Technology may not replace human translators, but it will help them work better

TALK into your phone in any of the big European languages and a Google app can now turn your words into a foreign language, either in text form or as an electronic voice. Skype, an internet-telephony service, said recently that it would offer much the same (in English and Spanish only). But claims that such technological marvels will spell the end of old-fashioned translation businesses are premature.

Software can give the gist of a foreign tongue, but for business use (if executives are sensible), rough is not enough. And polyglot programs are a pinprick in a vast industry. The business of translation, interpreting and software localisation (revising websites, apps and the like for use in a foreign language) generates revenues of $37 billion a year, reckons Common Sense Advisory (CSA), a consulting firm.

The market is growing, and widening. Translation in continental Europe was once dominated by the “FIGS” (French, Italian, German and Spanish); Japanese, Chinese and Korean were the only Asian languages to speak of. Roughly 90% of online spending is accounted for by speakers of 13 languages, says Don DePalma of CSA. But others are becoming more important, for reasons of both politics and commerce.

The European Union’s bureaucrats now have to communicate in 24 tongues. In Asia once-neglected languages such as Vietnamese and Indonesian matter more as those countries grow. Companies active in Africa regard that continent’s languages as increasingly important. Big software firms like Microsoft find it profitable to localise their wares in small languages like Maya or Luxembourgish. Translation is no longer usually to or from English.

Technology, far from replacing humans, is instead a tool that helps them keep up with surging demand for high-quality translation. “Translation memory” (TM) was the first big useful tool. Since the 1980s translators have been able to dip into vast TM databases containing whole sentences that have already been translated in a given language pair, helping them to speed up repetitive work, such as translating instruction manuals.

“Machine translation” is the next step. Computers learn from huge databases of already-translated text to make ever-better guesses about how to render whole chunks from one language into another. Translators used to scorn this, seeing their human judgment as irreplaceable. Now, says Jiri Stejskal of the American Translators’ Association, it has won respectability.

Technological change has not brought consolidation to a fragmented industry, however. Lionbridge, which has the largest disclosed revenues ($489m in 2013), makes much of its money from services other than translation. Like most of its rivals, Lionbridge talks up technology, but is fairly traditional. The heart of the business is managing projects, acting as a go-between for customers and freelance translators on jobs like managing file formats and locations, client reviews and so forth.

Tedious project-management tasks like these may offer scope for disruptive innovation—perhaps from the translation world’s equivalent of Uber, a taxi app. Software is unlikely to replace the translators, but it could co-ordinate their work with clients more efficiently. Smartling, an American company which seeks to cut out middlemen in this way, has clients including Tesla, an electric carmaker, and Spotify, a music-streaming service.

Jochen Hummel, a pioneer in translation memory, says that a real breakthrough would come from combining software, memory and content management in a single database. But making money may still be tricky. The American tech titan has not tried to commercialise Google Translate. A former executive says the firm experimented with content-management software but “decided to focus on easier stuff, like self-driving cars.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘UAE becoming capital of translation in Arab world’

SHARJAH: The UAE is establishing itself as the capital of translation in the Arab world, said Philip F. Kennedy, associate professor of Arabic Literature and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Comparative Literature at New York University.

“There’s a dearth of translations from Arabic into English,” he said, adding that the project has a focus on pre-modern Arabic texts and making those little-known texts available to English speakers.

He was speaking at a panel discussion at the 3rd Arab Publishers Conference in Sharjah, where internationally acclaimed experts highlighted initiatives that answer the challenges of translation in the Arab world.

Echoing his observation, UAE cultural and media personality Dr Ali Bin Tamim spoke about Kalima, the translation project of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority that he once headed.

“The project worked on supporting the publishing houses and on building relationships with the translators,” he said, adding that the project involved translations from 13 languages and the signing of nearly 1,000 agreements out of which 850 books were already published.

Alexandra Büchler, director of Literature Across Frontiers – a European Platform for Literary Exchange, Translation and Policy Debate, based in Wales, United Kingdom, said that their project aims to support intercultural dialogue through translation.

Büchler added that what is missing is more coordination amongst Arab countries, developing local talent – the translators, a flow of information on who the important authors are and better mobility for translators so that they can internationalise their careers.

Speaking about his experience in the field of Chinese-Arabic translation, Ahmed El Said, director of Bait Al Hikmah for Culture, Publishing, Media and Translation which operates in China, Egypt and the UAE said most of the translation from Arabic is English-centric despite the fact that there are many other widely spoken languages around the world like Chinese.

