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I have been working on PMTE projects (post-machine translation editing) a lot more over the last year. So, I have become aware of a few of the linguistic hurdles that make this type of translation work frustrating for translators, project managers, and translation-buying clients. Below, I describe 3 French phrases, common in medical science translations, that pose a challenge to machine translation tools.
First, though, it is important to understand the core of the issue. Many phrases/terms in French have a few possible translations (even incorrect ones) in English. Thus, translators feed the MT tool with these various options, and the tool cannot generate consistent translations of such phrases. Then, when a translator accepts the PMTE job, a few things may happen:
3 difficult-to-machine-translate French phrases:
The obvious translation is literal: hospitalization report. However, consider the nature of such reports. They contain details about the patient’s stay in the hospital, and they are usually provided at discharge (or when a patient dies). So, according to some translators, this could also be translated as: hospitalization discharge report and, maybe even hospitalization discharge summary. Others suggest a shortened version: discharge report or discharge summary. Still others might suggest hospital stay report (or summary). So, you can see how translating this phrase would produce inconsistent machine translation.
… formulaire du jj/mm/aaaa (for example, 01/01/2021), in the context of a list of documents submitted to an ethics committee
Two possible correct translations would be … form dated 01/01/2021, or even … form from 01/01/2021.
However, the machine translation segment often reads … form of 01/01/2021, which, to me, is very strange in English. I would say the War of 1812 (here the date is very formal, historically documented, and an accepted name of an event), but I would not say the … form of 01/01/2021. As mentioned above, some translators feed this type of incorrect translation to the MT, and that is how poor-quality translation is perpetuated.
Justification de l'adéquation des moyens
This is seen in ethics committee documents. It is a phrase found in the French Public Health Code that does not seem to have an exact equivalent in English. In a recent project, I searched the translation memory for previous examples of this phrase and its translation. I found:
Rationale justifying the suitability of resources
Rationale for the suitability of resources
Rationale for the appropriateness of resources
Justification of the adequacy of resources
Personally, I like the first one, it covers the bases of rationale and justification. As you can imagine, though, the client will be confused when it ends up with multiple translations of this document name.
Food for thought
I hope these examples and my explanations give other translators food for thought. My only suggestion to avoid frustration between the PM and translator is to use clear communication. The translator could include a note with his/her work explaining his/her choice and pointing out the lack of consistency in the MT-generated segments. At least then, the PM could take that information into account when deciding how to proceed.