20 November 2013

A great divide emerging

It is becoming increasingly apparent to this observer of the language services industry (in Western Europe) that a great divide is emerging between language service providers (LSPs) that deal with, or hope to deal with, the departments that actually use their products and LSPs that have to deal with corporate purchasing department.

The former have at least the prospect of discussing quality issues, hence pricing, whereas the latter have no option but to compete on price and speed. And... for translators who are committed to the 'very end user' (i.e. the client's customers), the client and the job itself, the latter prospect -- save perhaps for the very fastest workers -- promises nothing but drudgery.

Many language industry observers have commented on how amazingly fragmented the sector is (language combinations, areas of specialisation, types of customer needs, types of target audience, document formats and so on), but I am not aware of many who have clearly identified this particular form of fragmentation.

Corporate purchasing departments are the option of choice for purchasing commodities. And certain types of language services are indeed very close to commodity status. Some examples among many, many other, include:
The great mistake many companies make is to assume that all language services are commodities and therefore should be purchased by the corporate purchasing department.

Comments welcome.

18 November 2013

From Idéfix to Dogmatix and from Panoramix to Getafix

A post on a couple of brilliant into-English literary translators.

The Saturday 16 November issue of the Guardian featured a brilliant article by literary editor Claire Armitstead on translator extraordinaire Anthea Bell, translator of the Asterix series, among many other works from French and German.

Two quotes: 'It's all about finding the tone of voice in the original. You have to be quite free'. 'The secret to successful translation is invisibility.'

Bell's transformation of Idéfix into Dogmatix and Panoramix into Getafix contributed to her reputation as a great translator of great puns.

Interesting to see that the Guardian article links directly to My hero: Asterix by Tom HollandHolland is himself a remarkable translator, this time from ancient Greek, as demonstrated by Edith Hall's enthusiastic TLS review of Tom's recently published The Histories by Herodotus under the heading Herodotus the Homer of European prose.

A quote:
This is a twenty-first-century Herodotus. It is a Herodotus whose tongue is often in his cheek: the conflict between Greeks and Persians began long ago with ‘a bout of competitive princess-rustling’. It is a Herodotus who can speak directly to modern capitalism: the Phoenicians ‘began investing heavily in the long-distance shipping business’, exporting goods ‘to a wide variety of markets’. Arion, the travelling poet, ‘raked in an absolute fortune’. It is a Herodotus who knows the language in which powerful men are described today: Peisistratus the tyrant was attended by a retinue of ‘heavies’. Cyrus is described as ‘eyeballing’ Croesus from his rival camp.
But this is also the Herodotus of a translator who respects the old-fashioned niceties of retoric and prose style.

07 November 2013

Speaking at a conference?

If you're scheduled to speak at a conference -- and more particularly a conference with simultaneous interpretation -- take a look at this presentation by Calliope interpreters first.

If you know anyone who is organising a conference, suggest that they view the presentation too.

Highly recommended.

06 November 2013

RSA Animate version of Pinker on dialogue

In this RSA Animatelinguist Steven Pinker demonstrates how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings. Along the way, he makes it clear why a good appreciation of cultural conventions is an essential ingredient for effective translation and why fully automated methods will never achieve 100% success in areas like the translation of dialogue whether for film scripts or business presentations to name just two.

To hear and see Pinker's full-length presentation on this and related issues, but without the wonderful animation, go here.

Translation and disruption #5

If the translation industry is indeed on the brink of disruptive innovation some of the things that may happen could include: change will ...