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I am currently in the process of translating a lecture on the étale topology by John Hubbard from French into English (and from transparencies into Beamer). For the most part, the translation is going smoothly, but sometimes I wish I had more resources for translating technical terms.

Now I'm wondering: what are some resources which you have found useful for mathematical translation? For a given language, what are some of the tricky terms which deviate the most from English?

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  • $\begingroup$ > For a given language, what are some of the tricky terms which deviate the most from English? That seems like a rather open-ended question. Why don't you post specific words you are having difficulty with and perhaps people here can help you translate them? $\endgroup$ – José Figueroa-O'Farrill Dec 21 '09 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ There wasn't a particular instance of translation trouble which I had in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of things like variété <--> manifold, where the obvious translation to English is in fact wrong. I recall seeing more instances of this, particularly in French, but can't come up with them off the top of my head. It would be nice to have a short list of common "gotchas" in translation. $\endgroup$ – Matt Noonan Dec 21 '09 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ Joke about affine group action. $\endgroup$ – Harry Gindi Jan 8 '10 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ Matt, "application" is canonical Franglais (translates to "mapping"). $\endgroup$ – Victor Protsak Aug 7 '10 at 4:50
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I've found the German math word list here to be quite useful.

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    $\begingroup$ what..the.. why wasn't I told of this page when I prepared for my language exam? (grumble grumble) For what it's worth, I used Leo Herland's "Dictionary of Mathematical Sciences" when I studied for my German exam, and I've heard good things about Gunther Eisenreich's "Dictionary of Mathematics" which does English, French, German, and Russian. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong May 4 '10 at 10:37
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I've found that Google has a translator application which is wonderful. If you type in a sentence, it does the correct translation; it has even known mathematical terms when presented in the correct context. It is my first resource for help with translations.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes I like Google translator very much. If you want to translate huge blocks of text, it is not much harder, you can cheat Google's "word limit" - all you have to do is get a Gmail account, email yourself a fairly large block (10 pages or so is perfectly fine) of text in the other language, and then when you view the message, you will have the option of viewing it in the other language. $\endgroup$ – Vinoth Dec 21 '09 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ I am amazed that it managed to distinguish between variety and manifold! $\endgroup$ – Sam Derbyshire Dec 21 '09 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Google translate often doesn't work that well. Try e.g. vetia e shoqërimit. Google translates this as ... the essence of companionship. At least in mathematics, the correct translation would be associative law. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Nov 1 '17 at 22:39
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Concerning "tricky terms that deviate most from English": It seems that many languages agree on the meaning of the words that look like "actual" (French "actuel", German "aktuell", and I think also Polish and Russian), namely that they mean "current" or "contemporary" --- not actual.

There seems to be a similar situation with (words that look like) "eventual".

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I have found people that do high-quality math translations at very resonable rates on Craigslist. The going professional rate seems to be on the order of 30-40 cents per word. Rates on Craigslist are 1/4 of this. Given the small number of actual words in many mathematics papers this is for me an efficient way to "get 'er done." Plus you end up with a translated copy of the paper.

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    $\begingroup$ Evidently the phrase does precede Larry the Cable Guy. Good to know. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git-R-Done I've got a 20-page 1984 paper in German to struggle with. The problem is that the mathematics is also a bit beyond my pay grade. Well, just complaining. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy May 4 '10 at 15:45
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I think the Cornell mathematics library has a little math technobabble dictionary for converting between various standard languages like English, French and German.

Ask at the desk. If that doesn't work, ask Jim West because I think he's the guy that pointed it out to me. It used to be on that central shelf that's sitting in front of the main door to the library.

edit: if you find out the name of the dictionary, please post it here.

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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan: it is possibly Eisenreich's "Dictionary of Mathematics". There is a copy at the reference desk at Princeton's math library (which is how I know), but I didn't personally use it much. It also has Russian (in addition to the ones you listed). $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong May 4 '10 at 10:40
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For translation to and from French, I'd recommend GrandDictionnaire.com. It's generally quite complete for technical and scientific terms (including mathematics). Descriptions are in French though.

(And it has the correct answer to your example of variété/manifold)

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