Friday, May 13, 2011

Google’s Real-Life Babelfish Will Translate the World

Before the Internet, the main source material for these translations had been corpuses such as UN documents that had been translated into multiple languages. But the web had produced an unbelievable treasure trove — and Google's indexes made it easy for its engineers to mine billions of documents, unearthing even the most obscure efforts at translating one document or blog post from one language to another. Even an amateurish translation could provide some degree of knowledge, but Google's algorithms could figure out which translations were the best by using the same principles that Google used to identify important websites. "At Google," says Och, with dry understatement, "we have large amounts of data and the corresponding computation of resources we need to build very, very, very good systems."
 -- Steven Levy, from his book In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, via an excerpt published at Gizmodo (emphasis added)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

CFP: Translations 2011: Cross-Cultural Awareness through Poetry

Translations 2011: Cross-Cultural Awareness through Poetry
Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
International Conference: October 27 – 29, 2011
Deadline for proposals: June 20, 2011

The language departments at Bates College invite proposals for a scholarly conference to be held in conjunction with the second annual Bates International Poetry Festival, Translations 2011: Cross-Cultural Awareness through Poetry.

Starting from the premise that translation involves not only the obvious attempt to find language equivalencies, but also a deep and sensitive awareness of cultural diversity, and that this awareness finds its most concentrated expression in the translation of poetry, the organizers are looking for scholarly papers that engage with poetry and translation as cross-cultural practices. In keeping with the theme of the festival, papers reflecting on the translation of poetry from a theoretical, practical, or pedagogical viewpoint or on poetry as translation/mediation/negotiation between languages and cultures are especially welcome. Papers dealing with issues of translation in other genres and considering the potential, as well as limits, of translation in cross-cultural exchanges will be likewise considered.

The papers can address any languages, historical periods, or co(n)texts (such as gender, nationality, ethnicity, socio-historical events, market conditions, audiences, etc.). The length of individual presentations will be 20 minutes, and the language of the conference will be English. We plan to publish a volume of selected papers.

Please send abstracts of 250 words and a short bio by June 20, 2011, to Raluca Cernahoschi, Department of German and Russian Studies.

For more information about the festival, contact Claudia Aburto Guzmán, Department of Spanish.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Mena on Grossman on ideocentrism

Translation leaves a mark on the new language, introducing new words, rhythms, images, metaphors, etc. But "it doesn’t sound like English” is one of the most common criticisms of translation to be bandied about by critics and readers.

In fact, there’s a story (possibly apocryphal, but still) that someone in the process of publishing Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being objected to the title because it ‘didn’t sound like English’ and would drive potential readers away. The translator had to fight for the title, and in doing so created a phrase that not only loosely echoes Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest to my ear, but altered the rhythms of language and has been imitated over and over again since. So I’m wary of this demand, that it must “sound like English.” Because what does that really mean, and who decides?
-- Erica Mena, exploring the theme of sounding-like-Englishness on her blog Alluringly Short, on the occasion of hearing Edith Grossman speak at Boston University last month (emphasis mine). 

The Better Bibles Blog takes up the same topic, albeit to understand the more narrow issue of whether any given translation of the Bible should be presented in the idiom of its composition, or of its audience.

Mena, beyond her blogging, is an active member of ALTA and of the editorial team behind Anomalous Press.