Translating Climate Change: thoughts on the occasion of International Translation Day 2018

By Claudia Brauer | Versión en español aquí

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

Photo credit: Minna Sundberg as it appears in Stephen R. Anderson’s article
How many languages are there in the world?” published by the Linguistic Society of America.

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).

Image credit: “Translation of the WGI AR5 Summary for Policymakers” by the WMO Language, Conference and Publishing Services Department.

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.

Source: DW

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.

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“The Future of Work: Four Generations Working At Once, Plus Machines”

(“The Future of Work: Four Generations Working At Once, Plus Machines” as published in Newco Shift Forum 2018)

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 1.27.36 AM

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.

Scrum Master? What the heck is that?!

[Image credit: Varunm.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.

What think you?

 

What a Difference Three Decades Make!

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!

Machine Translation 101 – Translators & Interpreters talk a lot (good and bad) about Machine Translation. Few really know what it is.

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19th Century Image: “Tsunami” by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎)

BrauerTraining Newsletter # 1

June 2013

(Subscribe to our newsletter! goo.gl/AAX5K)

 

The world’s first pocket calculator.

The Abacus was developed around 2000 BC. It took humans some four thousand years to create electronic calculators, which appeared in the 60’s (see above). It then took just 10 years to develop and popularize a pocket-size device. Today, calculators are integrated as part of computers, PDAs and smartphones.


Machine Translation 101

by

Claudia Brauer

I will open our first newsletter with a quote from Carl Sagan, a scientist and author who has deeply influenced my vision of the world:

“I do not think it irresponsible to portray even the direst futures. If we are to avoid them we must understand that they are possible. Where are the alternatives? Where are the dreams that motivate and inspire? We long for realistic maps of a world we can be proud to give to our children. Where are the cartographers of human purpose? Where are the visions of hopeful futures of technology as a tool for human betterment and not a gun on hair trigger pointed at our heads?”

― Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

I have also decided that our first topic needs to be one of the most controversial subjects in the translation and interpreting industry today: Machine Translation. Shying away from the discussion will not resolve the issue of our survival as a viable profession in a future progressively driven into technology. I believe we have to stop seeing technology as our enemy and rather start embracing it, working with it, influencing its development, becoming co-creators of the tools we will be using in the next decades.
If we want to avoid a dire future as professional translators and interpreters, we must understand that such future death by inaction is possible and then set out to create the alternatives.
We must become the new cartographers of our future purpose in the industry. We have to make sure we remain relevant. That we are seen as useful and essential. There are segments of the industry that clearly think we are replaceable. What are we doing to show them otherwise? Staying in our comfort zones will not solve the dilemma.
We cannot continue hiding in the sand and think that just because we do not want it, it will not happen. Rather, we must face the scary challenge posed by progress and run to catch up for the decades we have been complacent while the rest of the industry became digital, mobile and instant.


A pale blue dot

(Above) Earth: A pale blue dot in the immensity of space

In 1990, at the request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft to take a photograph of Earth from a record distance of about 3,700,000,000 miles. The resulting photograph was titled the “Pale Blue Dot” because earth is shown as a tiny little dot against the immensity of space.

We, professional translators and interpreters, are but a pale blue dot in the sea of information that needs to be communicated in multiple languages worldwide. We can only control our own response to the sea of change.

It still is the survival of the fittest.


Kaijo no Fuji (Tsunami, or The Big Wave) by Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai

Language & Translation Automation Conference (LTAC) – Proceedings

Recommendation # 1:

Download these proceedings for free at http://goo.gl/zlDFf and read them!

This is an eBook in pdf format that collects the 2011 discussion by “some of the most prominent experts from academia and the language industry worldwide [who] met in the Great Hall of the LUSPIO University in Rome, under the auspices of the Faculty of Interpreting and Translation and the Directorate-General… ” for the European Master’s in Translation (EMT).
This Language and Translation Automation Conference (LTAC) “was convened with the goal of gathering the most innovative ideas and initiatives on language automation, translation technology and terminology, with an emphasis on controlled languages and controlled authoring in academia and in the language industry.”
I have not finished reading the document yet, but still I recommend you all start reading it too. It is a very good window into the present of the translation industry. It collects some important thoughts and visions for what I call our potential future (if we survive as a professional species). It also explains in layman’s terms some of the obscure aspects of Machine Translation.
Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law excuses no one). Ignorance of MT is no excuse for you (to ignore the developments happening in the Language Services world).
Step # 1 in your learning curve, therefore, is to learn about the tools you will need to remain relevant in the professional world of tomorrow!

