Translation in the 25th century?

Last night in Dutch class, we had to do a game: which professions would still exist in the 25th century? Which would have disappeared?

Of course, translation was also in question. What about machines? Couldn’t they do translation now? Some had used Google Translate, and it worked fine for them…

Machine translation is now a reality; yet, the famous application Google Translate is the tip of the iceberg. Professional translators do not resort yet to machine translation because it is not up to par, but most use TenTs – and with the increasing demand on translation these days, if it were not for TenTs, there would not be enough translators to face the amount of work to be done.

What I imagine is that there still will be translators in the future. Why?

– Translators are writers. There will always be a need for good writers: People who can present information in a clear, understandable way. People who can use words to achieve a certain effect on an audience.
– Translators are mediators between different cultures. There will always be a need for that, because people will stick to their cultures and their languages.

The profession will certainly change in the future: it has changed a lot since the 1980s’ after all. But these two aspects? They look pretty timeless to me.

Per Dohler has an interesting post about what it is to be a translator, or be someone merely posing as a translator, the CAT revolution, and the prediction “translators will be obsolete in ten years”:

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Not Smell As Sweet

This potential client had found me on Proz. He was looking for an interpreter – too bad I don’t do interpreting. Just someone who would keep his pregnant wife company, really, for a few days, and assist her in the shops, while he was out attending A Serious Business Conference. He wanted to get my rates to make a transfer straight away. Too bad it sounded like a familiar scam (“Oh, I’ve transferred too much money accidentally, can you transfer me the difference back? The funds will show on your account in a few days, I promise”). The gentleman introduced himself by one name and signed his e-mail by another name. Too bad that I don’t trust people who change names so quickly, even though I fully embrace everyone’s right to reinvent themselves.

But the best bit was this: he was allegedly coming to Bruges and was looking for someone who would speak French. In Bruges. In Flanders. In a staunchly chauvinistic region, where people have fought for decades to gain respect for their language: Dutch. If he and his wife were real persons and if they did come to Bruges to speak French, I do not know what would have happened to them. Flemish shopkeepers sometimes speak a bit of French because they care about business, but some French-speaking people have reported being deliberately ignored.

Too bad he did not know about Belgium’s dual identity, even though its troubles had just made it into international news.


Last week, I came across the phrase ‘win-win’ in a document.

It instantly reminded me of the last presidential elections in France, more particularly the defeated candidate Ségolène Royal and the first time she had used « gagnant-gagnant » in a speech. It was a literal translation. It was a clumsy translation. And she got mercilessly deriled for it.

Journalists were the first to pick it up and to sneer; then the public read about it or heard it and jeered; and people, repeating the phrase, squeaked. In Parisian dinner-parties, when you mentioned the election, someone would say « gagnant-gagnant » and everybody would scoff.

Yes, it was not an appropriate choice of words. But the worst is, a few days later people started to mention « gagnant-gagnant » without laughing, using it almost naturally, because they had got used to it.

Luckily, the fad didn’t last.

Therefore, after this cautionary reminder of what should not be done, I focused on the text again and wrote, « une solution qui profite à tout le monde… ».

Communication: a linguistic ability?

The following link leads to a scientific experiment to determine whether communication has to do with linguistic skills:

The gist is in the last sentence:

« We conclude that the generation of communicative utterances relies on a neurocognitive system that is involved in understanding intentions of others, and that is distinct from the language system. »

Something worthwhile to remember when translating. Translation is communication, spreading the word.