Tuesday, 2 March 2010

paying for translation and interpreting

Pro-bono translation and interpreting work isn't necessarily bad. Can be done well and professionally, can be useful for the translators/interpreters and their clients. When it's for a worthy cause I think it's a positive thing. But I'm perturbed by the assumption that translation and interpreting aren't worth spending money on, and that money spent on translation and interpreting is somehow wasted in a way which money spent on electricity, or lawyers, or equipment isn't. This is an assumption to which the Telegraph seems sadly prone (see here, here or here). And I just came across an call from Dorset County Council for volunteer interpreters for the Olympic sailing events which will be held there in 2012. Grand, and probably a useful experience for the volunteer interpreters involved, but I hope it doesn't herald a more generalised expectation that language support for the Olympics can be provided on a voluntary basis.
And here's hoping that the organisers of the Olympics don't put too much of their faith in automated translation technologies either. I was looking at a new site called Meedan, which offers an alternative source of news translation between Arabic and English. The site uses MT technologies supported by human translators and editors. It looks like a thoughtful and well-designed project and generates interesting reading, but the software (IBM TransBrowser) used to translate external content gives pretty uneven results. Try clicking on the grey 'English Translation' button against any story to make your own mind up.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

If you look at other volunteer positions for the Olympics (eg runners, greeters, drivers), it seems that generally volunteers aren't required to have any special skills/qualifications; thus if volunteer translators/interpreters are sought, the assumption must be that someone who happens to speak two languages (ie no special skills)can and will undertake the task, e.g. a recent immigrant, exchange student etc.

As is often the case, the ability to translate or interpret is equated with the ability to speak.

This link is to an article about a volunteer at the Vancouver Olympics.

I particularly like the line "Luckily, his Korean is still in pretty good shape."