[HNW] Abegg Stiftung textile books

Sarah Randles s-randles at adfa.edu.au
Mon Feb 17 23:23:28 PST 2003

Chris said:

><Sigh> Occasionally I envy their educational systems. Europeans seem
>to assume that any Truly Educated Person (tm) can at least muddle
>through a paper in any of those languages and get the sense of it. I
>had five years of French, so I can usually manage those, but for me,
>reading something in German is like slogging through a swamp; I have
>to look up all the nouns and adjectives, and most of the verbs, in
>the dictionary. Otherwise it all reads like, "And in this era, the
>[something] very [something] was, and often in [something] used."

Confronted with vast tracts of German and Italian secondary sources that I
*had* to read for my PhD, having spent my undergraduate years learning
entirely the wrong set of dead languages, I developed the following method
for dealing with them.

Scan the paper.  If it's small print you'll get a better result if you
enlarge it on a photocopier.  Use Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
software to turn it into a text document.  It's essential that you use OCR
software that recognises different languages and that you specify the
appropriate one for the text you're using, otherwise the computer will
incorectly interpret the diacritics.  Save the text document and make a
copy of it.  (This is essential for when you stuff up later.)
Using babelfish or one of the other translation software packages available
on the net, cut and paste the text, paragraph by paragraphy into the
translation box, translate it and paste the translation back into your text
document.  This is extremely tedious, but probably would be quicker if you
forked out for your own version of the software.

Babelfish will translate your text into very bizarre English, but will have
the advantage of looking up all the difficult words for you much faster
than going through a dictionary.  By the time you have gone through several
books worth of turning the babelfish translation into reasonable English
you will read the foreign language quite well, although it helps if you
have a basic understanding of the grammar of the language you're trying to

Warning: babelfish is assuming you're trying to translate technical
documents and will sometimes make translation choices accordingly.  I have
a set of words that I search and replace because I know that the automatic
translation will get them wrong - it will always give me 'lever' instead of
'arm' in German for example.  And it occasionally does some very bizarre
translations 'Tristangeschichte' should be translated as 'Tristan legend'
but babelfish gives 'trichloro-ethylene seaweed laminate'.  Also, some
languages work better than others this way - Italian is quite good, German
not so good because it has a smaller vocabulary and each German word is
likely to have a wider range of possible meanings.  Different translation
software may be better for different purposes.

Anyway, I hope it helps - I found it marginally less tedious than looking
up the dictionary.

Sarah Randles
s.randles at adfa.edu.au

Australian National Dictionary Centre
Australian National University
ACT 0200
Phone: (02) 6125 0476 Fax: (02) 6125 0475
(On Thursdays and Fridays, I am at the School of English, ADFA on Ph: (02)
6268 8387, same e-mail address.)

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