domingo, 22 de novembro de 2009

BBC: You get what you pay for

Getting Lost in Translation
By Brendan O'Neill

Relying on online translation tools can be a risky business, especially if you expect too much of it. For the time being, might translation be something best left to the humans?

UN Secretary General listening to his continuous translation
Not everyone can have a human translator on hand
Earlier this month the small German town of Homberg-an-der-Efze, north of Frankfurt, had to pulp an entire print run of its English-language tourism brochure - after officials used an internet translating tool to translate the German text.

According to one report, the brochure was "rendered meaningless" by the online tool. Tourists were promised "casual value", the literal translation of the German word for "leisure potential", at venues such as the "free bath" - better known as an "open-air swimming pool".

Martin Wagner, mayor of Homberg-an-der-Efze, admits that the town made a "blunder". As a result of officials trying to save money by getting the internet to do a translator's job, a total of 7500 brochures had to be binned.

This story highlights some of the pitfalls of translating online. There are many instant translation tools on the web - but they are best used for individual words and short phrases, rather than for brochures, books or anything complex.


For example, one of the joys of the web is that it grants you access to an array of foreign news sources. Yet if you were to use a translation tool to try to make sense of such reports, you could end up with a rather skewed and surreal view of the world.

A recent report in the French daily Le Monde dealt with Tony Blair's determination to remain as British prime minister, despite the post-Iraq and Hutton controversies. When the French text was run through an online instant translation service, it ended up more confusing than convincing.

"With listening to it", Le Monde reportedly reported, "in the event of victory Tony Blair intends to remain with the capacity until the term of the legislature...."

Even the most subtle computer program doesn't think - and you need to be able to think in order to translate
Sabine Reul

The German newspaper Die Zeit recently ran a piece on America's efforts to sell the "Roadmap to Peace" to Israelis and Palestinians.

According to another translation tool, Die Zeit's report said: "The US-government makes bent previously a large around Israel and the occupied zones, although both Powell and Rumsfeld in that sewed East delayed have itself." That sounds more like Double Dutch than English.

'Deprived visit!'

ABC, one of Spain's leading newspapers, reported on Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's meeting with Tony Blair at Chequers. The text of the report, when put through the works, reveals that:

"The official description of the encounter is 'deprived visit', but Spanish governmental sources confirmed that the main boarded subjects were the process of European integration and, like no, the every day more delicate situation in Iraq and Near East."

Why is foreign text "rendered meaningless" in this way, when passed through an online translation tool? According to Sabine Reul, who runs the Frankfurt-based translation company Textburo Reul, translation tools have limited uses - and problems arise when web users expect too much from them.

Using the internet for translation services
Using the internet may be a lot quicker than "human input"

"A translation tool works for some things," says Reul. "Say a British company wants to order a box of screws from a German supplier. A sentence like 'We need one box of a certain type of screw' is something that a machine could translate reasonably accurately - though primitively."

Yet when it comes to translating blocks of text - words and sentences that convey thoughts and sentiments - online tools are bound to fail, she adds. "Beyond simple sentences, the online process simply doesn't work because machines don't understand grammar and semantics, never mind idiom and style."

"Language is not a system of signs in the mechanical sense of the word", says Reul. "It is a living medium that is used to convey thought. And that is where machines fail. Human input is indispensable as long as computers cannot think."

Reul and other translators look forward to the day when clever computers might help to ease their workload - but that time has not arrived yet.

"It would be nice if computers could do the job. And certainly the quest for machine translation has prompted a lot of linguistic research that may prove valuable in unforeseen ways. But experience to date confirms that even the most subtle computer program doesn't think - and you need to be able to think in order to translate."

Until the dawn of thinking computers, online translation tools are best reserved for words, basic sentences and useful holiday phrases. For tourism brochures, newspaper reports and the rest, you will have to rely on some old-fashioned "human input".

BBC: Translation trouble at top-level talks

By James Robbins
BBC diplomatic correspondent

What does it take to translate for a president or a prime minister? Can an interpreter's slip change the course of history? In Breaking The Language Barrier, some of the great interpreters talk of their experiences with US, UK and Soviet leaders - and confess that they sometimes tone down the language of their political masters.

George Bush senior and Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin in 1999
Despite the smiles, bad translations can cause diplomatic incidents
Welcome to the world of interpreters - of linguistic high-wire acts and rapid-fire translation raised to an art form.

Interpreters are those almost invisible but quite indispensable people squeezed between two rival presidents, neither of whom speaks the other's language.

The interpreter's task is simple - render the flattery or the threats, the soft sell or the hardline of their masters into another tongue.

So how much does get lost in translation? And how do interpreters do it anyway, for heaven's sake, when most of us have trouble communicating in our own language half the time?

I have watched and listened to some of the greats in the interpreting business - at summits, at war crimes trials, at the United Nations or the European Parliament - as they play the parts of presidents and princes, prosecutors or parliamentarians.

Have there been any really big mistakes? Has the course of history been changed by the interpreter missing out that vital word "not" and turning a concession into a threat?

Well, even the stars of the profession make occasional slips.

Treaty tussle

Igor Korchilov, who translated for Soviet leaders from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, was at the very top of his interpreting career at a summit between George Bush senior and Mikhail Gorbachev as the Cold War was ending in the late 1980s.

"The two Presidents and their respective delegations were discussing the arcane biz of arms control," he says.

