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NPR has been celebrating National Poetry Month in the US on Twitter, using the hashtag #NPRPoetry. A recent post posed the question of whether poetry can be translated or if “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” Poet and translator Aaron Coleman translates one of the poetry submissions and discusses his method.
“I approach translation even knowing that it can’t quite be what it is in the original language,” he says.
The language lapses that inhibit an ideal interpretation can ultimately be “a creative, productive failure,” he adds. “Maybe it can open up a new way for us to see what can happen in English and what can happen in Spanish, for me, or whatever the original language is.”
Instead, translation can be transformation. “I think we all want to have translation work as a process of reproduction, but it’s really a process of transformation,” Coleman says.
World Book Day is April 23rd. To celebrate, Amazon is offering a selection of award-winning works from around the world, all of which have been translated to English, for free for Kindle. You can grab them between now and April 24th at https://www.amazon.com/article/read-the-world
(there may be geographical or other limits on who can get these books for free– apparently they are free to US-based customers, and discounted in other regions)
Among the books, I spotted The Light of the Fireflies, by Paul Pen and translated by ProZ.com member Simon Bruni.
In relation to Amazon’s new service, Amazon Translate, One Hour Translation has been announced as partner in the delivery of Neural Machine Translation (NMT) services to enterprise customers. From the press release:
One Hour Translation, the world’s leading hybrid translation agency and largest online translation agency, announced that Amazon has selected it as a key partner to deliver Neural Machine Translation (NMT) based solutions to enterprise customers.
NMT is a revolutionary technology allowing computers to perform human-like translations that make sense.
One Hour Translation combines Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology with human post-editing and quality control, delivering high-quality human level translation, that costs much less and is done much faster than the human only alternative.
OHT is already using the Amazon NMT engine to improve the translation efficiency of enterprise customers such as iHerb, a world leader in food supplements, and other customers.
OHT allows business customers to fully leverage and benefit from the powerful NMT technology. OHT’s software is connected to all the top NMT engines, and adds a multi-step, streamlined process, before and after the NMT stage itself in order to provide business customers with a complete end-to-end solution.
Using One Hour Translation, business customers can send up to hundreds of thousands of projects in parallel for translation. The OHT hybrid system will select, on the fly, the most appropriate NMT engine, as well as the required pre-processing, post-editing, and quality control measures needed in order to deliver high-quality translation to business customers.
“Hybrid NMT based systems are the future of professional translation services,” says Ofer Shoshan, founder & CEO of One Hour Translation. “OHT’s hybrid translation system allows our top customers to receive high quality translations at a fraction of the cost and time of human only translation. We see growing interest from customers in hybrid translations and we have enterprise customers who are already using it,” added Shoshan. “We believe in NMT and will announce new NMT related products and services in the next few weeks,” he concluded.
Just as services like Google Maps have made it easier to get around, at home or abroad, some advances in translation tech are making it easier to travel in places where one may not know the language.
Right now this translation tech is still in its infancy and primarily eases logistical complexities. With Google Translate, you can point your camera at a street sign to verify it says “Downtown This Way” and not “There Be Dragons.” The same app can quickly translate a menu—if not always perfectly, then well enough to be sure that you’re ordering chicken.
The article goes on to consider how far this technology might improve, up to a future where we’re all wearing earpieces and hearing or being simultaneously interpreted for in our conversations. Sound familiar?
Microsoft Translator has been upgraded to offer artificial intelligence (AI) powered offline language packs across all Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire devices. The AI-powered offline language packs were previously limited to devices with a dedicated AI chip. However, Microsoft engineers have now leveraged edge computing to bring AI-backed neural machine translation (NMT) to the masses. The Translator team is also in plans to bring the new experience to Windows devices in the coming future.
The Redmond company in 2016 built its NMT model for online use only as it required high-quality translation models. But in 2017, the experience debuted on select Android devices that are equipped with a dedicated AI chip. It brought offline translation quality in line with the quality offered by the original online neural translation model. And now, the Translator team has optimised the initial offline-specific algorithms to bring language packs irrespective of any particular hardware.
Artificial Intelligence is not quite ready to take jobs from capable human interpreters/translators. At the recent Boao Forum for Asia, one company debuted an AI system designed to provide interpreting and transcripts, only to have the system produce a mix of mistranslations, repeated words and garbled characters in the live demonstration.
The makers of the software admitted to the mistakes, pointing out that the AI “is still learning and growing” and would continue to improve over time.
