Coursera free courses

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.

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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.

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Sounds interesting, right?  Will be sharing my experiences soon.Image

“Utility” Vs. “Eloquence” for measures of quality

This is a reprint of an October/2012 article I published in IMIA Viewpoints Online Newsletter (http://www.imiaweb.org/members/viewpoints.asp)

I recently read that “utility is valued over eloquence as a measure of translation quality”(1) by some of the big TECH companies entering the translation and interpreting field, including Intel, Microsoft, Asia Online and Spoken Translation. The Taus report that talked about that was specifically referring to the “coming of age” of “real-time multilingual chat”, which is part of an entirely new array of products that are already being offered by high-tech translation automation companies; these new products are changing the landscape of bilingual and multilingual output (and translation/interpreting) in the Global Village of the 21st Century.

If this is the new industry trend, “quality” will become a “value added” –not a core requirement– sought by “some” (read “few”) companies. Thus, the new industry concept of “utility” is becoming more important than “eloquence” –which to date has been our measure of quality— and this paradigm shift will totally change the roles of the players in this industry, including us, professional translators and interpreters.

I will not discuss here the “good or evil” nature of the recent automation developments in the translation industry, as there are fervent supporters of one and the other position. My view is that the 21st Century has arrived and many translators and interpreters seem to be at odds with that simple fact. So, in my opinion, fighting technology will not serve the cause of the industry. Unless we become part – and an active part – of the conversation, we will not have a say in its development.

We need to start participating in the technological revolution by voicing our stand (other than mere “opposition”, which will just delay the inevitable), and making POSITIVE contributions so that we make ourselves indispensable to and remain part of the industry…. otherwise, the geeks will try –and probably succeed in time — in replicating what we do (remember quality is no longer the driver for a large portion of the users of the outputs of our industry).

I believe the tech industry has been rather successful at creating algorithms and software and have been pretty good at the basics of language transfer. They have not figured out how to transfer content yet, but they are getting there. As I see it, the fact that most of the software still outputs low-quality products is just a matter of “infancy”. This child will “mature” faster than you think. Few people at the height of the industrial revolution believed that automation would cause the displacement of millions of manufacturing jobs. So we, standing at the beginning of the digital/mobile communication revolution, must learn from history and anticipate the changes that will most probably happen, and participate in them today, so that we may partake in their advancements and help drive and shape their future.

The paradigm shift comes about from the fact that the truths we held sacred in translation and interpreting may be on the verge of disappearing. Mainstream needs, the advent of mobile technologies, the incursion of the TECH industry in the world of translation and interpreting is changing the basic parameters of the entire translation and interpreting industry. The basic assumptions we hold dear and which are comfortably embedded in our way of doing things are starting to fade away. Winners of battles write the history of those battles. I certainly would like to be part of those who write the history of translation and interpreting in the 21st century.

Just as the debate in the translation industry centers around the use of TM and MT, the debate in the interpreting industry is around the use of phone-interpreting, video-interpreting, web-based-interpreting, and interpreting for mobile digital users, among others. I believe the discussion cannot continue being “if” but must shift to “how” we will participate (i.e., not if we should use these technologies, but how can we use them and what do we need as an industry for consistency). We have to be aware of the changes occurring in the industry if we want to remain relevant. Any change we wish for (or wish to avoid) is ours to fight for.

So, in this fast-pace world of the 21st Century, “instant” is the concept of choice in service provision, and based on this, the larger companies coming from the software and hardware industries, from the video and gaming industries, are penetrating the language industries. They are having initial success as the newcomer competitors of traditional translators and interpreters. Their final products are years away from the “Eloquence” by which we have measured our products during thousands of years but rather, they are now striving to achieve “Utility” — the usefulness of instant access that these automated services are providing.

The silver lining is that, although these providers of technical solutions are slowly but surely gaining wider margins of market share, in doing so they have expanded the actual market size to levels unimaginable just a few years ago. So, although they are taking more and more of the market as a percentage, their own presence has multiplied the marketplace several times in size (and will continue doing so). In this way, translators and interpreters are in higher demand than they have ever been in history and our services are being recognized by mainstream as “vital” to the functioning of this new multilingual and multicultural world.

The crumbling down of geographic barriers allows for the provision of services in ways we could never have anticipated. The downside: we are no longer an elite group of intellectuals or artists but are now part of a larger group of artisans. As always in history, there is room for those who wish to remain being artists and intellectuals, to continue rendering high-quality services to the few buyers who will continue to exist. The rest of us will now be a mainstream trade, maybe at the level of law or medicine (i.e., there is the Judge and there is the paralegal, there is the surgeon and there is the home health attendant…. and everything in between).

