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On March 21, 2019, I will have the honor of speaking at the TAUS Global Content Summit in New York. I believe translators and interpreters need a new identity. Translators must be capable of interpreting and interpreters must be qualified in translation. Transinterpreters embrace new tools, are savvy in today’s technology, are digital and mobile. They acquire soft skills to adapt to fast change and solve problems in original ways. I suggest these future Transinterpreters will be recruited from new pools of bilingual individuals worldwide.
Sidenote: I believe “old guard” translators and interpreters might be able to hold on to some niche markets as the “experts” in their fields. But if they continue to remain ignorant in the technologies of our world (electronic, virtual, digital, mobile, and similar), maybe that time will not last much either. For example, literary translators and conference interpreters might have a longer “shelf-life” than other old-school translators and interpreters, but maybe just for one decade or two.
As the world changes, every profession and craft must adapt to the changes in their world. Even artists such as painters and writers have learned to use the technologies of our time and the changes in the social conditions and communication channels. So too, the specific needs for translators and interpreters have changed. What we are expected to do, how, where, and even why and whom with, all has changed in the past two or three decades.
To give you an example, in 2011 I started some of the first webinars on remote interpreting, using phone and video. I received some comments from “experts” who had a strong position against the concept of remote interpreting. Today, it is a tried and true means of delivering interpreting, to the point that even conference interpreters are entering the world of working from remote locations.
In the field of translation, in 2013 I predicted that in a few years we would be starting most of our translations with a draft pre-translated by a machine. Post-editing is now widely used commercially and the pace is growing exponentially, to the point that even post-editing of machine translation may already be replaced by just the tasks of revision. And yes, I know that a huge amount of companies and individuals still don’t use machine translation, but they soon will, as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use.
I will now admit that translators and interpreters will not be replaced (in the short-term) by technology, but insist they will be replaced by other translators and interpreters USING technology. This is already proving to be correct. Many have seen dramatic drops in their workloads. I am guessing they are the non-tech-savvy. Others, on the contrary, have seen dramatic increases in their workloads. They are, I believe, the tech-savvy ones.
Additionally, there is something else brewing in the air. The need for translators to be able to interpret and interpreters to be able to translate (or post-edit machine translation outputs). Why? Because in our interconnected world, voice and text are becoming interchangeable. Today we can listen to Siri or voice GPS and can dictate the texts to be sent by our phones. Likewise, in a world of remote interconnections, your clients may hire you for an interpreting session but might very well ask you to translate some texts. Or if you are working on a client’s translation, you might be asked to interpret the conversations around the modifications to the original or the translated texts.
Finally, talking about soft skills, two decades ago, translation and interpreting were “alone” professions. If you were a translator, you worked alone. If you were an interpreter, very seldom would you work in a team environment. All this has changed. Translation is now just a piece of a big group puzzle called language services, and interpreting is becoming a team effort. Soft skills are now essential as business is done at an increasingly fast pace. You must now also be agile, adaptable, flexible, and creative at solving problems; you are expected to act as a team player, have the ability to accept and learn from criticism, display a positive can-do attitude, demonstrate self-confidence, and work well under pressure.
Yes, Transinterpreters are individually a super-man or a super-woman. We have always known translators and interpreters were that, but now it is a requirement of the job! (Smile, please).
I was looking at my LinkedIn feed and happened to see a paid advertisement from a job site looking for a “Scrum Master.” It caught my attention because I had absolutely no idea what a Scrum Master was! In a “previous life” (several decades ago) I was a project manager, so my surprise was double when I found out they defined it as NOT being a Project Manager. Well, I would have not even thought that PM had any relationship with SM. Scrum Master sounded like something in the Healthcare Industry…… well, it is not. From the website TechTarget, I have learned that
“… a scrum master is a facilitator for an agile development team. Scrum is a methodology that allows a team to self-organize and make changes quickly, in accordance with agile principles.”
So, you might say:
–Why would translators and interpreters care?
I would respond:
–Really? Do you need to ask?
First, we need to be aware of what is going on in the world, and in the world of business in particular. Terminology is part of our lifeline.