“Forty per cent of the inhabitants of the world speak either Arabic or Chinese,” he said. He emphasised the important role of governments and gave the example of the Chinese government which has developed a policy to support the translation movement of Chinese books.

El Said said the crisis of translation in the Arab world is summarised in three points: “What do we translate? Who translates? Who reads?” “Translators in the Arab world have a main challenge of translating between two languages that they don’t speak. I translate from Chinese, which is not my mother tongue, into classical Arabic which is not a language that I use on a day-to-day basis,” he said adding that classical Arabic is going through a crisis and must be protected.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Work, in Translation

• The Nature of the Work: Translators and interpreters work fluidly with languages, but their responsibilities differ. Translators work with printed copy. Interpreters specialize in the spoken word and serve as liaisons between two parties, such as a doctor and patient or defendant and attorney. They typically must consider ethical obligations; translators often have to massage copy to make sense of pop culture references. “Being bilingual isn’t enough,” says Judy Jenner, who co-founded Twin Translations with her sister. “We have to shape a message to an international audience.”

• The Pay: Many jobs are free-lance. Interpreters can earn between $15 and $30 per hour, according to Common Sense Advisory, a Boston-based research firm. Translations are paid per word. Ms. Jenner, for example, charges 24 to 27 cents per word, depending on the skill level. Savvy translators can earn six figures per year, says Milena Savova, academic director of the department of foreign languages, translating and interpreting at New York University. Full-time staff at language-services firms earn from $40,000 to $60,000, according to a recent survey from the Globalization and Localization Association, a language-services trade group.

• The Hours: Hours are often flexible. Ms. Jenner, who lives in Las Vegas, says she completes her assignments while lounging by the pool. Her twin sister and fellow translator/interpreter works from Austria. Elizabeth Chegezy, a translator and interpreter in Philadelphia, says free-lancers can work as much or as little as they like. However, she warns that the high-paced role technology plays in the business means some clients will demand unreasonable deadlines. At language-services firms, business hours are the norm.

• The Benefits: Free-lancers are responsible for their own health-care and retirement-savings plans. At language-services firms, traditional health-care packages are common, as are retirement-savings programs.

• Other Incentives: Translators and interpreters can cultivate a specialty in the field—thus leading to higher-paying jobs. Those with a background in chemistry, for example, will be shoe-ins for jobs translating complex documents about chemicals. Ms. Jenner parlayed her M.B.A. in marketing to nab a tourism-related translation job in Vienna.

• Best Part of the Job: For those with a passion for languages it’s a way to flex that muscle for personal satisfaction. Ms. Chegezy enjoys learning different strands of slang from Spanish-speaking countries, from Panama to Mexico. “Languages are an acquired skill for me, and there’s always something new to learn,” she says.

• Worst Part of the Job: Interpreting jobs in the health-care industry can make some squeamish. Ms. Chegezy has seen broken bones and patients vomiting while on the job. In addition, professionals must aggressively look for jobs. “It’s feast or famine,” says Ms. Jenner.

• Education/Qualifications: There are no official certifications required, although several are offered through trade organizations, such as the American Translators Association. A college degree is not required, but most have them. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but other languages are growing, such as Arabic.

• Hiring: Demand for translators and interpreters is expected to increase 24% through 2016, according to the Department of Labor. Joining an industry group such as the American Translators Association, which has its own job bank, can help translators find jobs in both translation and interpretation. The All Language Alliance also connects job seekers and positions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

9 little translation mistakes that caused big problems

Knowing how to speak two languages is not the same thing as knowing how to translate. Translation is a special skill that professionals work hard to develop. In their new book Found in Translation, professional translators Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche give a spirited tour of the world of translation, full of fascinating stories about everything from volunteer text-message translators during the Haitian earthquake rescue effort, to the challenges of translation at the Olympics and the World Cup, to the personal friendships celebrities like Yao Ming and Marlee Matlin have with their translators. Here are nine examples from the book that show just how high-stakes the job of translation can be.

1. The $71 million word 
In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family tried to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but they only spoke Spanish. Translation was provided by a bilingual staff member who translated “intoxicado” as “intoxicated.” A professional interpreter would have known that “intoxicado” is closer to “poisoned” and doesn’t carry the same connotations of drug or alcohol use that “intoxicated” does. Ramirez’s family believed he was suffering from food poisoning. He was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage, but the doctors proceeded as if he were suffering from an intentional drug overdose, which can lead to some of the symptoms he displayed. Because of the delay in treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic. He received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.

