Translating books in other languages for research purposes.

January 1, 2013

Many of the best books for research are in languages other than English.  Russia, in particular, has the most amazing archaeological books.  Yum!  Most of the ones on topics of interest to me are in Hungarian, Russian, German, or Danish.  Since I speak none of those languages, translation is necessary.

Currently, I am working on translating the clothing section of Die Gräber der Moščevaja Balka by Anna A. Ierusalimskaja into English.  I thought you might be interested in the process I use, which is fairly simple if a bit tedious.

Step 1.  Scan the page to a .TIFF file.

Any scanner will work for this step.  My scanner is a wireless HP Photosmart Premium which I bought for no other reason other than it was on sale when I needed to a new printer/scanner.    The ink cartridges are less expensive than other printer models, something that I always check when I’m buying a printer.  Ink cartridges will kill your wallet.

My printer comes with scanning software, which somehow works with the character recognition software I use.  It was easy to install, even on my Windows 8 laptop. (Miracle!)

Step 2.  Read the .TIFF file with character recognition software.

When you scan something, what it’s really doing is taking a picture of it.   You need software to turn the picture into text.  I use ABBYY FineReader 11 Professional Edition.  I’ve searched around for free character recognition software, but frankly, this is the best so it was worth the money to me.  No, they didn’t pay me to say that.  I wish.  One of the nice things about this software is that it comes with built in dictionaries for word recognition, so it gets all the umlauts and accent characters and that weird “B” thing in German correct.  You tell the software what language the page is in and it auto-magically turns pictures into words.

Step 3.  Translate the text.

I use free Google translate, with Bing translator as a back up opinion.  Google translate will allow you translate a webpage, a document or text.  I cut and paste a couple of paragraphs at a time into the text box.  This allows me to go through each sentence.  Using google translate, you can choose alternate words and rearrange sentences.  When I’m satisfied, I pick up the translated text and put it in a word processing document.  Current, I’m using free Google Drive for storage and word processing program.

Lets face it, machine translation isn’t the same as having something translated by someone fluent in the language.  It is, however, better than nothing.  I find that I am able to get the gist of whatever it is I’m translating.  German to English is pretty good.  Hungarian to English machine translation is not as reliable.

What am I doing with this translation, you might well wonder?  Well, I am an amateur researcher, so it is for my private use to further my knowledge.  Anything posted to my website that is under copyright to another individual or group is used under fair use doctrine and is for educational purposes.  I believe that translations are a separate copyright issue, but I’m not an international copyright lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.  The intent is not to steal someone else’s work; it is merely to be able to read it and perhaps to discuss it.

I wish you happy translating and researching!  And a happy new year, as well.

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One Response to Translating books in other languages for research purposes.

  1. Vasilisa
    January 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    The weird German “B” thing is an esset (sp) and I recall hearing that they’re looking at taking it out; leaving us with only the double s.

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