"Things like SDI, ABM, Mervs, all those Slicom, Glicoms, and other such hi-tech Star Wars stuff including the so-called open-skies proposal, which was the brainchild of the American delegation at the time."

The good news is you didn't start World War 3
George Bush senior to translator Igor Korchilov
The stumbling block was to reach agreement on whose aircraft should be used to over fly the other side's territory for inspection purposes, to verify compliance with the arms control treaties about to be concluded.

The Soviet Union wanted one set of rules - the Americans precisely the opposite.

The argument came down to two horribly similar words: verifying and verified.

"Gorbachev, in presenting his position, did not pronounce very clearly or distinctly the ending of one of these two terms, which were crucial in the context," Mr Korchilov explains.

"He said a word in Russian which I heard as verifying party - and of course that was a total reversal of the Soviet position.

Sometimes interpreters really do have to censor things a bit
Charles Powell
"Baker and Bush were incredulous. They looked at me and they were kind of happy that Gorbachev had changed his position overnight to go along with their proposal.

"But just to make sure, they asked Gorbachev to repeat, to corroborate, to confirm what he had just said.

"Well, when I translated it back into Russian, Gorbachev said, 'No, no, I did not say that. I said it's up to the verified party to provide the aircraft' - not to the verifying party as I translated.

"Of course, after the meeting, I came up to Bush to apologise. He heard me out very carefully, he nodded gravely as if to emphasise how bad the mistake was, and said, 'Well, that's the bad news'.

"Then he patted me in a friendly fashion on the shoulder and said, 'But don't worry, the good news is you didn't start World War Three'."

Forceful language

Mistakes are inevitable. They are not usually as serious as that one - and it was spotted, of course.

So it is hard to find evidence of history actually being changed by an interpreter's slip, but that certainly does not mean their influence is not powerful.

Their performance and style can change the whole mood of a meeting.

But then, what about the poor interpreter unable to bring himself to be as blunt as the speaker - the interpreter convinced he must tone down the harshness of a political master?

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Mrs Thatcher's bluntness could stun interpreters
No surprise, perhaps, that Margaret Thatcher could stun interpreters with her forceful language.

Her foreign policy adviser, Charles Powell, remembers a tense meeting.

"Sometimes interpreters really do have to censor things a bit," he says.

"Once, the Foreign Office plagued 10 Downing Street, back in the mid-1980s, for Mrs Thatcher to see the visiting president of the former French Congo - a well known Marxist and Communist.

"Mrs Thatcher was reluctant to see him but, after much nagging, she finally consented.

"The President arrived and was shown up to her drawing room and sat down opposite her, and she leant across, fixed him with a baleful glare and said, 'I hate Communists'.

"The poor French interpreter, rather shattered by this not exactly courteous introduction to the conversation, rendered it something like 'Prime Minister Thatcher says that she has never been wholly supportive of the ideas of Karl Marx', which I thought was a pretty brave attempt in the circumstances."

"Breaking the Language Barrier" is written and presented by James Robbins. The producer is Philippa Goodrich. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, 24 January, 2004.

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segunda-feira, 9 de novembro de 2009

De Chinglish para Carioglês?

Clique na imagem para visualizar melhor

quinta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2009

Smart spectacles aid translation

Spectacles that can provide subtitles have been created by hi-tech firm NEC.

Resembling glasses but lacking lenses, the headset uses a tiny projector to display images on a user's retina.

NEC said it planned a version that used real-time translation to provide subtitles for a conversation between people lacking a common language.

The firm said the gadget, dubbed Tele Scouter, was intended for sales people or employees dealing with inquiries from customers.

NEC said the Tele Scouter was intended to be a business tool that could aid sales staff who would have information about a client's buying history beamed into their eye during a conversation.

But, it said, it could also be put to a more exotic use as a translation aid. In this scenario the microphone on the headset picks up the voices of both people in a conversation, pipes it through translation software and voice-to-text systems and then sends the translation back to the headset.


At the same time as a user hears a translation, they would also get text subtitles beamed onto the retina.

"You can keep the conversation flowing," NEC spokesman Takayuki Omino told AFP at a Tokyo trade show where the device was unveiled.

Mr Omino said the system could also be used for confidential talks that would be compromised by the use of a human translator.

NEC said the Tele Scouter would be launched in Japan in November, 2010 but would initially lack the translation feature. A version that can provide subtitles would follow in 2011, it said.

When it goes on sale, a batch of 30 headsets will cost about 7.5m yen (£50,000). The cost does not include the price of the translation tools and software.

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sábado, 17 de outubro de 2009

A cama de Procrusto

Muitas vezes, como tradutora, sou obrigada a fazer a minha tradução caber no mesmo layout e espaço que o designer projetou específicamente para a língua original. No caso de português para inglês, a tradução em si é geralmente menor, mas às vezes tem que ser maior, quando precisa de notas do tradutor. Nestes casos, sou obrigada a "esticar" ou cortar a tradução para caber num espaço que muitas vezes nem foi pensado para receber textos em outras línguas. Quando se trata de traduções para o espanhol, que é quase sempre maior do que o português, os cortes são ainda maiores e podem até deixar o texto troncado. Esta situação sempre me lembra a lenda da cama de Procrusto:


Friedrich Dürrenmatt

leia no original alemao

Na localidade de Coridalos viviam muitos gigantes e homens crescidos normais. Disso decorria que os homens maiores, os gigantes, subjugavam os homens menores. Como Coridalos ficava na região da Ática, soprou até lá um hálito de razão vindo de Atenas, inspirando o gigante Polípemo, que era particularmente grande, a pensar. Durante várias semanas ele andou pensativo pela paisagem, refletindo sobre a desigualdade dos homens. Depois ele se nomeou Procrusto, o esticador, e construiu duas camas, uma para os gigantes e outra para os não-gigantes. Na cama para os não-gigantes ele colocava os gigantes e lhe cortava as pernas, de modo que eles coubessem na cama dos não-gigantes. Os não-gigantes, ele colocava na cama dos gigantes e os esticava, até que estes se adequassem à cama.