The future is here. There is no such thing as “it will not happen”. It is happening. Translators are being replaced by machine translation at an alarming speed. Those translators who fail to see the trend will be left without a job in a matter of a decade. Post-MT editing is strongly becoming the trend in the “normal” industry and now, with this latest concept –changing eloquence for utility– the trend will change faster than ever as machine translation becomes more and more common, easier to access and “acceptable” in terms of its output. What I am reading here is that the end-users of translation products are accepting a mediocre product provided it is cheap, fast (machine-translation produced) and relatively accurate (the last hurdle yet to be achieved by new technologies, but fast on the way to getting there).

Now then, Interpreting still may hold a couple of decades more of life “as we know it” because it is a bit more complex… or is it? I have lately seen text to voice produce some amazing results… yes, one language only, but once they figure out the “magic” element – and they will (the question is When) – then development will go ballistic….

So, it is predictable that in the future (which in many places is today), people will not care about construction of the sentences or grammar or inherent meaning of the source language, or even nuances. They will just want to get the “general idea” and that is all they want. Well, at least the larger portion of buyers of translation and interpreting services. Of course there will be many others out there that will still strive for quality. Moreover, for which quality becomes even MORE important than before (thankfully, the healthcare industry seems to be one of them…. the question is… until when? Market forces drive industries, whether we like it or not).

So, for me, the issue is, how are we, the professional interpreters and translators, helping to shape the industry we will be working in? Other than complaining, what are we doing? Other than opposing progress, what positive contributions are we presenting? What levels of “association with” the developers of the new world are we engaging? Where is our strength as part of the “knowledge” pool of services in the world? How can we harness that power?

As I see it, the extraordinary growth of machine translation resources is evidence of the exponential improvement in quality in the past decade. I do not use the term exponential lightly. Growth and improvements in our industry are being exponential. So, I believe that quality translation might be achieved in one or two decades with machine translation. Quality interpreting might take a little longer, but not too much.

Yes, I know this is blasphemy. But believe me, it is reality. Once upon a time, about 15 years ago I thought Translation Memories were garbage and would go nowhere. I thought this day, when TMs are almost a requirement for the job, would never
come. Well, it is here. So, let’s face reality. There are some robots in Japan that are already capable of basic interpreting. Yes, very basic. Just as TM was so basic 10 years ago.

The future of the translation industry is being taken over by the big software companies that are creating software capable of penetrating the “magic” of translation. Once they get there, it will be like any other industry of the 19th century. Replicate, replicate, replicate.

Therefore, here is my proposal: We, the original translators and interpreters, who understand and drive “Eloquence” and not just “Utility” – we – must become very active in designing the strategies of our own future. We have to unite to create international infrastructures that support the “Eloquence” and not just the “Utility” — but not fighting with the software giants, that is a lost cause, rather providing alternatives to improve their products. Common infrastructure and common protocols should be our mantra now as an industry. A dispersed group of individuals will not achieve much.

What is the profession going to look like in 20 years? We have to start answering that question from a perspective of the current reality (mobile millenials) and not from the perspective of what we would “ideally” believe “should” be. Should does not work any more. Could is here to stay. We need to wake up to our new reality as a profession and set out to design the future that could be for us in this new Global Village of the 21st Century.

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http://www.translationautomation.com/joomla15/index.php?option=com_content&vie w=article&id=680&catid=3&Itemid=85

Happy Translators Day!

“Found in Translation”People often ask me about my job working with languages.  Now, there is a new book out that explains what I do, but in a really fun and entertaining way.  It’s a collection of stories, and takes people behind the scenes at places like Nestlé, Google, Hallmark, the United Nations… even NASA and the US State Department. The book is entertaining and thought-provoking, revealing translation as one of the essential threads that holds together the fabric of our society. It is published by a major publisher, Penguin, but was written by two colleagues of mine. It has been endorsed by Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin and leaders from Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, National Geographic, and even the European Parliament.  They all say they enjoyed it, and I think you will too.

The book is called Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World. You can find more information about it at this link (http://www.xl8book.com). You can find it at bookstores throughout the United States or at this link (http://www.amazon.com/Found-Translation-Language-Shapes-Transforms/dp/039953797X).

Feel free to forward this to anyone else you think might like to know about it.  I’m so excited for more people to see how fun and meaningful translation really is!

