FishBase Translations

The necessity to communicate and to make information in FishBase available to users other than people familiar with English led to an earlier initiative by the FishBase Team to provide translations of the CD-ROM version of FishBase in, at least, the major languages used in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (see the ‘ACP Project’, this vol.). This required an approach that would permit annual updates of the translated version, but without the time consuming process of traditional translations.

In order to tackle this enormous task, a strategy was proposed in Froese and Pauly (1998) consisting of four different phases, 1) the translation of terms and definitions in the GLOSSARY table (see FishBase 99 CD-ROM); and 2) the translation of the FishBase 98 book (see Froese and Pauly 1999). These resulted in the following translation related products of FishBase:

The GLOSSARY contains definitions in 3 languages
  • a dictionary of English and French equivalent terminology developed in language interchange format (LIF);

  • a glossary of technical and related terminology used in FishBase with word equivalents and definitions in English, French and Spanish;

  • a database of English/French sentence pairs on which Froese and Pauly (1999; i.e., the French translation of Froese and Pauly 1998) was based;

  • the GLOSSARY table: available in annual versions of the CD-ROM (from 96 to the present) and is searchable on-line in the Internet version of FishBase at;

  • Portuguese translation of the FishBase 96 book (Froese and Pauly 1996): available in the FishBase 97 version of the CD-ROM;

  • Portuguese translation of the FishBase 97 book (Froese and Pauly 1997): available in the FishBase 98 version of the CD-ROM and available in the Internet version of FishBase;

  • French translation of the FishBase 98 book (Froese and Pauly 1998): available in the 1999 release and in the Internet version;

  • Portuguese and Spanish translations of the FishBase 99 book (Froese and Pauly 1999): currently being developed, and will be made available through the Internet in early 2001.

Because of the recent breakthroughs in Internet technology, FishBase is able to provide links to on-line translation services of websites including its search pages (see website translation links in Such translation services offer a preliminary translations of important information contained in FishBase web pages. They cannot, however, replace traditional (and thus precise) translations.

The new translation strategy

Since the further development of FishBase will focus on the Internet version (in lieu of annual updates of the CD-ROM version), the strategy mentioned above has been recently modified. The new translation strategy involves:

  1. translation of the fixed text (titles, labels, notes) of the web pages into French and possibly other languages, making best use of XML technology;

  2. translation of choices in multiple choice fields; and

  3. simplification and standardization of vocabulary and grammar in English free-text fields, to achieve good results with machine translation ‘on-demand’, using dedicated dictionaries.

As a first attempt, collaborators from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) will spearhead the development of a French website in 2001. This work will be largely based on the products of the strategy mentioned above. The French website will be hosted and maintained by MNHN.

None of the members of the FishBase Team is a first language speaker of English and we all had to learn English at some point in our lives. Thus, we understand, from personal experience, what it means to be confronted with an English language document that one does not understand. We hope that the FishBase translations will help overcome this language barrier; in the same way that FishBase helps overcome disciplinary barriers in the world of ichthyology and fisheries.

It is hoped that other institutions catering to non-English readers will follow the example of MNHN and help disseminate information contained in FishBase by creating or supporting the development of non-English websites. If you can help with the translation of FishBase into other languages, please let us know. We will supply you with the GLOSSARY and FishBase book text files as well as help facilitate information exchange between those who have experience in creating websites.

Maria Lourdes D. Palomares