Skip to Content
Author's profile photo David Halitsky

How about an SDN Cross-Language “Proverb Translation” Forum ??

What is the Hindi, Farsi, Chinese, or Korean version of the German proverb I used in the title of a recent post: “Was dem einen recht ist, ist dem anderen billig” Literally translated, this proverb says: “Whatever is right for one [person] is fair for the other [person].” Or, as English-speakers would say: “Sauce for the goose [female of the species], sauce for the gander [male of the species]”. But what would a speaker of Hindi or Farsi or Chinese or Korean say in his or her own language to make the same point? If enough SDN members take a moment to post the equivalent of this proverb in their own native languages, maybe it would convince Mark and Mark and Marilyn and Craig that it would be worth setting up a forum in which we could all work on creating an “SDN Cross-Language Proverb Dictionary”. The way it would work is that someone would post a proverb in their own language with a literal English translation and then responders would post equivalents in their languages with the literal English translations. (I choose English only because it has been defined as the “base” language for the SDN community.) No points would be awarded, but who knows? Maybe if we got enough proverbs cross-linked in enough languages, SAP Press might get interested in publishing it. (With all profits going to some worthy and non-controversial organization devoted to improving cultural understanding -I’m sure SAP could find one on which we could all agree.) I’m serious about the above idea – I think it’s a neat idea on its own merits. But the results might also be instructive for anyone interested in the general problem of ontology mapping that I was recently discussing with Anton W in this post here: The Diachronic Metadata Repository as a Tool for Risk Reduction via Conflict-Prevention During Legacy-to-ERP Conversions (Part 9) Are there really data strucures or processes in one technological “dialect” that can’t be mapped to their equivalents in another technological “dialect”? I personally don’t think so. It’s just that companies would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on failed Legacy -> ERP conversions then to spend much less money on figuring out up front how to map their legacy technological “dialects” into the various dialects of SAP. Which is something I guess I kind of understand – sort of. It’s kind of like the automakers who figure it’s cheaper to settle with the accident victims than to recall the cars and fix the problem.

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Nigel James
      Nigel James
      It goes to the core of culture right across the board. English (as in UK not the language) people are self-depricating whereas Americans are confident  to the point of arrogance. Australians on the other hand are laid back and want a 'fair go' for all. These are of course, gross generalisations but there is some truth in it.

      There was a great blog a few months back that tackled the German-American divide but for SAP it is cross-cultural communication all the way. I (an Australian work on a project with Indian, English, Malaysians, Irish, Scotish, ...) and while there is a lot in common there are a few things that we just don't get about each other. Take for example the South African meaning of 'Just now'. To my Australian mind if someone tells me I will have something 'Just Now' I would think that means 'Right Now' but to the South African it means at some time in the future. And if an Australian tells you to 'Go for your life' in regard to an open banquet of food, would you understand he was trying to tell you to help yourself to as much as you wanted?

      Perhaps what we really need is a cross-cultural communication formum.



      Author's profile photo David Halitsky
      David Halitsky
      The forum could include general conversational expressions of the kind that create confusion in the work-place.

      With respect to a general forum on cross-cultural communication, I think it would be very interesting. 

      Although as someone "born and bred" in the US, I'm sure the comments would reduce my native "arrogance."  In this regard, there was a very interesting recent column on the MSNBC web-site in which the writer reported conversations with several US CEO's who said they hated the Iraq war because everytime they travelled abroad, they had to listen to a two-hour lecture from their counterparts.

      BTW, the phrase which the US's own cognoscenti now use instead of "arrogance" is "US exceptionalism" - the idea that the usual rules don't apply to the US.  This can be seen as an outgrowth of the doctrine used in US land-grabs from Native Americans in the 19th century - the term then was "Manifest Destiny", which DOES sound a lot nicer than "exceptionalism".

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Actually...What is needed is a cross-language SDN...Hard to believe but true...Most of the people in South America, doesn't know English...That's why they didn't sign to the SDN...There's a large Spanish community users that just can access all the given information...Just because the doesn't understand what they're reading...I know that there's some "Internationalization Team" willing to pump up the SDN on different languages for different communities...But when? More that proverbs, we need to help people (who doesn't speak English) to access the SDN...

      Just my thoughts -:)



      Author's profile photo David Halitsky
      David Halitsky
      Hi AT -

      I agree that the general problem is signficant.