(The picture selected by the authors for the cover, “…describes the modern conflict between the forces of nature and the fragility of man. For us it meant the desire to ride exceptional forces, to win the awe they bring, and draw energy and strength.”
Valeria Cannavina & Anna Fellet)


So…. is Google Translate

“THAT” bad?

“Of course!” cry the Translators and Interpreters.

“Actually it is pretty good,” says my american friend working in China, who uses it to get “the gist” of many documents of possible interest to her, written either in Mandarin or any of a couple of dozen dialects. “I use it at least 10 times a day….and it really helps me out to understand what the general content is about.”

“I use it all the time,” says my relative, a top executive at an international logistics company in the port of Miami, one of the busiest in the USA. “We all use Google Translate all day, to know if we are dealing with invoices or purchase orders, to see if it is a request for us to make a shipment or to receive a shipment… I just need to know more-or-less what the words say… I do not need full-text, perfect translations… I understand many terms are wrong, but I really do not care… I do not have the time or the money to pay for a translator… when I really need something important translated, then I send it out, and accept the wait and pay the price. But that is not very often.”

Welcome to the 21st Century. The “gist” and “understand more-or-less what it says” are the rule for the masses. We are increasing quality control in industries such as healthcare and legal. We are having the fight of our lives to at least hold these two industries to a high standard. We are dealing here with lives of people “on the spot”. Quality is of the essence here.

But for most people in the masses, a “kind-of” translation is good enough.

So, another suggestion, if you want to get the “gist” of what Machine Translation is, head on to the vilified Wikipedia (I actually use when I need to get the “gist” of a topic… sounds familiar?)

http://goo.gl/63LSp – Why not dedicate a little time to educate yourself?

(Above) Josh Estelle a Google Translate engineering leader

A recent article published in CNET News by Stepehen Shankland (http://goo.gl/d8zZh) conveys the reality of Google Translate (vs. what some translators would like it to be):

“Google Translate provides a billion translations a day for 200 million users…”

One thousand million translations a day!

That surely is mainstream.

Two hundred million users!

That surely is mainstream.

“The amount of text Google translates daily is more than what’s in a million books, and surpasses what professional translators handle in a full year,” stated Josh Estelle, a Google Translate engineering leader.

He also noted that 92% of usage is outside the United States (that may explain why translators and interpreters in the USA have such a limited view of how extensive its use is in other parts of the world).

The internet is “expanding gradually to other languages, helped in part by technological change … [since] 2008, Google launched the ability to translate any language to any other language,” stated Estelle.

Google Translate is currently working on better quality for Machine Translation as well as ubiquity: “No matter where you are, you should have access to a translation.”

They are also working on real-time multi language communication:

“We want you to be able to translate things instantly,” from and into any language, said Shankland.


So, translators and interpreters….how are WE adapting to this change in the marketplace?

What do we offer today that is a value-added to what people get with Google translate?

How are we marketing such value-added?

How are we differentiating ourselves from Machine Translation and the likes of it?

In a market where everyone (including you, dear reader) likes to save a buck or two,

think about how you are going to face the ever-expanding competition of the likes of Google Translate (yes, there are many), in the next five years.


I believe that just as a potential Fourth Wave of democratization is brewing worldwide, so too there is a Huge Wave of changes related to the democratization of translation and interpreting.


Those in the profession who fail to see this wave may very well perish under its weigh.
Others will learn to ride it.
Others will harness its power.

Claudia Brauer

How are other professionals confronting the Age of Automation? (Open Forum)

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“How are other professionals confronting the Age of Automation?”

June 25 @ 11 am EST (USA): Open Forum #2 In Pursuit of One Voice

Participation is free by invitation to the GoTo meeting platform.

If you are interested,

send us an email at Claudia@brauertraining.com

or register for our Free Newsletter at http://www.brauertraining.com

The Proposed topic for our BrauerTrainig Forum # 2 is one set by Diana Rhudick in a Linkedin discussion thread of ATA.

She states:

“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!

==================================================================

Participation is free by invitation to the GoTo meeting platform.

If you are interested,

send us an email at Claudia@brauertraining.com

or register for our Free Newsletter at http://www.brauertraining.com ==================================================================

Additional references: 

http://goo.gl/4hO8h

http://goo.gl/LYiIE

http://youtu.be/A5j8mx5Vh2w