Logos Multilingual Portal

1 - Computer use for translators

"Now this is precisely what we do when we reproduce a dream from memory after waking, and no matter whether we are fully or only partially successful in this retranslation, the dream still remains as mysterious as be-fore"1.

In this fifth and last part of the Logos translation course I will deal with two groups of subjects. The former is of eminently practical character, and concerns the translator's tools: all the ac-cessories that accompany the translator be-yond her competence and professionalism - what are they and how they are used. The lat-ter deals with a stage that is sometimes con-sidered beyond translation, but that in my opinion is still part of it: Translation criticism is essential and has, in turn, an effect on produc-tion: both because it is responsible for the choice of the text to be translated (and is, therefore, responsible for what is not translated as well), and because its evaluation criteria constitute a sort of ideal aim for the translator: if the critic writes a review or the client himself has the role of critic, the fact is that the more or less favorable acceptance of the translator de-pends on him. If the translator wants to be ac-tive in the market, this is an element that must necessarily interest her.

Let us start with the choice of a computer. It is an essential tool that revolutionized the translator's way of working. Translators of my generation, unlike those starting more recently, personally experienced the passage from the typewriter to the computer and know perfectly well what impact it has had.

Since any correction before the computer existed was very complicated and exhausting, and had to be made on two-three copies, the translator tried to minimize them: the process-ing of the sentence occurred as much as pos-sible in one's mind, and the drafting occurred only when the translator believed that she had prepared a nearly definitive text. With a com-puter you can work in a completely different way: the first draft can be done in one go (if necessary), with a technique allowing to refer to the prototext in any moment, and revision in such a case is very important and acts almost completely on the metatext, much like secon-dary elaboration of the dream material in Freud's view.

When choosing a computer, one must know that the seller's criteria do not always match the translators'. Computer salespersons are often computer fans, and tend to consider pluses qualities that are not always essential for the translator's job. For example, the proc-essor's speed - an element that can have a great influence on the overall price of the ma-chine - is not essential for the translator. The translator's computer must do few computa-tions, unlike some applications like CAD that with a slow processor produce many bottle-necks.

The dimensions of the hard disk are an-other feature that is not very important for the translator. Such dimensions tend to grow (with the space itself); for this reason on the market you can often find the latest generation hard disk costing perhaps twice the previous one, marketed maybe two months before. I advise the translator to choose the latter, since a translator doesn't have to install many pro-grams, or to copy so much data as to feel the need for a particularly sizable disk.

It can be much more useful to buy two medium-sized hard disks, so as to use the second as a backup to the first, every day in the moment when the work is finished. It is very comfortable, very fast, and allows limit use of many floppy disks and expensive zip disks. If you have two mirror hard disks, when the main disk gets broken - and this is a moment that we think will never come, but inevitably does - you usually can recover all the data (of course not the ones of the latest hours or minutes) in a very fast way.

Both word processors and translation memories, both dictionaries and other refer-ence works on CD-ROM so not employ an ex-haustive use of RAM memory, therefore the minimum RAM megabytes built into the com-puter package are usually enough or, at most, you need only double it.

If you have just one CD reader, you can consult just one dictionary at a time. But there are dictionaries than can be permanently in-stalled on the hard disk: in this case, you can consult them in parallel with the ones on CD-ROM. The translator can therefore be imagined as having simultaneously open: a word-processing application (Word for example), a navigation program (Explorer for example) to connect to the Logos dictionary or to the Logos Library, a mail program (Outlook for ex-ample), a CD-ROM, a dictionary on hard-disk. If you have a CD-writer as well, you can use it as a reader for a second CD-ROM.

The cabinet, or case, can be chose verti-cal or horizontal, according to the room you have at your disposal. The vertical ones fit very well in the desk or on the floor and take little room. In this case, however, the monitor is po-sitioned right on the desk, which can be coun-ter-productive from an ergonomic point of view.

To avoid such problems, it is important that the plane of the keyboard, the plane of the desktop and the plane of the monitor are on three distinct levels. The keyboard 4-6 inches under the desktop plane, the monitor having the center at the same height as the transla-tor's eyes (i.e. usually 6 inches above the desktop level, depending on the monitor's di-mensions etc.)

The monitor must be at a distance from the translator's eyes: it depends on the size; just to give an approximate idea, a 16-inches monitor must be at 30-35 inches from one's eyes. In its turn, this determines that the choice of a monitor depends on the space at one's disposal: if the desk is very deep, one can choose a traditional monitor; otherwise, to have the minimum distance, a flat monitor can be necessary. Some of them can also be hung on the wall.


Bibliographical references

FREUD SIGMUND, L'interpretazione dei sogni, in Opere, vol. 3, Torino, Boringhieri, a cura di C. L. Musatti, 1966.

FREUD SIGMUND, The Interpretation Of Dreams, translated by A. A. Brill, London, G. Allen & company, 1913.

OSIMO BRUNO, Manuale del tradut-tore, Milano, Hoepli, 2004, ISBN 8820332698.

1 Freud 1900: 53.