How do you find precise translations for technical terminology? One of the convenient things about dealing with a mainstream language like Mandarin is that pretty much every English technical or trade term in every subject you could imagine has a Mandarin equivalent.
The devil is in finding it. Bilingual dictionaries are good for mainstream stuff, but they don’t tend to include the lingo that’s an inevitable part of any profession.
Most recently this popped up for me when I wanted to ask a market research partner of mine for “crosstabs”, a kind of preliminary gross analysis that’s commonly used in quantitative studies. So how to ask for crosstabs without knowing the term? Well, I could try to explain it, but not knowing whether generating crosstabs is even common practice in China, I wasn’t sure it was worth the trouble to offer a botched Zhonglish explanation. I could offer a word-by-word translation and hope that works, some combination of “cross” plus “tabulation”, that has all the promise of translating 一次性 as “a time sex thing” rather than “single use.”
No, what we really need is a term here.
After coming up empty in the ABC dictionary on Pleco and in the Chinese Wikipedia, I was pleased to stumble across* a site that was new to me, bab.la. It offers convincing terms for both “crosstab” and “crosstab table”. Even though I’m still not sure if 交叉数据分析表 is the term in vogue, it worked for me and my market researcher, so that gives bab.la some measure of authority.
Anyone else use bab.la enough to offer a second opinion? More generally, is there any better way to go about digging up technical terminology short of reading through a book on the subject?
*I’m not exactly sure how I found bab.la anymore. Sorry, because I think that’s a critical part of the story about sleuthing for technical terminology: how do you start your search? Trying to re-create it today, it looks like I might have googled “crosstabs 中文”. I remember going through some of the items on the first results page, but I see that the bab.la site doesn’t show up until the second page. Like most people, I don’t usually go to the second page of search results, but maybe I did yesterday? Anybody else have a good generic set of search terms that they use?