Palas Atena, de cujo hálito soprou o ar da razão até Coridalos, sentiu-se responsável e dirigiu-se a Procrusto. Ela lhe perguntou o que fazia.

"Estou agindo de acordo com a tua razão, deusa", respondeu o gigante, "cujo hálito colocou em movimento o meu pensar. Eu comecei a refletir sobre a desigualdade dos homens. Ela é injusta. Eu me dei conta pouco a pouco de que a justiça exige que todos os homens sejam iguais. Isto é razoável. Há em Coridalos gigantes e não-gigantes. sendo que os primeiros subjugam os segundos. Os homens são aqui desiguais de dois modos: em seu ser e em seu fazer. Isto não é razoável. Ora, se eu tornasse apenas os gigantes em não-gigantes, cortando-lhes as pernas, eu teria produzido com isso, todavia, uma nova injustiça: não-gigantes aleijados e não-gigantes, sendo que nesse caso estes últimos submeteriam os gigantes que se tornaram aleijados. Também irrazoável. Mas se eu agisse contra os não-gigantes, se eu os esticasse ao tamanho dos gigantes aleijados, eu teria produzido uma nova injustiça: tal como os gigantes aleijados, eles estão tão entregues aos gigantes quanto os não-gigantes. Outra vez irrazoável. Assim sendo,a meu ver, so há uma possibilidade de estabelecer a igualdade de todos os homens: os gigantes têm o direito de ser não-gigantes, e os não-gigantes de ser gigantes. Eu estou agindo de acordo com isso. Eu corto as pernas dos gigantes, eles se tornam tão pequenos quanto os não-gigantes. Quanto aos não-gigantes, eu os estico até ficarem do tamanho dos gigantes. Tal operação torna ambos iguais, pois através dela ambos se tornam aleijados. E se eles morrem em conseqüência da operação, eles também são iguais entre si, pois a morte torna todos iguais. isto não é razoável?"

Balançando a cabeça negativamente, Palas Atena retornou a Atenas. A argumentação de Procrusto a fez perder as palavras. Foi a primeira vez que ela, como deusa, ouviu um discurso ideológico, e ela não encontrou nenhuma réplica. Procrusto, em virtude do silêncio da deusa, convenceu-se da correção de suas deduções, e voltou a torturar. Àqueles que torturava, ele sempre esclarecia que o fazia em nome da justiça: ora, um gigante tem o direito de ser um não-gigante e vice-versa. A localidade de Coridalos tornou-se um inferno, repleta dos gritos dos martirizados, que podiam ser ouvidos em toda a Grécia. Os deuses, embaraçados, tapavam os ouvidos com as mãos. Eles também não encontravam nenhuma réplica à argumentação de Procrusto. As pragas, em especial, eram horríveis de se ouvir. Por isso, eles desligavam o som dos televisores - como deuses eles estavam tecnicamente bem à frente dos homens - para não mais ouvir as preces e os pedidos de socorro, bem como a gritaria e as maldições de Coridalos, razão pela qual eles nada mais ouviam do resto da terra. Todavia, isso fez com que els não mais interviessem na história.

E assim, então, gigantes e não-gigantes amaldiçoavam Procrusto, enquanto ele os torturava, e os aleijados gigantes e não-gigantes o amaldiçoavam também. Saíam maldições até mesmo do túmulo daqueles que não haviam passado pelo procedimento bárbaro. Mas visto que Procrusto não compreendia porque ele estava sendo amaldiçoado - pois ele se sentia um benfeitor e era em geral um gigante muito sensível -, ele imaginou que o problema estava em seu método, adquirindo especialmente para as suas camas bons colchões. Desse modo, enquanto os coridalianos gritavam incessantemente e amaldiçoavam, ele tentava acalmar os torturados de um outro modo, já que eles não haviam sido iluminados pela razão divina como ele. Ele dizia para as suas vítimas que era heróico sofrer cada um em sua cama específica, fabricada de árvores que cresciam em todo o país - uma razão não menos irracional, porém, agora uma razão patriótica para as suas torturas.

E realmente, desta vez alguns gigantes e não-gigantes se colocavam como voluntários aqui. No geral, as maldições foram diminuindo com o tempo. Por encontrarem motivos para a ação de Procrusto, eles também encontravam consolo para tanto sofrimento. Houve até gigantes aleijados e não-gigantes aleijados que se convenceram de que haviam sido torturados para um futuro melhor. Por causa disso, pelo menos a chegada de Procrusto não era mais amaldiçoada, pois, com o tempo, as gigantes, através de uma adaptação evolucionária, passaram a dar à luz aleijados não-gigantes e as não-gigantes, a aleijados gigantes, de modo que Procrusto, no geral, não precisou mais torturar. Outros contentavam-se em morrer desse modo, desde que assim, esperavam eles, no futuro não houvesse mais nenhuma tortura.