      One solution might be modelled after the "work-study" program that gave a lot of US college students beer-money during the 1960's.

      In the old US Federally-funded work-study programs, students did work for a college at $2.50/hr but the college only paid $1.00/hr because the Federal grant to the college picked-up the rest.

      So think about all the college comp sci students in the US who happen to know Spanish as well as English and all the college comp sci students in South and Central America who happen to know English.  (These may never have heard of SAP or SDN, so they're not in the group you mention.)

      If SAP were to pay these students' colleges a very nominal fee, perhaps these colleges would chip in some to make it possible for the students to work as translators.

      The advantages to SAP of doing this are obvious:

      a) good-will;
      b) identification of bright candidates to recruit into SAP and its partners.

      But most importantly, there are a lot of SDNers old enough to remember how ATT/HP/Sun etc "stole IBM's lunch in the 1980's simply by giving UNIX free to US universities at a time when IBM was still charging $1M a pop for a copy of MVS.

      The result was exactly as you'd expect - all these students grew up knowing everything about "sed" and "grep" and nothing about JCL, CICS, VSAM, VTAM, BAL, etc.

      And so when they graduated and were offered a job at site running IBM, they all said - are you kidding? Work in TSO/ISPF with a line editor? Not very likely.

      Same thing here - tell SAP that if they don't adopt the above idea, then we're going to Larry.  And then we'll see how many companies are running SAP ES(O)A and how many are running Oracle E-Not-So-Sweet in another ten years.

      (Note to Mark/Mark/Marilyn/Craig: Just kidding, just kidding! I would never THINK of trying to blackmail SAP that way, not even for its own good.!)

      Anyway, AT - I sympathize - I really do.


      Author's profile photo Eddy De Clercq
      Eddy De Clercq
      which type of English do you want use as a base? For general chitchat it doesn't matter as such, but for proverbs it does matter. Like with German and Dutch, a word can have its own meaning depending on which flavour of English used or even which country the person originates from / is based.


      Author's profile photo David Halitsky
      David Halitsky
      I have to confess I feel honored, EDC.

      You raise an excellent point, for two reasons.

      First, it brings up the issue of dialects.

      As most people know, the language "Hindi" includes many dialects, some of which are as close as French/Italian/Spanish, and some of which are as distant as German/Polish or English/Greek (all descended from "dialects" of Indo-European sometime in the distant past.)

      Same with Chinese, only probably even more so.

      So it might well be that a given proverb had one equivalent in one dialect of a given language and another equivalent in a different dialect of the same language.

      Kind of like multiply-occurring fields in COBOL copylibs and nested tables in Oracle DDL (ha-ha).

      Second, with respect to which flavor of English should be the "base" language, I'm open to any "standard" version - mainly because I don't want Nigel to think I'm guilty of US "exceptionalism" (see my reply to him below.)

      But you're exactly right - if the base language were British English, the "literal" translation in British English might require some knowledgeable person to annotate the translation in US English, for the usual obvious reasons we're all familiar with (cases like "lift/elevator", "flat/apartment", etc.


      Author's profile photo Eddy De Clercq
      Eddy De Clercq

      Translations are indeed a difficult matter. That's mainly the reason why things like Altavista Babelfish don't really work when it comes to sentences where interpretation is needed (and that's very diplomatically said).


      Author's profile photo David Halitsky
      David Halitsky
      At least for those old enough to remember when machine translation was "just around the corner."

      In the late 1960's the Sager/Grishman team was working on machine translation at NYU's Courant Institute (Dept of Comp Sci) using a parsing technique called "string analysis" (derived from some approaches pioneered by Zelig Harris, Chomsky's dissertastion adviser.)

      Forty miles up the river, the Jacobs/Rosenbaum team was working on machine translation at IBM using a parsing technique that relied on Chomsky's own theory of "transformational-generative grammar" (still relatively new at the time.)

      Of course, both failed miserably on arbitrary corpora (plural of corpus) because the real problem with translation involves picking up semantic cues from lexical context, and this is very difficult to do unless your corpus is very very limited, e.g. articles on a specific topic with a highly restricted vocabulary.

      It is to be hoped that parsing of business processes is not so dependent on semantic context; else I fear for the success of ES(O)A.