METM09 presentation     Thread: Promising practices

A corpus to go, please!

Anne Murray – Spain

The Internet opened up a whole new world for translators and editors. As cobwebs form on many of our dictionaries and encyclopedias and trips to the local library become a distant memory, we have had to learn how to mine the vast amounts of information available on the Internet. One of the main advantages of the Internet is that it provides instant access not just to words or phrases, but to entire texts about the subject we are working on.

Meanwhile, corpus-guided translation and editing is quickly gaining ground and anybody who works with a corpus (a collection of texts on a specific topic or from a particular source) wonders how they ever managed before. Just as we wonder how we ever managed before the Internet.

Creating a high-quality corpus, however, can be a time-consuming task, as this requires selecting genre-specific texts from carefully selected sources and processing these for use in a concordancer. This investment in effort may only seem worth it if we are doing a big job, work a lot in the same field, or decide we would like to start building a specialist corpus. Many translators and editors, however, move from subject to subject and even from field to field and many of the texts we do are short. In an age where “time is money”, we might think twice before spending a few hours creating a corpus for a 500-word translation on the benefits of mohair socks.

In this short presentation, I will describe a web-based tool (BootCaT) that harvests the web to create a downloadable corpus in a matter of seconds or minutes, depending on how much information we want. It is by no means a perfectly clean corpus, but it can certainly help resolve doubts and gives plenty of leads for further investigation.


Anne Murray is a freelance translator and author’s editor based in a village in Catalonia’s wine country, near Tarragona, Spain. She has a degree in translation and is currently enrolled in the European Medical Writers Association Professional Development Programme. She is also MET’s Membership Chair.