Em virtude das razões apresentadas, os torturados eram levados a suportar a tortura, mesmo sendo ela irracional. Só alguns poucos gigantese não-gigantes torturados insistiam depois que a cama de tortura e a tortura fossem inutilizadas. Isso era o que Procrusto mais odiava. Ele ainda se revoltava com o fato de as pessoas não entenderem que ele não torturava por prazer, mas sim por um necessidade histórica. Tendo em vista que, a fim de não mais ouvir as queixas e gritarias, ele sempre imaginava motivos para torturar, ele acrecditava que, com o tempo, a história só podia ter um sentido se ela progredia, e se tal progresso consistisse em que ela é sempre mais justa, e ela só é mais justa se, a partir da desigualdade dos homens, ela se desenvolve em direção à igualdade deles.

Enquanto isso, o jovem Teseu caminhou de Tróia para Atenas, para lá se tornar rei, como filho de Egeu. Visto que ele concebia a política desde um ponto de vista prático novo, ele também veio a Coridalos. Lá ele ouviu e se admirou da Ideologia de Procrusto.

"Tu precisas admitir que eu estou agindo de maneira razoável", disse Procursto, orgulhoso, "a própria Palas Atenas não sabia me replicar".

"Tu ages tão irrazoavelmente quanto Pitiocampto, o podador de abetos, quando ele corta o andarilho em dois, e os inserta nos troncos de dois abetos tortos e então os deixa crescer", respondeu Teseu. "A única diferença entre Pitiocampto e tu consiste em que ele não imaginou que devesse cortar em nome da justiça dos homens. Ele o fazia pelo puro prazer da crueldade".

"Pitiocampto é meu filho", disse Procrusto, pensativamente.

"Eu o matei", respondeu Teseu, tranquilamente.

"Agiste corretamente", disse Procrusto, depois de longo pensar, "embora Pitiocampto fosse meu filho. Não é permitido matar pelo puro prazer da crueldade".

Assim, enquanto Procrusto queria cumprimentar Teseu agradecido, este jogou o gigante com tal força na pequena cama que a terra estremeceu.

"Seu louco", ele disse, e abateu Procrusto, que lhe encarava com os grande olhos, admirado. "Você foi retirado do hálito da razão muito cedo. As pessoas não são iguais, mesmo se não houvesse gigantes e não-gigantes, mas só gigantes, ou só não-gigantes. E porque as pessoas não são iguais, algumas maiores, outras menores, cada gigante tem o direito de ser um gigante, e cada não-gigante de ser um não-gigante. Ambos são iguais apenas perante a lei. Se tu tivesses introduzido esta lei, terias evitado que os gigantes dominassem os não-gigantes, ou, o que poderia bem ser o caso, que fossem os gigantes prejudicados pelos não-gigantes. Com isso, você teria poupado seus conterrâneos dessa tortura absurda".

E, assim, Teseu primeiramente cortou as pernas de Procrusto e, porque este já era especialmente um gigante grande, cortou-lhe também a cabeça, que ainda murumurava ao ser decepada:

"Eu só estava sendo justo". E então a cabeça ainda disse, enquanto ainda estava em cima do pescoço, antes que os grandes olhos se fechassem: "Eu jamais fizera mal algum aos homens".

Depois disso, Teseu caminhou de volta a Atenas para junto de seu pai Egeu. Infelizmente, Teseu era não apenas um herói; ele era também esquecido. Ele se esquecera, quando estava com Procrusto, que não matara apenas o seu filho Pitiocampto, mas sim também engravidara a sua neta, Periguna. Ele simplesmente se esqueceu de tudo. Seu lenço estava cheio de nós, era inútil. Ao regressar de Creta, ele esqueceu Ariadne na ilha de Naxo, que lhe salvara do labirinto, e assim esqueceu de levantar a vela branca, de modo que o seu pai atirou-se ao mar, porque ele pensou que Teseu fora morto pelo Minotauro no labirinto. Por causa disso, Teseu tornou-se rei. Infelizmente, ele também esquecera do seu inteligente discurso a Procrusto: não que ele fora particularmente um mal rei - ele está, de fato, bem colocado na escala dos reis -, mas abaixo dele nem todos eram iguais perante a lei, alguns mais iguais que outros. Isto porque Teseu também era esquecido como marido: seus amores, escreve Robert de Ranke-Graves, colocaram tantas vezes os atenienses em apuros que eles reconheceram seu verdadeiro valor apenas gerações após a sua morte.

in Engelmann, B. & Jens, W. (1982): Klassenlektüre, Hamburg: Albrecht Knaus Verlag, pgs. 96-99. Tradução de Marco Antonio Franciotti e Celso Braida

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quinta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2009

Does 'Glaswegian' need translation?

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Images of Glasgow - pictures from Freefoto, Getty, BBC

By Paula Dear
BBC News

An English translation company is looking for people to help interpret the Glaswegian dialect for its often bemused clients. But how hard is it for non-natives of the city to understand a "Weegie"?

If you don't know your midden from your cludgie, you might in future turn to Today Translations for an explanation.

The London-based translation company is advertising for people with a knowledge of the Glaswegian dialect, accent and "nuances" to help interpret for some of its baffled clients when they visit the Scottish city.

It has received more than 300 applications for the job so far, some of which had been written in "Glaswegian".

Glaswegians, known affectionately as Weegies, speak varying levels of a continually-evolving form of dialect widely known as 'the patter'.

