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OSCAR Releases a New Crop of Standards

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The work of standards bodies is usually characterized by slow and steady work on standards that take years to define. This slowness is caused partially by the fact that companies have vested interests in making sure that the standards reflect their ways of doing business, and when there are conflicts between contributors, hammering out compromises can take years. Recent work by the OSCAR group, however, has been decidedly different from the slow progress we normally expect from standards bodies.

Arle Lommel In May, OSCAR unanimously passed motions to move two new draft standards to the public review phase. This means that OSCAR has announced that the versions of these standards are now complete enough to use, and that the committee would like the public to provide feedback prior to official adoption. For years, OSCAR and other groups like the XLIFF and TransWS committees in OASIS have been working on creating standards for all aspects of the globalization process. The two new standards that have been proposed by OSCAR fill some important holes in the overall standards picture.

The first standard to have been moved to draft status is one that regular readers of the Globalization Insider will be familiar with from last year’s article by Andrzej Zydroń: GMX-V or GILT (Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation Metrics) Metrics eXchange – Volume. Part one of a proposed three-part standard, GMX-V provides a standard way of determining various classes of word and character counts for textual content. In addition, GMX-V provides separate counts of the numbers of in-line tags and other elements in a text that can give some idea of the volume of work associated with DTP and other collateral tasks in the localization process. GMX-V also takes into account what is produced by linguistic tools, through providing separate counts for TM matches, fuzzy matches and translatable content not covered by leveraged material.

GMX-V thus addresses the perennial problem in the localization industry of determining word counts, but it goes beyond this need. By providing volume metrics for many different aspects of the localization process, pricing can be simplified and made more transparent. In addition, clients and service providers can negotiate prices for services that account for the actual nature of particular jobs, rather than applying a blanket price per word that covers all aspects of the localization process in a rather indiscriminate matter.

One danger in standardizing word counts, or any aspect of volumetrics in localization, is that service providers may resist the standard because it directly impacts their pricing. Freelance translators, in particular, tend to be very leery of any attempt to redefine metrics in ways that may reduce word counts and thus directly affect their ability to make a living as translators.

So, what advantages does GMX-V offer to localization service providers? One advantage is that, by providing various classes of counts, GMX-V will help service providers to better understand a task in advance, enabling them to allocate resources and charge appropriately. Every localization provider has undoubtedly dealt with the occasional job that had a low word count but which turned into a money-losing nightmare because of some aspect of the job that a simple word count obscured. GMX-V counts, while not targeted at the complexity of a localization task (complexity will be addressed in a separate component of GMX called GMX-C), do provide some rudimentary idea of complexity through inline code counts and numeric counts.

The primary advantage of GMX-V for clients is perhaps more obvious: GMX-V promotes transparency of pricing and process. By eliminating the uncertainty of tool-specific word counts, clients are freer to compare prices and to be able to understand the costs associated with their projects. A number of years ago, this author ran trial word counts on sample documents using both translation tools and word processors commonly used in the localization industry. Although the results varied by text type, for some documents the difference in word count between the highest and the lowest tools was as much as 30%. This indicates that price per word is a highly variable measure that depends on what tool is doing the counting. GMX-V counts, on the other hand, will not vary by tool, so prices per GMX-V word will have a fixed meaning.

The second draft standard is TBX Link. TBX Link is a very simple standard, designed to allow XML documents to link terminology to a termbase in TBX format. This standard arose because OSCAR and LISA Terminology SIG Members identified the lack of such a linking mechanism as one significant limitation in current terminology solutions. It is also a factor that may prevent some potential users of TBX from moving forward with TBX. Essentially, the problem is that terms in XML texts lose their linkage to termbases, limiting the usefulness of terminology markup in a localization environment. TBX Link, on the other hand, provides a simple XML name space-based mechanism for linking to TBX terminology repositories.

Although TBX Link is a very simple standard, its simplicity belies its power. When terms can be linked to termbases, it is not only localization that stands to benefit. Users of search technology can benefit from using termbase data to disambiguate search data in a way that is currently impossible. For instance, if an English-speaking user searches for the word frog, a number of possible meanings may be returned. Among them are various amphibians, a portion of the joint between two railway tracks, and a piece of a violin bow. If a document is marked up with TBX Link that points to an authoritative term base for a specific subject, those occurrences of frog with a specific meaning can be given priority over other meanings in a search. Therefore, the user looking for information on a railway track frog will not have to deal with 100,000 irrelevant hits about amphibians to find what s/he is looking for.

Obviously, such a future depends on a lot of other things, like search providers implementing support for TBX and termbases in general, but TBX Link points the way to the future. Imagine a word in which you could find information from anywhere in the world, regardless of the language it is in and whether or not you know that language, because tests contain terminolgoy markup. With authoritative term-bases and TBX Link, such presently impossible feats will be possible.

Finally, the OSCAR committee also agreed to consider xml:tm, donated by XML International, as a potential new OSCAR standard. Consideration of xml:tm in the OSCAR context has just begun, but this move by OSCAR shows that it is strongly committed to the future of translation and localization technologies.

OSCAR welcomes your feedback on these proposed standards. To submit your feedback, please visit http://www.lisa.org/oscar, where you will find links to GMX-V and TBX Link, as well as information on other standards.

Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
June 2005

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA:
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2005

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