Controlled Language


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Brief overview of the history of the controlled language movement and the benefits of using a controlled language; includes examples, references, and resources.

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Controlled Language

  1. 1. strategy Controlled language – does my company need it? Controlled languages use basic writing rules to simplify sentence structure. Here is how they work and how your company can benefit from introducing a controlled language. Photo: Kellie Folkerts 16 APRIL 2009
  2. 2. strategy By Uwe Muegge EXAMPLES OF ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE CREATED A CONTROLLED LANGUAGE What is control- led language? Alcatel: Controlled English Grammar (COGRAM) Avaya: Avaya Controlled English (ACE) A controlled language is a natu- Caterpillar: Caterpillar Technical English (CTE), Caterpil- ral language, as opposed to an lar Fundamental English (CFE) artificial or constructed language. Dassault Aerospace: Français Rationalisé Natural languages such as Ericsson: Ericsson English English or German are languages General Motors (GM): Controlled Automotive Service that are used by humans for gen- Language (CASL) eral communication. A controlled IBM: Easy English language differs from the general Kodak: International Service Language language in two significant ways: Nortel: Nortel Standard English (NSE) 1. The grammar rules of a Océ: Controlled English controlled language are typically Siemens: Siemens DokumentationsDeutsch more restrictive than those of the Scania: Scania Swedish general language. Sun Microsystems: Sun Controlled English 2. The vocabulary of a control- Xerox: Xerox Multilingual Customized English led language typically contains only a fraction of the words that are permissible in the general language. As a result, authors who use a controlled language have fewer choices available when writing a text. For example, the sentence “Check Eliminating translation Enhancing comprehensibility the spelling of a paper before publishing it” is a One of the most widely used controlled lan- Helping authors avoid both semantic and perfectly acceptable sentence in general English. guages today is ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical syntactic ambiguity has been recognized as a Using CLOUT™, a controlled language rule set English, also known as Simplified English. Simpli- goal worth pursuing in and by itself, especially developed by the author of this article, the fied English was originally developed by the in the domain of technical communication. sample sentence would have to be rewritten as European Association of Aerospace Manufactur- Some organizations are deploying a controlled “You must check the spelling of your document ers (AECMA) in the 1980s. The main purpose language for the sole purpose of improving the before you publish that document” to comply of Simplified English was to create a variant of user experience of a product or service on the with rules regarding vocabulary, active voice, Standard English that aircraft engineers with only domestic market. use of articles, and avoidance of pronouns. a limited command of English could understand, thereby eliminating the need to translate mainte- nance manuals into foreign languages. Why do we need Common features controlled languages? Streamlining translation A common characteristic of controlled languages Within the localization industry, many people is the fact that very little information about their Facilitating language learning familiar with the controlled language concept rule sets and vocabularies is freely available. This When C.K. Ogden developed Basic English in associate it with automating the translation proc- is not really surprising considering that a control- 1930 – probably the first controlled language – ess. In fact, it typically comes as a surprise that led language can provide an organization with a the developer had the explicit goal of dramati- controlled languages can and have been used for distinct advantage over its competitors. cally reducing the 5+ years it takes to master purposes other than making the translation proc- Apart form that, you will find very few similarities Standard English. Based on a vocabulary that ess more efficient. By restricting both vocabulary between controlled languages. Nortel Standard contains 850 essential words (for comparison, and style, using a controlled language typically English, for instance, has only a little over a dozen the Oxford English Dictionary defines more than improves match rates in translation memory envi- rules, while Caterpillar Technical English consists 600.000 words), Basic English is designed to be ronments and translation quality in (rules-based) of more than ten times as many. And a recent acquired in a few weeks only. machine translation environments. comparative analysis of eight controlled English 17 APRIL 2009
  3. 3. strategy languages found that the number of shared controlled-language source documents typically granularity. In other words: There is too much features was exactly one, i.e. a preference for have higher match rates when processed in a variability within these topics! short sentences. translation memory system. Higher match rates Controlled authoring mean lower translation cost and higher transla- Why should I use a for translation memory tion speed. controlled language? Some controlled languages have been specifi- systems cally designed with machine translation in mind, Here is why it makes sense for your company to e.g. Caterpillar Technical English or the Control- Writing in a controlled language reduces vari- use a controlled language: led Language Optimized for Uniform Translation ability, especially if the controlled language not CLOUT. Using a controlled language customized only covers grammar, style, and vocabulary, but Improved usability for a specific machine translation system will also function. Documents that are more readable and more significantly improve the quality of machine- In a functional approach to controlled language comprehensible improve the usability of a generated translation proposals and dramatically authoring, there are specific rules for text func- product or service and reduce the number of reduce the time and cost associated with a hu- tions such as instruction, result, or warning mes- support calls. man translator or editor. sage. Here are two simple examples for functional controlled language rules: Objective metrics and author support Impacts on translation Tools-driven controlled language environments