The speech comprises a range of Scots expressions, vocabulary and humour, as well examples of rhyming slang, local cultural references, nicknames and street language.

Newspaper advertisement

"Glaswegian" has given rise to a plethora of phrasebooks, joke books, online glossaries and merchandise, not to mention TV and radio shows. There is even a Glasgow Bible, which relates some biblical tales in the vernacular.

In the 1970s, Glasgow-born comedian Stanley Baxter parodied the patter on his television sketch show "Parliamo Glasgow".

But does Glaswegian really need translation?

Understanding will be in the ear of the beholder. Here's you chance to find out. Click on the audio below to hear Gavin Kyle, 36 - who grew up just outside Glasgow - read two short poems by Tom Leonard, written in the city's dialect. The original text and a translation is provided.

Below, one of the job applicants Colum Buchanan reads his submission to the translation firm, which includes some Glasgow places and phrases.

[poems and audio removed]


It's not often a job applicant might get away with calling his prospective employers "bamsticks" - a form of the Glaswegian word bampot, which generally means idiot or fool.

But that's just what Colum Buchanan, 50, did in his application for the job of Glaswegian interpreter.

Click on the audio to hear an edited version of his submission to Today Translations, and see the text version of his e-mail below.


RE: Howsit Hinging Chinas? [how's it going folks?]

Noticed your small ad this morning in ra Herald [newspaper]. Hauvnae [I haven't got] a VC let alone a CV in relation to this type of public service.

Anyhows I'm 50 years old, born up a close [in a tenement building] in the West End, raised in leafy coonsil hoose [council house] aristocracy on the Sooothside [south side of the city], went to the Mossy and the Minors in Hillhead [cinemas], educated in East Endisisms at Ramungo [St Mungo's Academy, Glasgow].

I have working understanding of French and a wide network of alien English manglers. Over to you bamsticks! [fools]

Awrabest [all the best]

Colum Buchanan

Câmara Municipal de Salvador homenageia equipe do livro Obarayi

Salvador, 15 de setembro de 2009.

Of. n°. 3.417/2009

O vereador Pedro Godinho, em sessão ordinária ontem realizada, solicitou a inserção, na ata dos trabalhos, do seguinte pronunciamento:

"É com imensa satisfação que registro, nos anais desta Casa Legislativa, aplausos à equipe de produção do livro intitulado OBARAYÍ BABALORlXÁ Balbino Daniel de Paula, pela brilhante iniciativa e pelo excelente trabalho desenvolvido na edição desta obra de arte, motivo de orgulho para a cultura da nossa terra. A saber: Mauro Lima Rossi - responsável pela coordenação executiva do projeto e pesquisa; Odair Jaques - designer responsável pela direção de arte, projeto gráfico e pesquisa; Aline Andrade Queiroz jornalista e escritora do texto de festas e pesquisa; Reginaldo Ferreira da Silva Filho - responsável pela coordenação contábil e financeira do projeto; Sabrina Gledhill - tradutora; Agnes Mariano jornalista responsável pela elaboração do texto biográfico; Nisan Guanaes - da Agência África, que contribuiu com o importante papel de apoio, patrocínio e credibilidade do projeto; a empresa Frente e Verso Comunicação Integrada, que desenvolveu competente trabalho de assessoria de imprensa; a Fundação Pierre Verger, na pessoa do Presidente Gilberto Sá, que prestou apoio incondicional ao projeto, e finalmente, ao homenageado, figura central do livro que conta a sua história biográfica - o Babalorixá Balbino Daniel de Paula."
Leia a carta na íntegra (em PDF)

sexta-feira, 25 de setembro de 2009

A Fund for the Family of Sultan Munadi

Sultan M. Munadi
Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press A portrait of the slain Afghan translator Sultan Munadi during a prayer ceremony at his grave in Kabul on Thursday.

Many readers have inquired about making contributions to the family of Sultan Munadi, the slain Afghan journalist. That money, along with funds contributed by the company and its employees, will be forwarded to his family.

Instructions for a wire transfer (recommended outside U.S.).

If you would like to contribute via mail, please send your check to:

Sultan Munadi Fund/The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue, 3rd Fl.
New York, NY 10018
Attention: Foreign Desk
Checks should be made payable to “Sultan Munadi Fund/The New York Times,” noting Mr. Munadi’s name in the memo field.

At War: Over Here, and Overwhelmed

Published: September 25, 2009
Being overwhelmed is a constant and present feeling in my everyday life.

Sahar S. Gabriel was an Iraqi translator with The New York Times in Baghdad. She emigrated to the United States this year as part of a refugee program. See also posts by Atheer Kakan and Mudhafer al-Husaini.

terça-feira, 22 de setembro de 2009

Maladies of Interpreters

Published: September 22, 2009
Too often, military interpreters in Afghanistan do not receive the respect they deserve as vital members of a team.

"Interpreters do more than talk and listen. Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, United States troops receive only minimal cultural training before they deploy. Thus interpreters often serve as cultural advisors — helping Americans learn the nuances of typical Afghan behavior."

sexta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2009

Can't read Arabic, admits man who ‘translated' 26/11 note

Mumbai: Source : ExpressIndia: In an embarrassment for the Mumbai Police in the 26/11 terror attack trial, a prosecution witness presented in court today as the translator of a note in Arabic allegedly left by the Lashkar-e-Toiba attackers, which said the attack was a pointer towards war, was found to have no knowledge of the Arabic script.

