Monday, November 10, 2008

Now I understand

I have always liked the "feel, felt, found" method for answering objections. "I know how you feel, I felt the same way, and then I found..." I experienced it in an internal conversation with myself last week.

I have resented the pressure to write for "ease of translation" for a long time. For one, I felt it really meant "ease of machine translation" because the job of a human translator is to understand the rich metaphors and idioms that create meaning in the source language. Secondly, I felt that it took plain, easily understood explanations and turned them into bland, generic prose. Clear phrases like "change firewall rules on the fly" had to be rewritten to "change firewall rules without having to restart the system." I understood the economics of it, but that didn't mean I had to be pleased with it.

And then I put a translation application on my blog site. Now I find that I want to write so that it can translate my blog as accurately as possible. I now examine my every word wondering how the translator will interpret it. What made the difference?

Probably it has a lot to do with the fact that it was my decision to increase the global access of my blog. It is not that I expect a lot of international readers; it was because I wanted to be global. And now the translator is my tool, the only way I can afford to meet a diverse global readership.

The point of this blog is not about globalization. It is about getting people to accept change. The more we can make the decision at the level of those who must make the change, the more that change will be accepted. Just being a writer for IBM (International is our first name) wasn't enough to make me accept writing for an international audience--it took me putting a free Google widget on my blog site. So when confronted with the need for change, we need to find a way to personalize that change in some way within our smaller world that we can see and understand. And in this case it means not ending my blog entry with an idiom like "eating my own dog food." I can only imagine how that will translate.


Mike Unwalla, TechScribe said...

You are correct. Writing for ease of translation, specially machine translation, reduces the richness of the text. However, when one writes to inform and to instruct, what matters most is the clarity of the communication, not the literary value of the text.

Ted said...

Of course, E.B. White would have objected that clarity IS the literary value of the text. Certainly for me, the deeper I get into writing structured documentation, the better I like my writing in general.