Forces Shaping the Industry in the Global Village of the 21st Century

Forces Shaping the Industry in the Global Village of the 21st Century

A talk to take place on  September 27, 2012 @ 07:15 EDT (11:15 GMT)

This session is a wake-up call to the future. Technology is transforming the profession at the speed of light. Instead of resisting technology, translators and interpreters must embrace it and learn how to use it to further their professional advancement and intercultural communication. Embracing constant change is vital for survival in the global village of the 21st century.

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If translators and interpreters do not become part of the digital revolution occurring in the second decade of this new millennium, we will be left out of the loop of progress… just what happened a few decades ago to those office workers and freelancers (including translators) who refused to learn how to use a computer … they quickly became professionally obsolete because they were no longer able to interact in the modern interconnected world. Today, we need to learn about the new tools that have been quickly becoming an intrinsic part of the modern world.

This event requires registration: http://www.proz.com/virtual-conferences/368/program/7214

 Labels: 21st Century, Global Village, Interpreter, interpreting, training, translation, Translator

Event Organizer: Claudia Brauer (Translator & Interpreter Trainer http://claudiabrauer.com)

What advise would you give to someone wanting to start working as an interpreter?

What advise would you give to someone wanting to start working as an interpreter?.

What advise would you give to someone wanting to start working as an interpreter?

“A good interpreter is a master of speech and a good translator is a master of the written code.”(Alfredo Vargas). Though both require a distinct set of skills, both also have a shared set of traits. Most of the concepts below also apply to translation, or may be slightly modified to fit the written word.Image

Interpreting is one of the most complex roles in the world. And it is highly underestimated by society at large. The role of a professional interpreter is to convey faithfully and completely the content of the source language by finding adequate equivalent concepts and terms in the target language, and doing this in seconds, literally. The professional interpreter can make very fast decisions and improvise creatively. He or she must have great interpersonal skills, including great patience and empathy. We must be intimately familiarity with both cultures of the working languages to ensure that each concept AND each term used are thorough, accurate, adequate and is correctly used and expressed in the context of the conversation.

As an interpreter, you need to develop a wide array of technical skills. However, I believe that at the basis of interpreting we need the following: First and foremost, obviously, you need to be fully bilingual. You need to have full command of at least two languages. Next, you need to be a very creative person. You need to love to improvise. To create something from nothing. To switch gears at the drop of a pin. Interpreting is all about being attuned with your environment and adjusting immediately to any change in the environment. Creativity is, in my opinion, at the core of any interpreter’s traits. I believe that if you are not a highly creative human being who feels very comfortable improvising and adapting, it will be extremely difficult to be an interpreter. All the other skills you can learn. Creativity, you have to be. So, my first recommendation would be to ask yourself: am I creative and can I improvise? Or am I a more rigid methodical thinker? Because interpreters are also methodical thinkers, second, improvisers first.
Next, you should develop other non-technical skills, that are: listening, acquisition of knowledge, public speaking, note taking, and memory.

After that, the first thing is to learn how to listen. The interpreter needs, above all, be an extraordinary listener. Listen to what the person is saying, not what you think the person is saying , but what they are really truly saying. You need to learn to grasp the meaning behind the speakers works, the message being conveyed, the context in which that message is being rendered. To do that, you need to hone on your listening skills. My recommendation. Listen to the news on TV and Radio. Just sit and listen. Don’t try to translate or jot down. Sit and listen, during hours and hours. That is your first task. To learn to listen. To learn not to make assumptions. Not to guess what the person is going to say. Not to judge what has been said. Just listen to the words and message of the person talking. To concentrate and keep your thought process centered on the source of the messages, not on your own thoughts. And do this in both languages of your language pair.

Second, be knowledgeable. Read a lot. Read all sort of newspapers, either on the computer or printed. Read magazines about the world. Follow international affairs. Increase your general knowledge in the areas you plan to interpreter. If you can, go and live in the countries where your language pairs are mostly spoken. Learn about the local cultures. If you cannot go and live there, use the internet, watch youtube videos about those countries and regarding those cultures, watch movies, listen to the news, if you have cable TV, get those countries news, buy the magazines that center on those cultures. If you are going to be an interpreter, for example in healthcare, read all sorts of medical magazines. Go to your doctor’s office and read all the brochures, all the magazines. Go to the internet and read read read the blogs on medical and clinical information. Read the websites on healthcare. If it you are going to translate in the legal field, watch all the TV programs you can where there is any type of police or investigative reporting. Watch cop movies. Read law mystery books. And so on.
Third, you need to convey your thoughts appropriately. You need to learn to be very efficient with words. You need to build up your vocabulary. Know about as many subjects as you possibly can. Read glossaries. Make the reading of glossaries your passion. Stop reading just for the pleasure of reading and give meaning to your reading habits. Concentrate on downloading glossaries from the internet on the subjects of your interest and read them. Don’t try to memorize them, just put them in the hard drive of your brain where you will have access to the information when you need it.