On Wednesday, Inspector Prakash Bhoite, who had investigated the attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel, had told the court that police had found two unexploded bombs near the hotel during the attack and one of them contained a note which said "Ammar Askari".

On Thursday, Mukhtar Pirzade, the translator, testified in court and confirmed he had translated the note given to him by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch. An insurance agent in Bhiwandi, Pirzade is regularly used as a translator by the police.

But his testimony did not stand when he was cross-examined by Abbas Kazmi, the state-appointed lawyer for Ajmal Kasab, the lone attacker captured alive. Kazmi, who has lived in Saudi Arabia for a decade and knows Arabic, spoke a line in the language and asked Pirzade what it meant.

When Pirzade said he could not figure it out, Kazmi translated it himself and said it meant "Where are you now?" Pirzade responded by saying that he did not know to read or write Arabic but could only understand it and that he had got the words in the alleged Lashkar note translated by a friend.

Kazmi also contested the translation and said that Ammar Askari was the first and second name of a person. The incident caused Special Judge M L Tahilyani to pull up the police. "Why do you go looking for translators in Bhiwandi when our Bombay High Court has full-time Urdu translators. You could have done it there," he told the police officers and the prosecutor present in court. Urdu and Arabic use the same script.

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quarta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2009

Another interpreter killed in action

Published: September 10, 2009
Stephen Farrell, held captive by militants for four days, was freed in a raid on Wednesday, but his Afghan interpreter and a British commando were killed in the rescue.

Recursos linguistícos da União Europeia para os tradutores externos de língua portuguesa

Esta página tem como objectivo informar todos os tradutores que fazem traduções para a Direcção-Geral de Tradução da Comissão Europeia. O objectivo destas linhas directrizes é o de estabelecer normas aplicáveis a todas as traduções nas línguas oficiais.

sexta-feira, 28 de agosto de 2009

Obarayí - Babalorixá Balbino Daniel de Paula

English translation by H. Sabrina Gledhill (texts) and Javier Escudero Rodríguez (captions)

segunda-feira, 24 de agosto de 2009

Déjà vu all over again...

Shanghai seeks end to "Chinglish"

The authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai are starting a campaign to try to spot and correct badly phrased English on signs in public places.

Chinglish, as the inaccurate use of the language is known, has long been a source of embarrassment for the authorities there.

It is also a source of amusement to foreign visitors.

But Shanghai wants to spruce up its image. It is expecting millions of visitors for the World Expo fair.

Student volunteers will check the English on signs throughout the city.

If they suspect the translation is less than accurate they will inform the government. Then the bureaucrats will request that whoever is responsible corrects the mistake.

You can find Chinglish all over the city. Often it can be blamed on software used to translate Chinese automatically.

Please bump your head carefully
Sign in hotel lift

Sometimes you can see what the author was getting at, such as the sign that warns people to "keep valuables snugly", and "beware the people press close to you designedly".

Then there are signs where they have mistranslated a crucial word.

One in a hotel lift advises people "please leave your values at the front desk".

Sometimes they have just got it the wrong way round, such as on the sign in the stairwell of a department store asking shoppers to "please bump your head carefully".

My favourites though, are those which get more surreal, like the one on the Shanghai metro from the public security bureau that reads: "If you are stolen, call the police at once."

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quarta-feira, 12 de agosto de 2009

sábado, 8 de agosto de 2009

Artistas das Palavras

Revista da Cultura destaca a arte dos tradutores brasileiros que vertem obras estrangeiras para o português.

Leia: Alma de Escritor

Ou copie e cole o link no seu browser:

sexta-feira, 19 de junho de 2009

"The machine can never replace the human mind"

Iran: Google's Translator and Khamenei's Head

(CNN) -- Internet giant Google on Friday started translating Persian, also known as Farsi, in a move that could dramatically help spread information on the Iranian election crisis, but the service is far from perfect.

Badi Badiozamani, who has been helping with translations at CNN, said it was good at translating short phrases like "Hi, how are you?" but struggled with longer sentences and terminology.

He said when asked to translate "Mr. Khamenei, people will put you in your place", the Google translator came up with: "Mr. Khamenei, people instead of your head you can (and then an indecipherable word)."

Badiozamani added: "The machine can never replace the human mind. The Persian language is very poetic, full of metaphors and poetry and expressions. You give it to the poor machine, it's not a person or a poet, it has not got a heart. So the end result is disastrous."

Read the rest of the article here

sábado, 23 de maio de 2009

The future of translation?


With Translation Technology On Their Side, Humans Can Finally Lick the Language Barrier

By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 24, 2009

The young American soldier recalled the time in Iraq he came across the badly burned little girl. He was on patrol. Trouble ahead. A house had been set on fire. In front of it was the girl, just standing there, all alone.

There he stood, helplessly, in full battle rattle, with his ballistic glasses and helmet, his weapon bristling, his body armor making him waddle like a bipedal rhino.

He spoke no Arabic. He couldn't comfort her, he couldn't tell her he wanted to get her medical help.

"I sure wish I'd had one of those," he told Jennifer Gollob.

Gollob points to a machine that easily fits in a bag the size of a woman's purse. It's a universal translator. It is being tested in Iraq by DARPA -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- the legendary research and development works in Arlington where Gollob is a contractor.

The machine interprets the spoken word. You talk in English. It repeats whatever you said in spoken Iraqi Arabic. It then awaits a spoken response from the Iraqi, and talks back to you in English.