2. Your lusts for the future
When President Carter traveled to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired a Russian interpreter who knew Polish, but was not used to interpreting professionally in that language. Through the interpreter, Carter ended up saying things in Polish like “when I abandoned the United States” (for “when I left the United States”) and “your lusts for the future” (for “your desires for the future”), mistakes that the media in both countries very much enjoyed.

3. We will bury you
At the height of the cold war, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech in which he uttered a phrase that interpreted from Russian as “we will bury you.” It was taken as chilling threat to bury the U.S. with a nuclear attack and escalated the tension between the U.S. and Russia. However, the translation was a bit too literal. The sense of the Russian phrase was more that “we will live to see you buried” or “we will outlast you.” Still not exactly friendly, but not quite so threatening.

4. Do nothing 
In 2009, HSBC bank had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to repair the damage done when its catchphrase “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in various countries.

5. Markets tumble
A panic in the world’s foreign exchange market led the U.S. dollar to plunge in value after a poor English translation of an article by Guan Xiangdong of the China News Service zoomed around the internet. The original article was a casual, speculative overview of some financial reports, but the English translation sounded much more authoritative and concrete.

6. What’s that on Moses’s head?
St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators, studied Hebrew so he could translate the Old Testament into Latin from the original, instead of from the third century Greek version that everyone else had used. The resulting Latin version, which became the basis for hundreds of subsequent translations, contained a famous mistake. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai his head has “radiance” or, in Hebrew, “karan.” But Hebrew is written without the vowels, and St. Jerome had read “karan” as “keren,” or “horned.” From this error came centuries of paintings and sculptures of Moses with horns and the odd offensive stereotype of the horned Jew.

7. Chocolates for him
In the ’50s, when chocolate companies began encouraging people to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan, a mistranslation from one company gave people the idea that it was customary for women to give chocolate to men on the holiday. And that’s what they do to this day. On February 14, the women of Japan shower their men with chocolate hearts and truffles, and on March 14 the men return the favor. An all-around win for the chocolate companies!

8. You must defeat Sheng Long
In the Japanese video game Street Fighter II, a character says, “if you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” When this was translated from Japanese into English, the characters for “rising dragon” were interpreted as “Sheng Long.” The same characters can have different readings in Japanese, and the translator, working on a list of phrases and unaware of the context, thought a new person was being introduced to the game. Gamers went crazy trying to figure out who this Sheng Long was and how they could defeat him. In 1992, as an April Fools Day joke, Electronic Gaming Monthly published elaborate and difficult to execute instructions for how to find Sheng Long. It wasn’t revealed as a hoax until that December, after countless hours had no doubt been wasted.

9. Trouble at Waitangi
In 1840, the British government made a deal with the Maori chiefs in New Zealand. The Maori wanted protection from marauding convicts, sailors, and traders running roughshod through their villages, and the British wanted to expand their colonial holdings. The Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and both sides signed it. But they were signing different documents. In the English version, the Maori were to “cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty.” In the Maori translation, composed by a British missionary, they were not to give up sovereignty, but governance. They thought they were getting a legal system, but keeping their right to rule themselves. That’s not how it turned out, and generations later the issues around the meaning of this treaty are still being worked out

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Clearing up the Top 10 Myths About Translation

Translation has an impact on virtually every aspect of society, politics, and economics, but how much of what you know about translation is really true? You might be surprised to learn that translation is a highly diverse and complex market — and one that’s bigger than you might think. Here are ten of the most widely held myths about translation:

1. Translation is a small, niche market. The global market for outsourced language services is worth more than US$33 billion in 2012. The largest segment of the market is written translation, followed by on-site interpreting and software localization. The vast majority of these translation services are provided by small agencies — there are more than 26,000 of them throughout the world. These companies coordinate translation projects in multiple languages simultaneously, often involving many different file types, processes, and technology tools. The words themselves are translated and interpreted by the hundreds of thousands of language professionals scattered all across the globe. Many translators and interpreters also have direct clients, but most are freelancers whose work comes from agencies.

2. The need for translation is fading away. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 83,000 jobs for interpreters and translators by 2020 in the United States alone. This job market is expected to grow by 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, significantly higher than the average of 14 percent for all professions. Data from Common Sense Advisory shows that globally, the market has a compound annual growth rate of 12.17 percent.

3. Most translators translate books; most interpreters work at the United Nations. Literary translation and conference interpreting are two of the most visible specializations, but they actually represent very tiny segments of the market at large. Who are the biggest translation spenders? Military and defense agencies spend the most on translation, with the United States routinely spending billions on language services for defense and intelligence initiatives. On the commercial side, some of the largest segments of the translation market are manufacturing, software, health care, legal, and financial services. As a result, freelancers often work in these specialty areas — as financial translators, medical interpreters, legal translators, and court interpreters.

