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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).
My core message today is this: It is time to make climate change a priority in the translation industry and it is time to make translation a priority in the climate change discourse.
We have thousands of millions of individuals who need to receive life-changing data, information vital to their survival and the subsistence of their communities, and they might not be receiving it simply due to a language barrier. We need to remove this obstacle. We need to engage the language community and the leaders of efforts in the resolution of climate change issues. We need to empower local communities with information they can understand so they can take action.
A January 2018 blog by Morningside Translations on The Role of Translation in Fighting Climate Change talks about the vital role of translation and clearly states that “multilingual dissemination of research has become an increasingly critical factor in keeping people alive.” They further comment on the need not only to understand and convey meaning in the language of the recipients but also to understand “their intrinsic cultural perspectives, economics, and politics — which are critical for convincing local populations to implement changes.” From this blog, I also discovered that “there is even an emerging academic field called Ecolinguistics that investigates the role of language in the development and possible solution of ecological and environmental problems.” This is wonderful news for translators and linguists who would like to specialize in this new domain!
And it is also vital for the thousands of millions of people on earth who communicate in languages other than the “standard” languages we are so comfortably translating now. Any worldwide solution on the ground does require us to communicate in their national language or, better yet, their local dialect
Lets now look at some statistics to make sure we understand the dimensions of the language conundrum. We, the “English/Spanish/French/Italian/German-centric” cultures, have really not much coverage worldwide, population-wise. For starters, just Arabic (270 million) and Bengali (170 million) speakers combined to surpass the number of English speakers. Why are global climate change documents not translated consistently into Arabic or Bengali?
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. About 1,000 million people speak Chinese-Mandarin. The 2nd most-spoken language in the world is Hindi, with some 500 million people, followed by Spanish, with 400 million and in the 4th place is English, with about 360 million.
This means that if we take all the English (360 million) speakers and all the Spanish (400 million) and the French (270 million), plus all the Italian (100 million), and the German (70 million), plus the Portuguese (220 million), Dutch (30 million) and Polish (40 million)and we put all of them together we still would barely start to reach the number of speakers of Chinese-Mandarin (1,000+ million) and Hindi (500 million).
In 2013, the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did produce the above document in some of the widely spoken languages. This deserves recognition because it represents the type of efforts that the entire “Climate Change” community should be focusing on.
In general, we are busy covering just a fraction of the world’s 7,000 languages. If we translated all our materials into all the 10 languages mentioned previously in this post, we would still be reaching just above 1/3 of the population of earth. So, even in this “ideal” scenarios where we translate everything into the 10 most spoken languages, there are almost 5,000 million people “left behind”.
And where are these excluded individuals located?
NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) hosts a web page with some very interesting information by IPCC in terms of interactive maps and data on climate sensitivity and global distribution of vulnerability to climate change. It clearly shows some of these regions in danger to be located exactly where we have many of these untranslated languages and dialects. For starters, I am thinking of many parts of Africa and Asia, and even regions of Latin America where Spanish is not a mother tongue.
As a final note, on the upper end of the translation spectrum, there is a growing need for highly specialized translators in totally new fields of human knowledge, such as Paleoclimatology. Geoengineering, Ocean Acidification, Greenhouse Gases, Keeling Curve, and Carbon Footprint, to name but a few. Organizations such as TJC, which proudly offers “Global Warming Interpreters and Translators Worldwide” should be supported and imitated. Kudos! (P.S.: No, I have nothing to do with them or their work, but found it commendable.)
I will, therefore, close with my opening statement:
It is time to make climate change a priority in the translation industry and it is time to make translation a priority in the climate change discourse.
About UN CC:Learn
UN CC:Learn is a partnership of more than 30 multilateral organizations supporting countries to design and implement systematic, recurrent and results-oriented climate change learning. Through its engagement at the national and global levels, UN CC:Learn contributes to the implementation of climate change training, education and public awareness-raising.
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.
(“The Future of Work: Four Generations Working At Once, Plus Machines” as published in Newco Shift Forum 2018)
To begin, I would highly recommend that you read the full article published at shift.newco.co (The Future of Work – Article). The article made me think again about past discussions that are still relevant today, almost 10 years since I first addressed this topic.
Quoting Liz Mathews (Dell Brand and Advertising): “Ageism is actually something we must address and put on the forefront because baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer. Millennials are making way for Gen Z. For the first time ever, we have four different generations in the workforce… [and] we must be prepared to interact with machines, no matter your age, your role, or your lifestyle.”
Talking about the new relationships that are starting to develop between humans and machines, Liz Matthews states: “… the future actually favors the young… the majority of leadership roles will be filled with digital natives. As human-machine partnerships grow, this won’t only be a workplace issue but potentially a societal issue… human-machines will work together as integrated teams within the next five years.”
In the language services industry, this human-machine partnership includes, of course, machine translation. But it does not stop there. All the developments in artificial intelligence and voice recognition will soon come together and offer commercially-viable solutions for the larger masses. Translator and interpreter roles will change (have already) to functions other than they used to be 50 years ago. As much as any other profession, we must change with the times to accommodate to our environment. Acquire the new tools, learn to use them, get familiar with their advantages and disadvantages, go through the learning curve (there is always a learning curve) as soon as possible.
Academia should have all these changes already inserted in their curriculum because the digital natives who will be working in the language services industry in 10 years will need skills different than the skills I acquired 40 years ago. That is a reality and we need to specify what those skills need to be, what the new work parameters are, what our marketplace will look like in a decade, which clients we will “loose” to technology and which new clients we will “gain” from it. How will our clients’ needs change as their needs to communicate with their international customers and staff change? How will we help our clients circumnavigate all these changes?
Translators, interpreters, LSP, and others in the language services industry: let’s ask ourselves how the changes happening in “relationships” are impacting us, directly and indirectly. As mentioned at nauseum in my posts, a tectonic shift has already occurred in our world, in term of our personal relationships and our professional environment. A shift in the way we humans communicate with each other. A shift in the way we understand the world (now known to be the physical world and the digital world, both “real” worlds). A shift in the way humans relate to inanimate objects and “intelligent machines” — to the point of “co-dependency” if we were talking about two humans in the relationship. It has already happened and it is part of the “real” world of a generation known as the “digital natives”(*) – who will most probably be the ones running our businesses in the coming decades.
(*) Digital natives are persons born after the prevalent use of “digital technology” and who as children have grown up using technology such as computers, mobile devices and the internet. For these individuals, their “online world” is an integral part of their identity. Their “native language” is not only English or French or even Swahili but rather a combination of a primary tongue with the language of computers, videos, video games, social media and all other digital media.
All the above said, those of us in the language services industry must become better prepared to respond to the communication needs of this new generation. Their expectations are much different from the expectations of, say, the Baby-Boomer generation. I am a baby boomer and our generation came of age in the 1960s (half a century ago!). Our means of communication, our culture, and our relationships expectations are totally different from those of Digital Natives. We see technology as a tool (many see it as a “negative” tool). The younger generations see the digital world as an extension of their physical being. They communicate with each other and among themselves in ways we might find offensive or un-natural (our bias). They connect at a pace, intensity, depth, and breadth that seems to be incomprehensible for the “slower” (older) generation.
As part of the “older” and “slower” generation, I believe we must start “listening” more to the needs of the future than trying to “hold on” to the ways of the past. Just saying.
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….