Second, “Scrum Master” talks to the dramatic changes occurring in the business world itself. The concept of “agile development teams” is central to this new profession. I guess Project Managers are so 20th century! Think about that. The term agile development has very specific connotations related to the shift of power to the “product owner.” Think about that. The “product owner” has the say.
Additionally, the Scrub Master “is not held accountable for outcomes. The team as a whole is responsible for outcomes.” What a concept, eh? No more “leaders” solely responsible for outcomes but the team as a whole. Sports kind of got that notion from the get-go.
There is an entire methodology around “agile development.” Because agility has come to the forefront of how we do things in the 21st century. That is why the entire business model of translation and interpreting needs to be re-thought. Because, as it stands, it is anything BUT agile. I see some companies struggling to understand how to best render services in an interconnected digital world. That is a good start, but we need to move fast.
One thing is clear: we must become “Agile Organizations” (full disclosure: my company is NOT!… yet). Those of us who are not AGILE enough to “sprint” (yes, a term with a new connotation too) have a larger chance of falling behind. As we look at the business models we have been using for the past 50 years and try to make them AGILER, we must also accept that certain processes will no longer be needed, new strengths have to be developed, and new delivery mechanisms are urgently required.
Parenthesis: Freelance translators and interpreters: we are micro-enterprises. We, too, need to change our business model to adapt to the times. I don’t have the answers. I have no idea what is best and what is not, except to know that we MUST BECOME TECH-SAVVY A.S.AP.! That should be our priority right now as freelancers. This becoming tech-savvy translators and interpreters is just a basic step to be able to “participate” in the language industry of the future (the very near future, by the way).
I believe we have an expiration date if we don’t change soon.
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:
[Excerpts] 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….
Remote Interpreting: Feeling Our Way into the Future Published by The ATA Chronicle New communications technologies make interpreting available where it wasn’t in the past. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the way we will work remotely, because what’s going on is game changing and shaking our profession from top to bottom. In April […]
“Someone else posted an article by Jaron Lanier about our economic future in light of many professions being taken over by computers (journalism, music, translation). Apart from Lanier’s suggested solution, I’m wondering whether journalists, musicians, publishers, etc. have any lessons to teach us about how to meet the future. Does anyone know people in these areas? Have you read articles about workers retooling their skills, or educating clients about man vs. machine? I know the argument that we should specialize in specific areas and work with direct clients, but I’m thinking about the shorter term and more feasible suggestions.”
Join us in this Forum # 2 in Pursuit of One Voice and let us hear your opinion, input, comments, links!
On May 25, 2013 BrauerTraining hosted its first open monthly virtual forum for translators & interpreters to talk about the future of the profession in the 21st Century.
The purpose of these informal forums is the exchange of opinions, in the hopes of eventually having “action-able” ideas to participate in the design our own future.
Background to the forum:
Claudia Brauer believes the profession of translation and interpreting could become extinct in the next decades if translators and interpreters don’t wake up to the reality of the world today. BrauerTraining premises
Productivity is replacing Quality (#s above content)
Utility is replacing Eloquence (usefulness above expression)
What makes us – translators and interpreters – relevant in the 21st Century (i.e. what makes us unique)?
What new skills do we need in order to adapt to the new roles of translators and interpreters?
How do we create a power broker for the profession to speak with one voice?
In-house translators vs. freelancers – different needs, different perspectives
How can we help? (ask in-house T&I)
T&I really want to know what is going on in the industry, understand it
Clients do not understand what translation entails – impossible to price it right
Also, the market has changed dramatically in the last decade
We are loosing clients to other markets
Quality is not the target for many users – they just want the gist
Google translate and Bing translate used by people AND companies – if they can get the gist, even not congruent, it is OK for them
Clients think first of all of bottom line, they will go for the lower cost
Price competition drives the market
Clients want agility, fast response, immediate product delivery, low cost
Younger generations want Tweeter, Facebook, social media translated fast – they accept things as they come, no grammar, no spelling – “sort of” a translation suits the needs of the new user
The role of interpreting is also changing because of text-to-voice-to-text. The user does not mind that it is “kind-of” incorrect as long as they “kind-of” understand the content
Users speak to their phone, the phone converts to text, the text is google-translated, the phone returns the sentences spoken in another language.
