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Chiew Kin Quah (2006) Translation and Technology

Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire/New York. Pp. xix, 221 £18.99/$31.95  ISBN 1403918325

Chiew Kin Quah manages to make a fairly new and complex subject widely accessible, providing a clearly understandable and detailed account of the current state of affairs in the relationship between translation and technology. The book starts with a general introduction and increases in technicality as it goes on. Readers will be able to learn about most of the new developments in programs and software, and are provided with the links directing them to the sources. 

In chapter 1, she starts by clarifying terminological issues, explaining the differences between highly used terms like MT (Machine Translation), CAT (Computer-Aided Translation), etc. She also highlights the overlapping that exists between some of these terms and why this came to be.

Chapter 2 focuses on various opposing relationships: between 'translation technology' and 'translation studies' in its wider sense, between the world of academia and the world of professional translators, and finally between linguistic theories and machine translation systems. She goes on to explain the concept of controlled language and how the pre- and post- editing of the text seems to provide a more successful translation.

Chapter 3 goes on to describe different machine translation systems diachronically from the earliest to the latest. Quah manages to present a comprehensive overview of the main tendencies in machine translation approaches over the past five decades, while at the same time giving technical but clear examples of the reasoning behind the translation engines. Finally, the author talks about the growing demand for translation in the Internet era and acceptability of translation understood as 'fit-for-purpose'.

Chapter 4 presents and describes the range of computer-aided translation tools and resources that professional translators may want to consider as a way to increase their productivity. Most translators would agree that internet search engines, including spell- or style-checkers are useful tools, but some professionals are not so persuaded about these 'new' tools. Quah's analysis shows that it can be profitable for translators to familiarise themselves with translation memory systems, parallel corpora resources and international standards such as XML, TMX, TBX and XLIFF.

Chapter 5 deals with the very interesting and practical topic of evaluating translation tools. Quah makes a point of distinguishing between the stakeholders: researchers, developers, research sponsors, and end-users, since they all might have a different idea of what they want the software to achieve. She describes various methods of evaluation depending on the client and purpose of the evaluation. There is also a very important section for researchers and developers on general frameworks for evaluating translation tools and ISO regulations. It is a pity though, that some of the data has not been updated for the final print of this publication.

Chapter 6 talks about recent developments and what the future could hold for translation technology. The integration of speech-to-text and text-to-speech into translation software is becoming almost unavoidable in our multilingual societies and globalised business environment. This kind of technology is proving very useful in providing accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as for the blind. The spreading of the Internet and its establishment as a main medium of communication and information retrieval is also pushing translation technology forward owing to the growing numbers of users world-wide.

The last chapter of the book offers an updated and extended vision of the four basic classifications of translation types as described in chapter 1. The linear continuum proposed in the beginning no longer applies nowadays. The author organises the multidimentional relationships between the four translation types into different diagrams in an attempt to illustrate their complexities.

At the end of the book there are several appendixes with very useful web addresses and further information on the issues discussed in the research.

All in all, indispensable both for students looking to explore further this interface between technology and translation, and for professionals wanting to find out what tools might best help them to optimise their time and money. Lecturers and academics in general will find in this book a lot of information and much valuable material for their lessons. Quah has written a truly comprehensive and significant book that will, no doubt, benefit future developments in Translation Studies.

Miguel A. Bernal
Roehampton University