Smith, Jennifer

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					                                      Smith, Jennifer
               Foundation for the GEvTerm Multilingual Database
                                  French-English Food Terms
                                 Faculty Mentor: Alan K. Melby, Linguistics

GEvTerm is an initiative whose primary goal is to “address language challenges on a global
scale”1. One method for achieving this goal is to provide databases of terms in many different
languages in order to help facilitate translation and communication. One example is their
Olympic Sporting Events Database which provides translations for all the sports names used in
the Olympics. My research project was to create a similar database but intended for food terms
and with a concentration on French and English terms.

I have experienced firsthand a poorly translated menu. For me it was a comical error as I could
understand both languages and knew that ananas (the French word for pineapple) did not
translate as apple pie. However, as food has such a direct relation to our health, a mistake can
have more serious consequences. Any person visiting another country, whether for business or
pleasure, will need to eat at some time. It is definitely something that affects us all. Personal
taste, personal or religious beliefs and health concerns all play a part in food choices. Food
decisions are complicated when one cannot understand the menu. It can be a major issue when
one cannot discover that a dish contains alcohol or certain meats that are avoided by those of
certain religions or personal beliefs. The issue can become fatal if an allergen is not mentioned
because of a poor translation or the lack of any translation at all. GEvTerm hopes to reduce or
eliminate such events—as well as improve the experience of those who do not have such serious
concerns—by providing translations for menus through a food termbase.

This research is still on-going. My portion will be completed by April 2009. To date, a website
has been created, a hierarchy has been established, and preliminary terms have been researched
and entered. The website interface allows users to input and view food terms. As the database
expands, the website will be improved to include advanced search options and a more
streamlined approach to entering and approving terms. The hierarchy was the most difficult
component. It was completed early on in draft form, but has had to undergo many changes as
new items came up that were not easily classified. I now feel a great deal of respect for those
who made the original classification system. Some basic terms have already been entered into
the database to begin a foundation for the website and hierarchy.

Another aspect of the product has been research on TBX. TBX is an XML-based standard that
allows for the easy exchange of terms. At the outset of the project, I understood the theory and
creation of XML and TBX, but I had not had an opportunity to see TBX in use. A translation

1
    Lexical/Terminology Access Consortium, LTAC Mission Statement, http://www.ltacglobal.org/index.html.
technology class afforded me that opportunity. I was able to see not only how TBX is used, but
also how important its use is. There are many different software programs competing in the
translation market. If they each use their own format for storing termbases, there will be a great
deal of limitations on those termbases and sharing information with or sending files to someone
using a different program will be difficult if not impossible. In recent years, many companies
have shifted to using the TBX standard for termbases. This allows the termbases to be used in
many different translation programs as well as be used in other formats such as word documents
or web pages. Seeing this in action, allowed me to gain a better grasp of how my research would
fit into the translation world.

A great deal of work still remains, though I have arranged my schedule to make this project the
focus of the next four months. In January, I will finish entering information and making any final
changes to the hierarchy. This will create a large enough foundation for testing and for opening
the database up to more users. February will be spent testing the database by using menus in both
French and English to make sure that the database has a sufficient number of terms. With these
tests, we will know what improvements need to be made. In March we finish analyzing the tests
and make what improvements we can. I will then prepare the written portion of the project and
include notes for the continuation of the project. The entire project will be presented in April of
2009.

There have been some stumbling blocks along the way. A major issue was the scope of the
project. I knew when I began the research that I wouldn’t be able to finish the entire project. My
job was to build a solid foundation upon which others could build. However, it was hard to work
on just my portion when the end result is so far distant. My mentor’s helpful suggestion was to
do all the planning that I could and then just jump into the data entry and research.

Even though it is not yet complete, this project has already been invaluable in many aspects. I
have been able to gain more experience in computer programming and data organization. Also,
because of my classes and this research related to translation, I have begun working towards a
career in translation and am building a solid foundation of experience in that field. Finally, I have
benefitted from the more general advantages of research that include learning time and project
management as well as getting to know a professor who has been able to advise me not only in
my research, but my career goals and future plans as well.