Martin Probst's weblog

Translation of domain-specific terms - don't do it

Saturday, June 3, 2006, 09:37 — 1 comment Edit

pitosalas from BlogBridge wonders how to translate domain specific words like "Feed" or "Readling List" to German. I would always opt not to translate the very specific terms like "Feed". You can't come up with a word in German that encompasses the whole meaning, as there is nothing like a feed, yet. "Nachrichtenticker" is in itself an adoption from English (I think), and it's not really on spot. People will have to learn the meaning of "Feed" anyways, so why bother with translating, it's not going to help them.

I would always try to go this way. I heard that early IBM manuals would correctly translate the term "stack pointer" to "Kellerspeicherrücksprungszeiger". This is indeed the right way to translate it - Friedrich L. Bauer called it that way when he invented it. But translating it at all is wrong. If I read such a term, it takes me quite some time to translate it back to English and find out what it's supposed to mean.

These non-translatable words are in my personal opinion actually a benefit of being a non-English speaking computer user or programmer. E.g. if someone uses the term "map", I always know he's talking about the data structure, not about an actual road map. Same goes for many words, and again it's the same - the word "map" or "Karte" doesn't really help you much in understanding the data structure, you have to learn it anyways. This is of course only true if the word is indeed domain specific and doesn't have a well known translation.

"Reading lists" is different, as there may actually be a parallel in real life. That means there is a "natural" translation that has a meaning on it's own, without any further explanation.


ich bedanke mich bei Ihnen für Ihre Reaktionen auf meinem Blog. Ja, leider gab’s einen Fehler mit Kahn statt Lahm. Verwechslung mit Lehmann war jedoch ausgeschlossen, denn es wurde nicht über die Torhüter, sondern über die Stürmer geschrieben. Mit herzlichen Grüßen, Sebastian PS: ich wusste nicht, dass Sie ein IT-Profi sind. Gratuliere!