It's pretty good, says Mari Maeda, the program's manager. About 70 or 80 percent accurate. Not as good as a human. But the number of human interpreters willing to work around gunfire is finite.

DARPA is aiming to get an affordable iPod-size interpreter on the chest of every American warrior, foreshadowing the day such devices will be as common as music players.

Independently, Google is deploying its strikingly successful Translate project. It instantly translates text among 41 languages from Bulgarian to Hindi with surprising felicity. The big question is how soon Google will release a voice version, making the world's cellphones multilingual.

That sound you hear? It's the sound, after all these millennia, of the Tower of Babel rising once again.

* * *

On Jan. 7, 1954, IBM announced, with great fanfare: "Russian was translated into English by an electronic 'brain' today for the first time." Routine machine translation, we were told, was only five years away.

Half a century later, computers have mastered challenges that impress even geneticists, chess grandmasters and research librarians. But machines still have the devil's own time with routines common to any healthy 2-year-old. Becoming fluent with languages, for example.

To this day, if you want to get a translation absolutely right, go find yourself a talented human. "Nuclear power," says Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association, when asked of areas where you want tremendously good human translation. "Negotiations for disarmament. The pharmaceutical industry. Zero-error work with millions of dollars" riding on the outcome. Hendzel has served as an interpreter on the presidential hot line.

The trouble with meticulous, culturally sensitive human translation, of course, is that it is slow, pricey and rare.

Suppose you are willing to settle for blazingly fast, cheap, "good enough" translations. Especially those aimed at languages spoken by the rich, multitudinous or dangerous. Enter the new generation of machine translators that in the last year have begun to open broad new vistas.

For decades, translation programs tried to be rules-based. Teach the machine that in English the adjective comes before the noun; in French it's the reverse. Seems logical. But not only is it tedious and expensive to get a bunch of linguists to collect such intricacies, it produces laughable results. Just try Yahoo Babel Fish, for example. Language turns out not to be an Industrial Age machine of discrete parts.

One linguist, discussing the problem on the technology news Web site Slashdot, writes: "Parsing English is easy by comparison. I work with another language where there is a slight stress difference between the sentences 'That might be true' and 'He's honestly picking his butt.' The words 'soup' and '[poop]' are differentiated by a 40-50% increase in the length of the last vowel. There is one word for both 'blue' and 'green', and another word for 'yellow', 'orange', and 'brown'."

The explosion of the Web, however, has enabled a revolution. Like so many successful human approaches, it relies on brute force and ignorance. This method cares little for how any language works. It just looks -- Rosetta stone fashion -- at huge amounts of text translated into different languages by humans. (Dump decades of U.N. documents into the maw.) Then it lets the machine statistically express the probability that words in one language line up together in a fashion comparable to another set of words in another language.

For this statistical approach to work, of course, you need astounding computer power and zillions of pages of text.

Whom does this make you think of?

Google, perhaps?

This also means that the people who do the statistical approach do not talk about programming their software. They talk about "training" it.

Cue the spooky music.

Yes, we are creeping up on artificial intelligence here.

Owning Speech

"It is coming," Peter Norvig says of the day when cellphones translate conversation. "We don't announce things before their time. But there will be products coming out soon. The early generations will be only for the early adopters, and then later on it will reach the masses."

Norvig is the director of research at Google, arguably the world's leader in machine translation. "Certainly we're the broadest. We have over 40 languages and we translate between all pairs of them . . . in any subject domain . . . and nobody else does that."

Google still hires professional human translators to create high-value pages, like the ones in French telling people how to use Google. "It's a matter of ownership," he says of taking pride in presentation.

But Norvig refers to professional human translators as "a small guild" carving up a market of a few billion dollars. With Google Translate, he's talking about making billions of routine pages more available than ever for billions of ordinary people.

"I think most of the time now, you take a newspaper article" and run it through Translate "and you can understand what's going on. It will be very rare that you think a native speaker did the translation. You'll notice disfluencies in every sentence. But you'll know who did what to whom."

Indeed, on "Meteor," a 1-to-100 scale of these things in which 40 means you're getting the general idea, and 70 is as good as most human translators, Google gets in the 50s on the Arabic-English pairing, says Alon Lavie, president of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas. "Far better than gist. Pretty damn good. They're the 800-pound gorilla."

Google wants to own speech. Whenever you call 1-800-Goog-411 and say "pizza," you are teaching their computers to associate the way you say that word with its text version, Mike Cohen of Google told Technology Review.

Using those smarts, in November, Google unveiled an app to search on any topic you can imagine by talking into your iPhone. Automatically and relentlessly, day and night, that feature provides even more real-world training for their voice-recognition bots.

When all this becomes a routine part of Google's Android mobile software, how big a deal will it be to culture and society to have a cellphone that will allow you to talk to most of the world's 6 billion people?

"In some ways I am more enthusiastic about the text part" of translation, Norvig says. "I think that opens up a lot. If you're a speaker of a minority language -- say, Arabic -- how much of the Web is accessible to you? Well, it's really a small portion of 1 percent or so. But if we can now translate those Web pages, now all of a sudden the whole world opens up to you. It's a lot more information and it's also different worldviews."
Basic Training

If you're looking for an organization with deep pockets and an appreciation of the "Cool Hand Luke" life lesson -- "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" -- there's little to compare with the American military.

"We knew that we couldn't build something that would work 99 percent of the time, or even 90 percent of the time," says Maeda, the program manager for DARPA's Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use, or TRANSTAC.