Amazon announced this month it was releasing “Amazon Translate”. From the announcement:
Today we’re excited to make Amazon Translate generally available. Late last year at AWS re:Invent my colleague Tara Walker wrote about a preview of a new AI service, Amazon Translate. Starting today you can access Amazon Translate in US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), and EU (Ireland) with a 2 million character monthly free tier for the first 12 months and $15 per million characters after that. There are a number of new features available in GA: automatic source language inference, Amazon CloudWatch support, and up to 5000 characters in a single TranslateText call.
“What is it like to live day-to-day as a translator? What are the worries and the stresses, the pleasures and the reliefs? How does a translator get by, and where do her projects fit into the rest of her life? In this new year-long feature, translator Emma Ramdan gives us some answers by keeping an open diary about a year her life.”
Interpreting in 2018 is becoming progressively more of an audiovisual experience in remote encounters, than the face-to-face meetings of the past. As such, in my opinion, there is one issue that interpreters of the 21st century need now more than ever: EMPATHY, the ability to understand and SHARE the feelings of another human being.
As a trained actor from my days of youth, I believe that many of the techniques that are used by actors should be used by remote interpreters; as conduits of the thoughts of another being, those thoughts never exist in a vacuum. Thoughts are intimately related not only to our culture and the patterns of our society but also to our feelings, for thoughts control feelings (and feelings influence thoughts).
Good actors make us suspend disbelief and see THROUGH them the character that they are portraying. We see those “other” human beings (they portray) in all their strength and frailty because the actors are able to get themselves “out of the way” and BECOME a true conduit of the thoughts and feelings of the character they portray.
Good actors, therefore, achieve selfless results (i.e., we see “another” instead of the actor) by developing total EMPATHY for their character. So too, it is my belief, that we, as interpreters, are conduits for the expression of another’s words and feelings. In that sense, it is too little to ask that we “simply” convey words. We MUST convey the words in total accuracy, but we must ALSO convey the thoughts and feelings that are attached to those words. EMPATHY allows us to do so, or at least to try our best. It is this human-ness that will indeed separate us from the likes of bilingual Siris!
Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves…
Three Types of Empathy
Psychologists have identified three types of empathy: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy and compassionate empathy.
Cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense.
Emotional empathy is also known as emotional contagion, and is ‘catching’ someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too.
Compassionate empathy is understanding someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help.
So, how do we develop EMPATHY? There are many techniques and exercises. I found some very interesting by Martha Beck, appropriately called The Empathy Workout:
EXERCISE 1: LEARNING TO LISTEN
…start with conversation. Once a day, ask a friend, “How are you?” in a way that says you mean it. If they give you a stock answer (“Fine”), repeat the question: “No, really. How are you?” You’ll soon realize that if your purpose is solely to understand, rather than to advise or protect, you can work a kind of magic: In the warmth of genuine caring, people open up like flowers….
EXERCISE 2: REVERSE ENGINEERING
Some mechanical engineers spend their time disassembling machines to see how they were originally put together. You can use a similar technique to develop empathy, by working backward from the observable effects of emotion to the emotion itself. Think of someone you’d like to understand…Remember a recent interaction… Now imitate, as closely as you can, the physical posture, facial expression, exact words, and vocal inflection they used during that encounter. Notice what emotions arise within you. What you feel will probably be very close to whatever the other person was going through…
EXERCISE 3: SHAPE-SHIFTING
In folklore, shape-shifters are beings with the ability to become anyone or anything. As a child, I was fascinated by this concept and used to pretend that I could instantaneously switch places with other people, animals, even inanimate objects… I recommend you try it, soon. See that strange man in the orange polyester suit putting 37 packets of sweetener into his extra-grande mochaccino with soy milk? What if— zap!—you suddenly switched bodies with him? What would it be like to wear that suit, that face, that physique? What impulse would lead to sugaring a cup of coffee like that, let alone drinking it?
EXERCISE 4: METTA-TATION
World-class empathizers…conduct a daily regimen of metta, or lovingkindness, meditation. This involves focusing all of one’s attention on a certain individual and offering loving wishes to that person with each breath you take, for several minutes at a time. Classic metta practice starts with your own sweet self. For five minutes, with each breath, offer yourself kind thoughts… Then switch the focus of your kind thoughts onto a friend or family member. When you feel a sense of emotional union with that person, target someone you barely know….
If you are interested in reading fiction where translators are among the protagonists, you may want to check out this review of five different novels, originally written in Spanish but also available in an English translation:
The translation news daily digest is my daily 'signal' to stop work and find out what's going on in the world of translation before heading back into the world at large! It provides a great overview that I could never get on my own.