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New Research Centre for Translation

Next month, on 9 February 2011, the University of Leicester’s new Research Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies will open its doors for the first time. The centre will focus on researching subjects related to translation and interpretation. Additionally, it will also help facilitate the spread of knowledge in the translation community by hosting educational events like seminars and conferences.

In a press release from the University, Professor Kirsten Malmkjær, who will lead the centre, commented:

“I am extremely excited about my new post and looking forward eagerly to establishing translation as an academic discipline at Leicester. The main challenge we face is to establish a distinctive profile within the national and international translation studies community.”

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Hillary Clinton Translation

Clinton in Translation Faux Pas

Sergei Lavrov had a laugh at Hilary Clinton on Friday when she gave him a small token gift.

Hilary Clinton the US Secretary of State met with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov to discuss how the US and Russia can ‘reset’ relations.

Mrs Clinton handed Sergi Lavrov a small box which had a button inside, this was a token gift to represent the ‘resetting’ of relations between the two countries. The button had the word ‘reset’ printed on it and a Russian translation was printed underneath.

As reporters watched Clinton assured Lavrov that her staff had worked hard to get the translation right. Unfortunately it was wrong, Lavrov smiled as he pointed this out to the US Secretary of State.

The Americans had chosen the Russian word ‘peregruzka’ which means ‘overloaded’ or ‘overcharged’ rather than ‘reset’.

Despite some embarrassment the two of them laughed it off in front of the media. They both pushed the button together to signify their shared hopes for a better relationship in the future.

Later that day at a news conference the two of them joked together about the mistake.

The BBC reported Lavrov as saying through his interpreter, “We have reached an agreement on how ‘reset’ is spelled in both Russian and English – we have no more differences between us.”

Mrs Clinton managed to turn her mistake around in her speech saying, “we are resetting, and because we are resetting, the minister and I have an ‘overload’ of work.

Perhaps Hilary Clinton’s staff should have looked into proofreading. Once a translation has been done the proofreader will check that both the translation and the context are correct.

It seems the light hearted gift didn’t do the relationship any harm and hopefully any future translations by the US government will be checked.

Universal Translator

“Universal translators” have fuelled science fiction plots for decades, and building such a device

has long been the Holy Grail for tech-oriented linguists. However, the prototypes that have appeared so far have used machine translation. Over the past few years, machine translation has  improved by leaps and bounds, but it’s still not precise enough to be relied upon for complex conversations.

That may soon change. A new start-up called Babelverse  has an incredibly ambitious goal: putting real-time, human-powered translation at the fingertips of everyone with a mobile device like a computer or smart phone.  Basically, the service connects you with an interpreter working remotely, and is supposed to cost about the same as placing a phone call. Babelverse can also set up interpreters for conferences, saving the expense of arranging for on-site interpreters. The conference industry is the main focus of their business at the moment, and the founders expect to leverage it to provide for further expansion. Read more

Translator Helps Deliver Baby

In Tucson, Arizona, a Language Line translator helped deliver a baby over the phone last weekend, according to this article in the Arizona Star. The baby’s family all spoke Spanish, so when the father-to-be called 911 to report that his wife was about to give birth, the language barrier made an already nerve-wracking situation even more complicated.

The dispatcher who received the call, James Charron, is not bilingual and doesn’t speak Spanish. He understood just enough to figure out what was going on, but not enough to communicate accurately with the family. Tucson’s emergency dispatch system relies on Language Line to translate for non-English speaking callers.

Through Language Line translator Paola Anderson, Charron was able to provide instructions to the baby’s father and father-in-law to help them deliver the child safely on their own.

During the ordeal, the woman and her family were not the only ones who were nervous. Anderson was nervous too, afraid that making a mistake in translation could have serious consequences. As she told the Arizona Star, “I thought a little mistake could have resulted in something bad.”

According to the report, the baby girl was born healthy. Both Charron and Anderson are proud to have helped bring her into the world.  “I feel like a godmother,”  Anderson told the Arizona Star.

This story underscores why it so important to have well-trained, knowledgeable interpreters. Especially in medical situations!

How to Translate Donald Trump

How do you translate a word salad? That’s one question the rise of Donald Trump has interpreters and translators around the world asking themselves. The National Post called the reality TV personality, businessman and US presidential candidate [actual real-life President of the United States now, no really!] “a linguist’s dream” for his “unusual” speech patterns.  I suppose that’s one way to put it.

In this case, a linguist’s dream is an interpreter’s nightmare.  Trump is known for long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness rants that don’t always make sense in English. He’s also prone to (perhaps accidentally) reviving obscure, old words like “braggadocious” and “bigly.”

But, there’s a possibility Trump could become the next president of the United States. So, his speeches are international news. And that means foreign interpreters and translators get to parse sentences like this beauty, from a speech he gave in South Carolina: Read more

Skype: Universal Translator

Skype: The Universal Translator

Microsoft  & Skype intend to launch a real time language translator service this year according to an article by the BBC. Satya Nadella, Skype’s chief executive plans to introduce a test version for Windows 8 in the run up to 2015.

Due to increasing competition in the the VOIP market from the likes of google & co, these companies have been forced to pursue & develop more varied product offerings. Should this technology prove effective, it could spell trouble for the interpreting sector in a similar way that machine translation (MT) has impacted the language industry.

Skype claims the service is the result of more than a decade of detailed work with speech recognition systems and believes it could have dramatic concequenceses for the entire communication industry, with Mr Nadella adding

“It is going to make sure you can communicate with anybody without language barriers,”

While Skype’s vice president, Gurdeep Pall, accepts the technology is still very much in its early stages, he believes the prospect of the fabled universal translator is not as far away as it once was

“We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era,”

“It is early days for this technology, but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn’t a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples.”

