Guess what it means – abbreviations and acronyms:

When one is asked to translate a text which is bristling with abbreviations and acronyms not explained anywhere in the respective document, the hunt is on. Some time ago, for instance, we were given a presentation in which the term "CCIE" kept turning up like the proverbial bad egg. No problem, I thought, it's sure to be a standard abbreviation to do with IT (for those not familiar with this term – it means information technology), since the text dealt with that subject. After all, the "CCI..." usually refers to international organisations of the type "Comité Consultatif International ...". But to make sure, I asked our client. However, the lady in charge had only passed on the job for another department and had no knowledge of the subject. The person who had asked her to get the stuff translated had knocked off for the weekend.
So I resorted to a search in the relevant dictionaries, which turned up:


There is a terminological vacuum between the "Chip Card Interface" or "Common Client Interface" and the CCIR "Comité Consultatif International des Radiocommunications" in one dictionary, and in another, the order is CCH = "Cancel character" to CCIR. The legal dictionary jumps CCE (commissioners of customs and excise) to CCIO (classification of commodities by industrial origin), and dictionaries on other topics were no help either.
Not wanting to bother other colleagues, as it was after 6 p.m. on Friday (yes indeed - translators often still have to work when others have already left the office), I turned to the WWW (World Wide Web, sometimes known as World Wide Waste of time). The results (thanks to Google):

Now the vast number of hits dealing with the second term made it fairly obvious that this was meant. A telephone call to the person responsible in the client's company on the following Monday confirmed this.
But with a less common abbreviation, things might have been more difficult. One excellent on-line acronym collection ( lists eight interpretations for "CAC" and nine for "CAM", which brings me right back to Cisco - they publish a huge acronym collection in pdf form (> 3MB). This contains only two for CAM - "content addressable memory" and "Cisco Access Manager". This illustrates the potential for confusion and the frustrating task of a translator in such cases.
Given an agreed per-line fee – unlike most "academic" jobs, translating is usually piece-work, like bricklaying or tiling or other manual tasks – the time taken searching for the solutions to such riddles reduces the translator's earnings. After a few hard assignments of this kind, it is tempting to raise the price on the next quotation, just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, this involves the risk of not getting the contract.


This does not have to be the case. After all, established and proven client/translator relationships are to the advantage of both parties. We normally carry out extra work of this kind at no additional fee.
Existing and potential customers can help to keep down the cost of translations by avoiding cryptic abbreviations and providing lists with explanations of all acronyms used (see Guidelines for customers).
Especially where company-specific or non-standard acronyms and abbreviations are used, these should be explained in the text of the actual document in the form of footnotes or in a glossary (e.g. as an appendix). This also benefits target reader groups, helping them to understand and appreciate your texts.

© technomedia
Gernot Hirsinger

PS - incidentally, the international body that deals with colours, lighting etc. is, for some reason or another, not a "CC... " but simply a "C...", namely the CIE - Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage and "CIE" is also claimed by the "Council on Islamic Education" .