Enroll in public speaking groups. Practice speaking out loud. Don’t hold your thoughts, start expressing your thoughts in the shower, in the car, when you are cleaning your home. Talk talk talk, specially in your second language. Become progressively fluent and comfortable expressing your thoughts. Learn to react very fast, to strengthen the connection between your thoughts and your tongue. Every day in the morning and at night try translating the local news for about half an hour. Do not judge yourself. Just let the words come out. It does not matter if at the beginning you don’t get it right. Learning to swim or ride a bike takes time. And the only way to learn it is doing it. If you don’t do it you will never learn it. The same is true for interpreting.You need to develop excellent communication skills, with the ability to express thoughts understandably, delivering your speech in such a way that it is clear and concise in all registers and at varying levels of formality or informality as be required. Do not judge yourself. Just do it, right or wrong, many times. Expertise will come with practice. The more you do it, the better you will improve your skills.

Fourth, extremely important, learn a fast note-taking technique. Take a shorthand writing course, there are many for free on the internet. Or learn to take your own notes. Practice practice practice taking notes. Do it independently of your exercises in listening or your exercises in speaking or your collection of knowledge. Note taking should be a skill highly developed by all interpreters. It is going to be one of the most valuable skills you can have. Once you feel comfortable taking notes fast, start specializing in taking notes regarding numbers and addresses. Turn on the TV to the financial channel and try to take the notes of all the numbers you hear. Do not judge yourself at first. Just let your skill develop. It will take time and practice. Do it do it do it. You have to practice practice practice.

The fifth essential skill is, of course, memory. The interpreter must have a very good memory or a very good memory to remember what has been said. Although the interpreter will be taking notes of much of what is said, it will be impossible to write down everything, so the interpreter must trust his or her memory to be able to ensure accuracy and completeness. Exercise your memory constantly. However it works for you, find a way to exercise your memory. The brain is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the fitter it will be.

Of course, these are just some of the steps you need to develop to become an interpreter. You will need to study a lot and learn to analyze content and develop fast reactions, you need to learn to build and use glossaries, to manage stress and perform within strict codes of conduct and ethics, to be in total command of your native and non-native languages, to become familiar with the cultures of the countries your languages represent. You will need to learn to maintain a friendly attitude, even in very distressful situations. To exercise tact and judgement with people who are rude and obnoxious. And cultivate your curiosity, it is your best friend. Keep yourself current. Make learning into a hobby. Learning what? Everything, anything. It is essential to develop a sense of patience and humor, as you will most probably have to deal with a lot of human tragedy and the load may become overwhelming unless you can see yourself just as a bridge between two points, and not necessarily the superwoman or superman that can solve all situations you come in contact with.

It is essential that you become proficient with computers and modern technology, as they will make part of our every day life. In time, as you become more proficient in your craft, you will need to ensure you are familiar with colloquialisms, idiomatic expressions and slang in both working languages. You need to develop the ability to identify the difference sin meaning due to dialects and regionalism.

To become a true professional, you need to have an open mind and learn about the roles of the interpreter, and the boundaries that you need to have, applicable laws and procedures, cultural competence, ethical and professional behavior, quick decision making, excellent customer skills, ability to prioritize and multitask, a huge amount of patience and humility, problem solving and flexibility.

In this blog, Tony Rosado introduced me to the term “Consecutaneous interpreter” (the mode where -in the same encounter- you use both simultaneous AND consecutive, in accordance with the needs of the participants).

The Professional Interpreter

Dear Colleagues,

I have always known throughout my professional career that some of my colleagues in the conference interpreting field do not like consecutive interpretation. I have listened to speeches about all the meaning that is lost when we use consecutive, I have sat through endless conversations about how the true conference interpreter only does simultaneous work, and I have heard many colleagues refer to consecutive interpretation as a lesser mode used by court and medical interpreters.

Unfortunately, I have also listened to some of their consecutive renditions.  I want to be clear about something: I love conference interpreting; I firmly believe that it is the most complex and demanding field of our profession, and I know that most of my conference interpreter colleagues are the best in their countries and fields of specialization. Nobody gets to be a conference interpreter by accident.

However, there are situations in the real…

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