 

There is still a clear divide between the current abilities of machines vs. humans in regards to quality of translation, as we have covered in previous articles. However, few would deny that gap is narrowing year on year. It has taken MT a while but with the growth in popularity of services like Google translate, a point has been reached where it has undoubtedly begun to muddy the waters of some client perception towards language service providers.

Let us know what you think in the comments, is it an exciting prospect or a worrying development?

President Obama

President Obama in Controversy over Healthcare Translation Policy

Accoring to various news reports there is controversy in the USA this week over ‘ObamaCare’ policies which state proposed healthcare reform plans which include providing on site interpreters for patients who have limited English. The healthcare reform legislation is currently pending in Congress.

English language advocates are up in arms as this could add a significant increase to the cost of healthcare in the USA and they believe it will discourage foreign immigrants from learning English. Surely, in today’s multicultural society the provision of translation services to medical institutions is essential.

America needs to look at itself and its history to see that America was made what it is today by foreign settlers who didn’t all speak English and certainly not American English!

Have some respect for your history and accept the fact that not everyone speaks English. The Spanish for example were one of the first European settlers in the US in 1513. Surely they have a right to speak Spanish if they wish to do so. America is meant to be the ‘Land of the Free’ after all.

Yes it seems logical that if you move to an English speaking country you should learn the lingo but even if you do, when your child is dying in A&E (sorry America suppose that’s ER to you) you may not be able to express what is wrong in your second language. To be sure the patient or their guardian fully understands what is happening it is essential that adequate language translation services are provided.

Translating Sage Kotsenburg

US snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg walked away with a gold medal in the Olympic slopestyle competition over the weekend. His big win was naturally enough followed by press conferences and interviews…during which he left a trail of confused interpreters in his wake.

The problem for interpreters was two-fold- specialized snowboarding jargon and snowboarder slang, much of which would not sound out of place on an old episode of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

The technical lingo includes phrases like “cab double cork 1260 holy crail, frontside 1080 off the toes rocket air and 1620 Japan,”  all of which needed to be translated to 7 different languages for reporters from different  countries. Say what now?

Al-Jazeera America interviewed two Russian interpreters, Andrey Lesokhin and  Oxana Yakimenko,  to find out how they handled the situation.   Read more

Disneyland Now Provides More Sign Language Interpreters and Audio Description Devices

Disneyland just announced two new services to accommodate disabled guests. First, the park will now offer sign language interpreters at many of its top shows and attractions on a regular basis. Previously, interpreters were available to assist hearing impaired guests, but you had to arrange for the service in advance. Now, the interpreters will be available Monday and Saturday at Disneyland and Sunday and Friday at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Although you no longer have to arrange for these services in advance, Disney still recommends that you call and request schedule confirmation a week before you plan to arrive.

In a post on the StitchKingdom blog, Disney park employee Everett Rowlett, an electro-mechanical technician, explained why the new interpretation service is so important:

“I am deaf, and experiencing the sign language service on Storybook Land made the attraction much more engaging for me. This is the first time in the 28 years I have worked at the Resort that I have been able to fully understand the stories being told.”

Disneyland also announced that it will now offer a new audio description device to the visually impaired. The device, which is lightweight and easy to carry around, describes outdoor scenery and visual elements of rides and attractions. Users can use an audio menu to tell the device what kind of information they are looking for and receive an appropriate description in return. The devices are available for guests free of charge, and the company that makes them plans to make them available to assist visually impaired people outside the park as well.

In an article posted on LaughingPlace.com,  Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Safety and Accessibility for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, said:

“Disney Parks have long been at the forefront of providing accessibility for guests with disabilities. We are pleased to build on this legacy with new technology that enables us to do something that has never been done before – provide rich audio description in moving rides and outdoor environments.”

Young Interpreters

Today teachers in Britain have to cope with young children who have very little or no grasp of the English language. It is understandably difficult for the children who often misbehave due to the language barriers they face.

A school in Devon may have the answer. They have encouraged a small group of their students, many of whom came to England from foreign countries, to act as interpreters helping the new students to fit in.

Students in the group like Newsround Press Packer Angela have learnt basic language skills to help those with limited English in their class. Using a range of tools like picture cards, hand gestures and a basic language prompt sheets they are able to help the new student to fit in, learn English and therefore help improve their overall education.

It is so nice to read about young people being positive about language and helping each other to learn new skills, developing those skills for the future.

Learning languages in the United Kingdom is no longer very popular. Perhaps this is because to learn to read, write and speak a new language is very difficult and everyone speaks English so why should they bother. The latter is a common misconception believed by many adults and children.

The key to getting kids into languages seems to be to start teaching them at a young age, right when they begin learning in their first year at school. After all our first 3-4 years at school are probably the most progressive after that we are building on knowledge we already have. Children learn so quickly at that age reading, writing, basic maths and science skills why not teach them basic language skills as well.

With advances in technology most schools are now equipped with computers which could also be used to aid learning. In previous years children were often encouraged to write to a foreign pen pal. With access to the internet children could now talk to students in a foreign country via a web cam. Multimedia tools make the experience of learning a language much more fun.

Let them try out different languages, they might find one more interesting or fun to learn, which may retain their attention into adult life. Learning a language could make them stand out from the crowd when they start working.

In today’s multicultural business environment the ability to speak a foreign language is a huge advantage. It would be great to see more schools across the United Kingdom using students to help foreigners learn English developing each child for the better.