing the right candidate translations is often also a matter of taste and preference. Don’t trust online auto-translators blindly Google translate, Deepl, Linguee and other translation sites can be your friend, but please don’t trust them blindly. Because what these auto-translators have in common is that they have difficulties recognizing the context in which the words that need to be translated are used. English is a language that is heavily depending on context when it comes to choice of words and finding the right translation. On top of that the technical jargon as described in the previous paragraph is making the search for the perfect translation in the right context even harder. Don’t trust translations from manufacturers blindly It will sure help to look at translations already available online that are provided on manufacturer’s websites. Keep in mind though, that manufacturers from outside English-speaking countries employ marketing staff that are most likely non-English-natives. And they struggle with the same issues of getting the translation correct just as you are. So now that we had that reality check. How to overcome all this? There are a few tips to improve the quality of your English translations of your local technical jargon. Let’s go over them one by one. 1. Use native speakers This may be a lame first recommendation, but it is quite often overlooked or skipped. If you have access to native English speakers, use them! But be careful: do not simply throw numerous pages of text in their mailboxes for them to proofread because that will probably not trigger any participation or swift response. But in the case that you have serious doubts on translations, call them up and explain your struggles. I am sure they will help you as they also would like their native language to be used in a proper way. 2. If you are unsure: google it! If the above does not apply to you for whatever reason, then what you could do to check the validity of a translation is to simply google your translation and interpret the results. First have a quick look at the pictures, then at the links. Add extra key words to become more specific like adding the search word “buy online” if you need to specifically narrow it down to products offered online. If you are having doubts between two words that could both pass as your translation of choice, you can do two more things: Explain the difference Let google help you explain the difference in detail. Try for instance “grille vs grate” and you will see many links to properly explain in detail the meaning of a grille compared to a grate. Compare search results Enter both words in Google separately and look at the number of hits. The terminology with the most hits is likely to be the more generic term of the two and will get better scoring in google rankings, and therefore is a better translation. 3. Use online auto-translators properly As I explained earlier on in this article, I advise you not to trust online auto-translators for several reasons. But I did not say to not use them at all. It is more how you use them. Let’s go over a few tips here: Translate backwards Turn the translation backwards from English to your own native language and check if the original term is found as a translation. Sometimes you run into unexpected results, indicating that further investigation and validation is needed. Translate from other languages If you know a dead-on, validated translation in another language for your word or phrase, like from a neighbouring country: try to translate from this other language into English as well and compare the results with translating from your native language. This could be helpful if you must choose between multiple candidate translations. Translate phrases that integrate the words you need translated You can validate candidate translations by using them in longer phrases or complete sentences. This method gives you more control over contextual situations. If you combine that with google search, you may get a good impression if you hit the sweet spot with your candidate translation. Use multiple translator tools By using multiple translator tools, you can also get a sense of quality of your candidate translation. Some translators are very good as some language pairs than others. For instance, Google translates from English to Swedish almost flawlessly but is less successful translating from Hungarian. There are also translation tools that focus more on context dependency than others. So using multiple sources will certainly improve your translations. Here are a couple of interesting links that you could at to your favourites: https://translate.google.com/ It is by far the most-often used online translation tool. Did you know it also can be used to translate complete pages? Read this: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/173424?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop https://iate.europa.eu/home IATE (Interactive Terminology for Europe) is the EU's terminology database. It has been used in the EU institutions and agencies since summer 2004 for the collection, dissemination and management of EU-specific terminology. In this tool you can look for industry specific translations in a large number of European languages. It has a large number of options to narrow your search and if translations are found in this database, they are always of high quality. https://www.linguee.com/ This site first lets you choose language pairs and then gives you not only the exact translation but also several phrases as an example found in a massive database of translation pairs. This will help you finding the right context-based translation. https://www.deepl.com DeepL claims to be the world’s most accurate translator, but I have no test results to support this. I stand by my “don’t trust anyone of them” rule. This tool can translate complete files, which might help if you need to translate more text. It also has a paid Pro version, which gives you more functionality, but if that give you more guarantee for finding the right translation: I doubt it. 4. Use other sources Often you can find extensive and well-maintained information on Wikipedia.org of Wikidiff.org about the subject or term you are trying to translate. And if you are lucky, it has a version in your own native language. International branch associations or knowledge bases may have content online on a specific subject. For instance, https://www.kalksandstein.de/ has a lot of content on the technical jargon used in calcium-silicate stone. Maybe it is not in English but using the right jargon in your native language is a good starting point to finding the perfect translation. Unlike translated content from manufacturers from non-native English-speaking countries, you can more reliably use content from manufacturers residing in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to check your candidate translations. There is no end to this story Despite all these insights and tips, we will have to keep in mind that languages are not exact sciences, and therefore no single translation is the only right translation. Languages are like standards, they are based on consensus of the crowd, and the crowd’s opinions change over time. I would like to invite you to always second guess English translations and give them the proper attention when submitting RFCs. And feel free to improve my use of the English language in the comments below. And if you have a killer tip that I have failed to mention: do not keep this to yourself and share also in the comments below. Keep up the good work!