During the FIT XIX World Congress held in San Francisco last week, I attended a very interesting presentation by Erin Lyons, called “The Simple Life – Using Plain and Controlled Language to Improve Translation Quality and Consistency.” Here are a few points that I wanted to share from this presentation.
1. What is Plain Language?
It is communication that the audience can understand the first time it is read. This is defined by results: easy to read, understand and use. However, this does not mean that we strip the language down to a lower “level”, or take away necessary technical and legal info. It is more than editorial polishing.
2. Why is Plain Language important for translators?
It cuts out the bloat and creates shorter, simpler texts, sometimes cutting down the expansion factor by up to 25%. We select vocabulary that prevents interlinguistic pitfalls such as faux amis, semantics and such.
3. Problems for translators
Very few writers have translatability in mind when writing documents but this is extremely important to bear in mind in a multilingual context. No one wants to waste a lot of time trying to translate difficult and wordy documents and plain language can eliminate these barriers and make the text communicate effectively.
4. How Plain language can help translations
Plain Language requires a concrete message, rather than an abstract one. It forces translators to avoid ad verbum translations and helps minimize negative transfer.
5. Tools for Plain Language translations
– Eliminate passive voice wherever possible
– Keep prepositional phrases concise
– Eliminate unnecessary modifiers
– Avoid circumlocutions or intentional ambiguity
6. Examples of applying Plain Language
Negative economic growth – recession
Counsel – Lawyer
Restrained from – Must not
Lessor/lessee – Landlord/tenant
After reading this, it is “plain” to see that using plain language would make translating, editing and understanding many texts easier. Having translated some legal texts, such as claims I know I would prefer if legalese could become more “plain”.