"But if we really focused on certain military use cases, then it might be useful just working 80 percent of the time. Especially if they don't have an interpreter and they're really desperate for any kind of communication.

"You interview soldiers and Marines returning from the field," Maeda says, "asking them, 'What are you interacting with the locals about? What are the typical situations?' "

Red-faced screaming matches are not what DARPA has in mind.

"We definitely don't want to handle these kinetic confrontational situations. We want to be able to have these systems used in cooperative, cordial conversations. We focused on checkpoint operations, stopping the vehicles. 'Please open the glove compartment . . . the trunk.' We also started to do meet and greet -- visiting local leaders."

Can you discuss politics using these little machines?

"That's not one of their domains. But we do elections. 'Where is the voting booth in your village?' for instance."

Basic questions of life are tremendously important to people. "SWET questions -- sewage, water, electricity, trash-related questions. 'How frequently does the power go off? Do you have a backup generator? How often is the trash collected?' Medical is also there."

If you want the machine to respond quickly and coherently, it pays to narrow the scope. "But it is difficult," Maeda says. "When you sit down with an Iraqi soldier, you can start talking about anything -- about my daughter's wedding and about home life and things like that. And then, of course, it will degrade. But the vocabulary that's in the system is tens of thousands of words, both English and Arabic." In normal conversation, many humans use only a thousand words.

Maeda has got big plans. In addition to getting these machines down to the size of an iPod, and cheap enough to give one to every soldier in combat, she wants them to be networked, so that if one soldier discovers an error in translation, all the machines will learn. She also wants the devices to be capable of rapid deployment with "surprise languages."

"These things are very useful at the beginning of the conflict when you don't have interpreters. How do you stand up a new translation system that works in a language in a month with a minimum amount of collected data? That's something that we're focusing on right now."

Unsurprisingly, "we're trying to build a Dari system," Maeda says, referring to one of Afghanistan's major languages. "We're also going to try to build a Pashto system, which is very challenging, because there are quite a few dialectical variations."

Take the machine for a spin, she offers. So into it, you say:

"This is only a machine doing the translation, it won't be perfect."

To check that it understood you accurately, the machine attempts to repeat your words back to you. Sure enough, it gets:

"This is only a machine doing the translation it won't be perfect."

It translates into Arabic and speaks your phrase in Arabic.

Then, to give you another reality check, it translates back into English what it just said in Arabic, and on its screen displays:

"This is a translation device they don't would be great."

Good enough?

The Human Touch

What does constitute "good enough"?

Ah, there's the rub. Compared to what?

The world's common language is not English, it's broken English, says Alex Waibel of Carnegie Mellon, a DARPA principal investigator, born in Germany, who spends his life in international conferences where English is everybody's second or fourth language. Eighty percent machine accuracy is better than some very large portion of these alleged English speakers, he says.

"Human translators aren't actually that great," Waibel says. In one study, people listened to a machine interpreter and then were asked questions to measure their grasp of content. The score was 64 on a 100-point scale. Not wonderful. But when they did the same test with a human simultaneous interpreter, the result was not a lot better -- a 74.

"When humans try to figure out how to translate one thing, they drop their attention as to what's coming in the next graph," Waibel says. "And they're human. They get tired. They get bored."

"This is a force multiplier," says Gollob. "You've got only one interpreter to talk to one person. But you've got other soldiers and they may also want to talk to another individual. And they might not trust exactly what the interpreters are interpreting. Very often they converse for 10 minutes and you get three utterances out. 'Well, you've been talking for the last 10 minutes. What were you saying?' The soldiers really want to know."

Then there is human bias.

If you have a "Sunni interpreter, and the soldier wants to interact with a Shiite person, the Sunni interpreter is going to phrase things differently because he feels, you know, different about the person he's interacting with."

The Sunni might be talking down to the Shiite?

"Yeah, exactly. And the machine doesn't do that kind of thing."

Says another poster to Slashdot:

It "reminds me of the old joke:

"Guard: 'Now tell me where you hid the money, or you will suffer.'

"Translator: 'Tell him where the money is, or you will suffer.'

"Prisoner: 'I'll never speak.'

"Translator: 'He says he won't tell you.'

"Guard: Putting gun to prisoner's head. "Tell him I will blow his brains out if he doesn't tell me immediately.'

"Translator: 'He will shoot you in the head unless you tell him now.'

"Prisoner: 'I buried a million dollars under the floorboards in the old woodshed.'

"Translator: Pauses. 'He says you don't have the guts to shoot him . . . .' "
Making the Connection

A good machine can really lubricate human connection, Waibel reports. When global researchers hit the town after a conference in Japan, they plopped one of his translators down in the middle of the table. A grand old sake-fueled time was had, as they communicated in ways beyond the unaided capabilities of any of them.

But can all our cleverness re-create a Genesis world, in which "the people is one, and they have all one language . . . and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do"?

There's that nagging problem of how much more clever are our flesh-and-blood than our creations. Waibel recalls his family visiting Australia. His 2-year-old son, Joshua, looked out from the hotel lobby at a creature loping across the lawn.

"Kangaroo!" he said.

Waibel's eyes go wide at the very scope of this accomplishment. He's devoted his life to figuring out how to allow machines to make connections among words.

How do you replicate the way a toddler accurately and instantly makes the connection between some cartoon he'd glanced at months ago and an utterly novel real-world situation?

How did his little brain do that? 

Antonio Jose Bacelar da Silva


"Words hurt and words matter." 
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver