Demining as a weapon of mass translation

What is demining in translation?

While the term ‘demining’ may conjure up images of a task force neutralising an explosive charge rather than a translator sitting quietly behind a computer screen, the basic principle is much the same.

At Version Internationale, we’ve adopted this term to describe the preliminary analysis process we use for a regular project which involves the multilingual translation of gastronomic menus written in French. A French-speaking linguist ‘demines’ the source text before translation: in other words, detects and resolves any misinterpretations that may arise when reading the names of dishes. Why? To clarify problem areas from the outset in order to anticipate any questions the translators may have.



How to ‘demine’ a text

At Version Internationale, demining gastronomic menus primarily involves:

– Specifying the links between the ingredients of a dish. If the French text reads ‘gratin de pommes de terre et haricot verts‘, the translator may ask whether we’re talking about a potato and green bean gratin, or a potato gratin with green beans served on the side.

– Explaining certain technical points about the dish. For example, the term ‘céleri’ in French may seem quite straightforward at first sight, but in English, the translation depends on whether the ingredient is céleri branche (celery) or céleri rave (celeriac).

– Explaining dishes typical of French gastronomy, often not well known abroad, such as carbonade, fondue bourguignonne or financier.

– Clarifying the colourful and often convoluted wording that the French are so fond of in the names of their dishes. A dish called ‘trio de la mer en nage crémée et sa farandole du jardin’, which translated literally into English would read ‘trio of the sea in a creamy pool served with a lively Provençal dance in the garden’ is likely to leave the reader more perplexed than excited about tasting their main course.



Why adopt such a strategy?

This preliminary analysis proves to be an indispensable step in facilitating the translators’ work. The aim is to provide them with as much context as possible so they can ‘transpose’ the different names of dishes into their native languages and cultures.

In the context of a multilingual project, this strategy is also an excellent way of ensuring consistent and uniform interpretation – and thus translation – of the source text into all target languages.

Demining also has the significant advantage of avoiding countless emails back and forth answering questions from the various translators. We anticipate their queries and it’s a valuable time-saver for our teams.

We’ve talked about the value of demining in the specialist field of gastronomy in this article, but it is entirely possible – and even recommended – to use this approach in other specialist fields that may require clarification. Remember, the more context you provide a translator with, the better the quality of their translation.

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