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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).
On September 25, as part of the Proz.com celebration of International Translation Day 2018, I will present “Learn DeepL MT for beginners” (go to https://hubs.ly/H0dP7wp0). All sessions sponsored by ProZ.com on the 25th and the 26th are FREE to all participants.
I believe that at present, DeepL is one of the best tools available for translators. My presentation therefore centers on the mechanics of the platform and I shows you how easy it is to use. As with any tool translators may use, confidentiality of client’s information should always be a priority.
This platform uses Deep-Learning Neural Machine Translation. NMT uses a “large artificial neural network to predict the likelihood of a sequence of words, typically modeling entire sentences in a single integrated model.” Deep learning NMT “processes multiple neural network layers instead of just one. It is a a completely new generation of artificial neural networks that … learn to grasp the subtle meanings of sentences,and conveys them in the target language in a way not seen before.”
I am recommending the use of this platform and API integration because I have found it to produce quality draft translations that are more fluent than other MTs while productivity may be doubled, tripled or more. It is very intuitive and extremely easy to use. Additionally, it relies on EU-level privacy protocols. At present it only services English, Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Italian and Polish, but they are expanding languages.
Come join us on the 25th and learn the mechanics of DeepL and other interesting tricks related to MT, plus enjoy all the other sessions offered for FREE by ProZ.com.
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….
Preamble for translators and interpreters: Maybe (just maybe) machines will not replace “all” human translators and interpreters, but all of us will be replaced by some language experts using the latest technologies. It is therefore paramount to play catchup and get on-board with actions to become technologically savvy without delay!
I recently read an 11/29/17 Washington Post Article by Marwa Eltagouiri about an 84-year-old physician who lost her license to practice medicine because she refuses to use a computer, thus failing to comply with New Hampshire State Law on medical record-keeping protocols. In reality, the case centers more around the opioid epidemic and this physician’s inability to meet the State’s electronic drug monitoring program regulations. Whatever the situation, the entire case goes to underline the “electronic” (vs. paper) component that is clearly at the heart of the issue. Regardless of what the physician believes, it is now the law to keep electronic records. That is how fast the world has moved forward in ascertaining the cyberspace as the “factual” space, as well as modern technologies as the underpinning supports for some interactions.
Although some discussions are still going on as to whether doctors have it “better” or “worse” today as a result of this technological revolution, such disagreements are do not change the fact that things “are” what they are.
Just 30 years ago –which, in historical terms, is a short period– the National Institutes of Health via NCBI still wondered if doctors had a positive or negative attitude towards computers! From those “opinion pieces,” we now see ourselves working in a world completely different from the one for which most “older” physicians were preparing 30 or 40 years ago. Everyone in the healthcare and medical fields has had to “suffer” through a very steep technology-learning curve, especially in the last two decades. In 1999 I was working at a large insurance company that employed many nurses and doctors, and I remember all of them saying they would never -ever!- use computers.
Life is not a straight line. At the end of the last century (Wow! that sounds like a long time ago!), we were implementing (*) Y2K conformity requirements, (*) the newly instituted HIPAA provisions (or equivalent efforts in other parts of the world), and (*) the novel C.L.A.S. mandate (and other cultural competency efforts around the globe). In the last 15-20 years, these monumental programs were incorporated into our routine and are now a “mainstream” aspect of our daily life.
My point, then, is that our “way of life” –our daily activities as we perceive them today– is a concept that must be re-evaluated constantly as internal and external forces change and shape it into something different than what we were “used to” just a few years ago. The rate of innovation brought about by the accelerated developments in available technologies is speeding up such rate of change. I look at my grandkids, and all of them were born after Y2K. Even for my adult children, the Cold War is a remote history lesson. Yesterday, TCM showed a movie from my youth and talked about the cinematographic importance of this “classic.” Statistically speaking, a hundred years ago I would have been dead already for a couple decades, as life expectancy for women did not even reach 40 years old!
We must at all times be aware of our surroundings, which includes perceiving, understanding, and adapting to the technological changes (extraordinary and progressive) going on around us!
Free online courses on topics of your interest. How about that? I had heard about the concept of Coursera, so I have registered to one of their online courses, this one on one of the topics of my interest: E-learning and Digital Cultures. This is part of my personal learning curve in how people are now being trained in the Global Village of the 21st Century. Hopefully, many of the concepts I will be learning I will be able to share and implement in my own courses. So, for starters, I am sharing some of the information on the venue itself – Coursera – and the course that I will be attending.
About the Course
E-learning and Digital Cultures is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age. The course is about how digital cultures intersect with learning cultures online, and how our ideas about online education are shaped through “narratives”, or big stories, about the relationship between people and technology. We’ll explore some of the most engaging perspectives on digital culture in its popular and academic forms, and we’ll consider how our practices as teachers and learners are informed by the difference of the digital. We’ll look at how learning and literacy is represented in popular digital-, (or cyber-) culture. For example, how is ‘learning’ represented in the film The Matrix, and how does this representation influence our understanding of the nature of e-learning?On this course, you will be invited to think critically and creatively about e-learning, to try out new ideas in a supportive environment, and to gain fresh perspectives on your own experiences of teaching and learning. The course will begin with a ‘film festival’, in which we’ll view a range of interesting short films and classic clips, and begin discussing how these might relate to the themes emerging from the course readings. We will then move on to a consideration of multimodal literacies and digital media, and you’ll be encouraged to think about visual methods for presenting knowledge and conveying understanding. The final part of the course will involve the creation of your own visual artefact; a pictorial, filmic or graphic representation of any of the themes encountered during the course, and you‘ll have the opportunity to use digital spaces in new ways to present this work.
E-learning and Digital Cultures will make use of online spaces beyond the Coursera environment, and we want some aspects of participation in this course to involve the wider social web. We hope that participants will share in the creation of course content and assessed work that will be publicly available online.
Sounds interesting, right? Will be sharing my experiences soon.