Glossary Mining - Part 7: Brush Up Your English
As indicated in the title, the English language is the topic of this final installment in the series on resources available on the Web for translation purposes. It is hoped that the information will prove equally valuable both for translators working into English (i.e., their mother tongue) and for those translating from English into another language. Although writing usage and vocabulary are primarily emphasized, a number of other aspects often come into play during the translation process. These include slang and idiomatic expressions, acronyms and abbreviations, collocations and collective nouns, etymology, and history of the language. The article concludes with a selection of URLs for Web sites that contain information about differences between US English and “the King’s/Queen’s English,” as well as several more esoteric or entertaining sites pertaining to the English language.
To start with, of course, translators always need to consult dictionaries in order to identify the meanings of words encountered in their source documents. In this regard, you can find quite a large number of on-line resources that provide definitions and other information about English lexical items. Here is a sampling of the most reliable URLs.
American Heritage dictionary
Requires a subscription
combination dictionary/thesaurus + glossaries of specialized terms
Glossary of Quaint Southernisms
A machine-readable lexical database organized by meanings developed at Princeton Un iversity
Lots of “esoteric” or infrequently used lexical items
Synonyms, antonyms & definitions
Specialized references that provide information about slang and idiomatic expressions constitute a subcategory of “regular” dictionaries. Here again, there is no shortage of on-line resources for this particular subject.
Historical US slang
All varieties of English represented
The Idiom Connection
Yet another type of on-line resource are dictionaries of acronyms and abbreviations like the following ones.
includes some humorous ones
A third subcategory of reference tools for English is the thesaurus. Of course, just about everybody is familiar with the venerable Roget's, which is also available in on-line format complete with hyperlinks from the headwords to the main entries. The other five URLs listed below provide excellent complementary resources in this area of language usage. The last one is included just because it’s quadrilingual instead of monolingual, which is a rarity among thesauri.
Roget’s thesaurus headwords with hyperlinks
Really nifty visual thesaurus; requires subscription for access
Quadrilingual (E, F, G, S)
Many (if not most) of the Web sites dealing with English grammar and usage are directed at speakers of other languages who are learning English. Nevertheless, they generally contain a great deal of useful information for native speakers who need to clarify a given usage question (e.g., the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses). The first five URLs are my personal favorite sites, but you should also check out the others because each one is a little different.
my personal favorite
Basic & advanced English grammar
Common usage errors
Claims to be the best site for English grammar and usage
University of Ottawa
American Heritage guide to usage
The Well-bred Sentence
University of Illinois writer’s grammar handbook
Also has separate sites for grammar & writing
Usage guides also include a subcategory, namely style guides and manuals. Some of them are intended for “everyday” writing purposes, while others are oriented toward specialized writing needs (e.g., technical, medical, business). A number of universities and government agencies have prepared style manuals for internal purposes, but a few are also available to the public on the Web. Here are a few of the most helpful resources in this category.
NASA technical writers handbook (grammar, punctuation & capitalization)
US Government Printing Office
University of Alabama
Obviously emphasizes UK English usage.
A very good text on technical writing
On-line resources that focus on specific usage aspects of the language can offer invaluable help for both native and non-native speakers. Collocations in particular (e.g., what prepositions combine with what verbs) sometimes pose knotty problems that can be easily resolved by consulting one of the following references.
Not everybody is a devotee of English etymology like me, but if you are, you can find some very helpful (and occasionally entertaining) resources at these Web sites.
A weekly Web-zine
Similarly, I have a personal liking for the area of language history, not only that of my target language (Spanish) but also the history of the English language, so I have collected a small number of good sites that deal with this particular topic, as follows.
History of the English language from a Canadian standpoint
Of course, on occasion you might need to translate from British English to the American variety, or perhaps vice versa. Here again, these sites will help you with deciphering some of the significant differences.
English from a British point of view – Also includes topical words, turns of phrase and weird words.
In conclusion, just to prove that the study of English can be lots of fun, don’t fail to explore some of the following miscellaneous sites. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about the language from them!
What’s the difference between…?
International House of Logorrhea
Anglo-Saxon heathen terminology (!!)
Old English lexicon
Cheesy American English usage
“Mathematical English” glossary
Converts standard English to a variety of dialects
The Foolish Dictionary EXAMPLE: WEEDS Found in gardens and widows. For removing easily, marry the widow.
So, now I have finally reached the end of the mine shaft, although the ore certainly is not totally played out. You never know when you might hit another mother lode somewhere down the line, so it doesn’t hurt to keep digging.
This article was originally published in The ATA Chronicle.
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