Smart Ways #2: Neural Machines, Harry Potter, Mentoring, and More

From the latest advances in machine translation technology to rate discussions and from mentoring to Harry Potter magic — here are five smart (and some fun) things to do in the coming week.
Smart Ways 2

Publish your translation rates (or don’t)

In an article that’s almost half a year old but still relevant today, writer Samar Owais argues that freelancers should always publish their rates online. Although originally intended for writers, her justification can be applied just as well to translators. Her main arguments are:

  • Publishing your rates online is a declaration of your value as a freelancer.
  • Not publishing your rates means more emails, proposals and custom quotes than needed.
  • Publishing rates changes the conversation from ‘how much do you charge’ to ‘When can you start’.
  • Publishing your rates online gets the most difficult conversation out of the way.
  • Your rates dictate the kind of clients you attract (or don’t attract).

And what do you think, are you for or against revealing your rates to the world? Make sure to speak up!

Get intimidatedspired by neural machine translation

If you remember, around a month ago Google made bold claims about a neural MT engine that provides an output “nearly indistinguishable from human translation.” Now SYSTRAN obviously decided that it should not just stand by idly and pitched its own “pure” neural machine translation engine.

Initially SYSTRAN went even further than the Google guys, stating that their engine’s translations “in some cases can be even better than a human translation.” But it soon corrected the wording, saying that their engine “does not produce translation which is almost indistinguishable from human translation” (gracefully mocking Google in the process).

However that may be, translation technology expert Kirti Vashee made a quick assessment of both tools and concluded that he can “see no big differences in quality” and that “humanity is quite far from human range MT quality at this point in time.”

Still, Mr. Vashee believes that “after a five-year lull in the MT development world and seemingly little to no progress, we finally have some excitement in the world of machine translation.”

And what’s your opinion on automatic translation and the impending “rise of the machines”? Let everyone know!

Find a mentor

I know how hard it can be for someone just starting out as a translator to get on the right track. Can finding someone to mentor you along the way be a solution? That’s exactly the question that was discussed by Dmitry Kornyukhov, Elena Tereshchenkova and Aurélie Perrin during the latest episode of #TranslatorsOnAir.

During the webcast, Aurélie and the hosts discussed the following topics:

  • How mentoring works;
  • How you can find a mentor;
  • What you should pay attention to when choosing a mentor;
  • What you can expect from a relationship with a mentor.

Make sure to watch the replay if you ever find yourself confused about the direction you should take.

And, of course, if you ever find yourself in need of a mentor, drop a line on our community forum — we’ll help you out!

Join a course about translation

Continuing the topic of starting a career in translation, here’s an intriguing course proposed by Cardiff University and FutureLearn. Entitled “Working with Translation: Theory and Practice,” it seems to be not exactly a course for aspiring translators, but rather a way to look on the world through a translator’s eyes.

Quoting the source, “by focusing on the pervasive nature of translation and interpreting, this course will allow you to become a more effective communicator: someone who is aware of the role of languages in a variety of contexts. (…) Who knows – you may even discover your own ‘inner translator’ in the process.”

I can’t say for sure as I haven’t talked to the organizers yet, but it looks like something that is much needed in the translation “industry”: trying to show that translation is a highly creative and exciting craft. And that translators, however resourceful, are professionals and not “resources.”

By the way, if you know of (or provide) any courses/webinars for translators or translation companies, do let us know!

Get enchanted by Harry Potter

Finally, as it’s almost Friday (and we want it to be already Friday so much!), here’s something from a more fun domain. Magic or not, but I’ve stumbled across not one but two translation-related posts about Harry Potter this week. One of them calls the series a “translator’s nightmare,” while the other one comes from none other than the European Parliament! If these facts are not curious enough by themselves, here are five additional curiousities to consider:

  • “The longest book in the series, at 870 pages for the US edition, was originally published on June 21, 2003. Its first official translation appeared in Vietnamese on July 21, 2003.” This means around 30 pages per day — for a literary translation! Think about it the next time you complain about deadlines.
  • “There are more than 16 different unauthorized versions of Harry Potter in Farsi in Iran. As Iran is not a member of the Universal Copyright Convention, editors can admit any foreign versions of the book without having to worry about penalizations.” And you thought your colleague’s pirating Trados was bad?
  • “The books have been translated and adapted into dead languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek in order to encourage children and young people to read and practise these languages.” I wonder how do you say “Wingardium Leviosa” in Latin?
  • “The name Dumbledore (director of the wizard school) was adapted from an old English dialect word for ‘bumblebee’.” Translators in different languages tackled the challenge in different ways, from using the stem “dumb” to going with the word for a bumblebee in the target language.
  • “There are also complete rip-offs of the Harry Potter books, including Harry Potter and the Half Blooded Relative Prince, Harry Potter and the Filler of Big, and Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass, to name a few.” Can’t say for the rest, but, in Tanya’s defense, she is much different from Harry, as we can see from an image search (some pics are NSFW — you’ve been warned!).

That’s it for today — have a great Friday and weekend, and make sure to come back relaxed and refreshed for a smart start of the new week!


About the author

Vladimir "Vova" Zakharov
Hi, I’m Vladimir “Vova” Zakharov, the Head of Community at SmartCAT.

Translation is my profession and my passion, and I’m excited to be able to share it with the amazing SmartCAT community!

Questions? Suggestions? Just tweet us or write to Facebook page!

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