The user is OK with the “gist”
Only way to market yourself to compete with CAT and MT is becoming a specialist
T&I now have to understand and pursue filling “specific” needs of the clients
Market your experience and capability to adjust the final version – Localization is the new role of the translator
Market your “being human” and being able to differentiate content, culture, audience, nuances Our uniqueness is in being human, that is what makes us special.
How can we market that capability to a “bottom-line” (price-based) client base?
Many clients like to “know” humans are the translators, but do not want to pay the price
How do we reach a market that does not know what to expect from us
How do we compete with the “bottom line”
How do we keep our part of the market share when immediacy is vital in today’s business world
The client wants to have results now and here, within the hour, or “same day” service
Will CAT replace humans?
Not in the immediate future
Yes for basic translation within the next decade
Probably for basic interpreting too (voice-to-text-to-voice)
We have an attitude of denial
Many people have been saying “that will not happen”…
It has already happened
We must stop the denial to move forward as a profession (as a group)
CAT was expected to grow pursuant to storage capabilities – now computers can store more in smaller spaces
CAT and MTs have gone mobile
MTs have been uploaded with good CAT info that was once translated by Humans, so many are starting to have good levels of quality
Today humans can TRAIN machines, that is why CAT and MT are becoming more sophisticated, exponentially
There is no stopping technology
Machines are replacing humans in many parts of the world
This is a worldwide trend even with professions established for centuries.
Why can’t we make translation and interpreting a reputable profession again?
How do we become important for the LSP an the end client?
For example, nurses do not perform surgeries:
Why are bilinguals performing translation and interpreting?
How do we adapt to the changes in our competition?
Our client is no longer found on a person-to-person relationship but rather on a person-to email or freelance-to-corporation for assignments anywhere in the world
Many colleagues worldwide are highly trained translators and interpreters who live in countries where GDP is much lower and therefore their rates are sustainably lower than ours
Other untrained and un-experienced newcomers to the field are competing with low quality but high rate of market penetration
They are using the “business” aspect of the profession
All in all, our largest competitors are not our peers but the software and technology industries that have entered the T&I industry with technology and huge negotiating (leverage) power
Looking for a relationship human-to-human is now time consuming and client/LSP do not want to be “dragged” into it – they prefer their own anonymity to be able to have you or discard you at will
The sharing of information is at every level of the human experience today. Skype, Facebook, create video, etc., gadgets
Crowdsourcing is going viral
“In your language of preference”
What do we need, then?
Train the end user about what T&I entails
How do we do that?
What do we need, then?
Train ourselves to respond to the new millennium
Training is vital to our survival, but, what do we need to learn
Translators and interpreters need to train in code of ethics and standards of practice to have a unified minimum quality and requirements
Newcomers need to be forced to acquire training – how?
Translators an interpreters need to learn about the technology of our day, about communication tools (the new mobile devices), networking (social media), cloud computing and virtual world “stuff”
We have to become proficient using the tools of our trade today (which include devices everyone uses!)
For example, smartphones are now networking devices, not just “communication” tools
T&I also need to learn who to trust in the cyber world: how to contract, how to ensure payment, how to protect identity
T&I need to understand underlying factors of jurisdiction in the virtual world – What is the jurisdiction of the cloud? It affects legal and privacy issues
Confidentiality is key – books that have not been published for example cannot be translated with on the cloud tools
Privacy issues in most realms of translation and interpreting
Legal possession of data is a great concern – Public vs. nonpublic issues must be fully understood
But # 1: We need representation in the big scenario of the decision makers Some T&I associations do not prioritize needs of translators and interpreters (they are also catering to the LSP)
End of discussion in Forum #1 at the top of the hour.
Notes taken on power point will be made public via YouTube and Slideshare Attending Forum # 1 – May 25, 2013: EGS, FN, PC, AB, CB – Excused DR, LD, SA
Monthly meetings: On the 25th at 11 a.m. EST USA (check your local time)
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Forum # 2 June 25, 2013 at 11 a.m. EST USA (check your local time) – See you there…