enable the automation of many editing tasks and Even in environments that combine content Text function: Instruction provide objective quality metrics for the author- management systems with translation memory Pattern: Verb (infinitive) + article + object + ing process. Controlled-language environments technology, the percentage of untranslated seg- punctuation mark. also provide authors with powerful tools that ments can still remain fairly high in new projects. Example: Click the button. give them objective and structured support in This can be a major challenge for organizations a typically rather subjective and unstructured that wish to reduce the cost and time involved Text function: Result environment. in the translation of their materials. While it is Pattern: Article + object + verb (present certainly possible to manage content on the tense) + punctuation mark. Lower translation costs sentence/segment level, the current best practice Example: The window “Expense Report” As controlled-language texts are more uniform seems to be to chunk at the topic level. This appears. and standardized than uncontrolled ones, means that reuse occurs at a fairly high level of Enter the Eastern Europe Localization Translation Quality assurance Project management DTP +7 (495) 913 6653, Russia Ukraine Kazakhstan Germany ISO 9001:2000 certified 18 APRIL 2009
  4. 4. strategy Do I have to develop Implementing functional controlled language or French > English and watch how Systran’s free my own controlled rules will enable authors to write text in which machine translation system turns a complete sentences with the same function have a very website into a fully navigable, highly compre- language? high degree of similarity. This not only makes hensible virtual English site in real time. Click on sentence modules reusable within and across Not at all! Today, many organizations that wish to the link Controlled Language/Rules for Machine topics in a content management system, it also reap the benefits of controlled-language author- to see ten sample CLOUT writing rules that have dramatically improves match rates in a translation ing opt for a software-driven solution that comes a high impact on the comprehensibility and memory system. with a built-in set of grammar and style rules. (machine) translatability of instructional text in Software-driven rules checking English. Systems like acrolinx IQ Suite, IAI CLAT, or Tedopres Controlled authoring HyperSTE have enabled thousands of organiza- for rules-based machine tions to improve the quality and productivity of References: their authoring and translation processes. In a translation systems software-driven authoring environment, organi- Ogden, Charles Kay. 1930. Basic English: A zations don’t have to maintain the staff of highly General Introduction with Rules and Grammar. While uniformity is the decisive factor in improv- trained linguistic experts needed to develop London : Treber, 1930. ing efficiency in a traditional translation memory and deploy a proprietary controlled language. environment, reducing ambiguity in the source Instead, the organization simply selects the rules Basic English Institute 1996. Ogden’s Basic text makes machine translation more productive. that are most suitable for a given content type English Word List. Ogden’s Basic English. [Online] The problem that rules-based machine transla- from a set of preexisting writing rules. Typically, [Cited: February 3, 2009.] http://ogden.basic- tion systems like Systran struggle with, is the fact these checking tools support the definition of that in uncontrolled source texts, the (grammati- multiple sets of rules for multiple types of content cal) relationship between the words in a sentence (e.g. stricter rules for user documentation than for AeroSpace and Defence Industries Associa- is not always clear. To enable rules-based knowledge base articles). tion of Europe. 2005. ASD-STE100 - Simplified machine translation systems to generate better Terminology management support Technical English - International Specification for translations, the controlled language needs to From a technology standpoint, it is relatively the Preparation of Maintenance Documentation have rules like the following that helps the ma- easy to implement the rules part of a controlled in a Controlled Language. ESSAS Electronic Sup- chine translation system to successfully identify language; the terminology part is typically more porting System for ASD Standardization. [Online] the part of speech of each word in a sentence: labor intensive. It is certainly true that many 2005. [Cited: February 3, 2009.] http://www.asd- controlled language software solutions include a module for collecting terminology, but still the task of creating a corporate dictionary, which is O’Brien, Sharon. 2003. Controlling Control- what this job amounts to, might be a daunt- led English: An Analysis of Several Controlled Write sentences that have articles before ing one. Not only will all synonyms among the Language Rule Sets. Machine Translation Archive. nouns, where possible. possibly thousands of terms in use within the [Online] 2003. [Cited: February 3, 2009.] http:// Do not write: Click button to launch organization have to be identified, but these program. synonyms will also have to be categorized into Write: Click the button to launch the preferred and deprecated (do not use) terms. contact program. While creating a corporate dictionary may be a challenge, once it is available, that dictionary may Write sentences that repeat the noun also be the feature most valued by the users of Uwe Muegge is the Direc- instead of writing a pronoun. the controlled language system. tor of MedL10N, the life Do not write: The button expands into a science division of CSOFT. window when you click it. He is currently a member Examples of controlled Write: The button expands into a window of TC37 at the International language when you click the button. Organization for Standardi- zation (ISO) and teaches To see an implementation of a simple controlled graduate courses in Terminology Management language designed for machine translation, visit and Computer-Assisted Translation at the the author’s website at The Monterey Institute of International Studies With rules in place that mitigate the weaknesses entire site was written in CLOUT, the Controlled of rules-based machine translation systems, Language Optimized for Machine Translation. On the quality of their output is bound to improve the home page, click on any of the language dramatically. combinations into English, i.e. German > English 19 APRIL 2009