4. Any bilingual can be a translator or an interpreter. The ability to write in English does not make a person a professional writer. The ability to speak English does not make a person a professional speaker. Likewise, the ability to write or speak two languages does not mean that a person can translate or interpret. Plenty of people who are perfectly fluent in two languages fail professional exams for translation and interpreting. Why? Being bilingual does not guarantee that a person will be able to transport meaning from one language and culture to another without inflicting harm in the process. Most translators and interpreters are highly educated, with advanced degrees and training in either translation, linguistics, or a specialty field. Also, while not mandatory, professional certifications are widely recognized and strongly encouraged. In the U.S., translators are certified by the American Translators Association, and a variety of certifications exist for interpreters.

5. Interpreters and translators do the same thing. The all-encompassing term that the general public uses to refer to language professionals is “translators,” but the reality is that translators and interpreters have very different job skills. Translation refers to written language, while interpreting refers to spoken language. Translators must have great writing skills and training in translation, but they must also be adept at using computer-assisted translation tools and terminology databases. Interpreters, on the other hand, have to develop their short-term memory retention and note-taking skills as well as memorizing specialized terminology for instant recall.

6. Translators and interpreters work in more than two languages. One of the most common questions translators and interpreters are asked is, “How many languages do you speak?” In reality, many translators work in only one direction — from one language into another, but not in the reverse. For translators and interpreters, it is better to have in-depth knowledge of just two languages than to have surface-level knowledge of several. Why? Of approximately one million words in English, the average person uses only 4,000 to 5,000 words on a regular basis. People who are “educated” know between 8,000 and 10,000 words. The professions with the widest vocabulary, such as doctors and lawyers, use about 23,000 words. Interpreters and translators who work for these specialized professions often use this kind of advanced technical vocabulary in two languages. Some translators and interpreters do work in more than one language combination — for example, conference interpreters often have several “passive” languages that they can understand. However, translators and interpreters are not usually hyperpolyglots.

7. Translation only matters to “language people.” The need for translation crosses both the public and private sectors. In the business world, executives at companies of all sizes are beginning to recognize that translation is a pathway to enabling more revenue and entering new markets. A recent study found that Fortune 500 companies that augmented their translation budget were 1.5 times more likely than their Fortune 500 peers to report an increase in total revenue. Also, government bodies are increasingly taking an interest in translation. Indeed, even those involved in development and non-profit work need to pay attention to translation. A report on translation in Africa conducted for Translators without Borders in May 2012 showed that greater access to translated information would improve political inclusion, health care, human rights, and even save lives of citizens of African countries.

8. Crowdsourcing puts professional translators out of work. As online communities have become more popular, so has something called “crowdsourced translation.” This phenomenon typically emerges when online community members get excited about a product and want to use it in their native languages. Sometimes, these customers and fans even begin creating their own translations and posting them in user forums. Instead of leaving their customers to pontificate on the best translations amongst themselves, smart companies are giving these communities the ability to easily suggest their translations. Are companies harnessing the work of these volunteers to obtain free labor? Actually, as the research shows, saving money is not a primary motivation — setting up these kinds of platforms can cost companies more time and money than just paying for traditional human translation. They typically pay human translators and translation companies to edit the group-translated content anyway, but they believe the collective approach gives power directly to customers and users, enabling them to have a say in which translations they like best.

9. Machine translation is crushing the demand for human translation.
The opposite is true. Machine translation is actually expanding the demand for human translation and fueling the market at large. How? Machine translation — especially the free online kind — serves as an awareness campaign, putting translation squarely in front of the average person. Translating large volumes of information is never free — it comes at a cost, even with machine translation. Machine translation technology and related services make up a tiny percentage of the total translation market. Of course, machine translation can achieve some feats that humans cannot, such as quickly scanning large bodies of text and provide summaries of the information contained within them. However, as with most technologies, humans are needed to use machine translation intelligently. As Ray Kurzweil points out, technologies typically don’t replace whole fields — rather, they more often help fields to evolve.

10. All translation will someday be free. The translation and interpreting industry adds tens of thousands of new jobs to the global economy each year and there is no slowdown in sight. Translators and interpreters are extremely important members of this industry — in fact, they are the very heart of it. However, much like other professional service industries, the translation industry also relies on countless other professionals: project managers, account managers, vendor managers, production managers, schedulers, trainers, quality assurance teams, proofreaders, desktop publishing professionals, engineers, product managers, salespeople, marketers, technicians, and even people who work in procurement, human resources, billing, and IT. Research from Common Sense Advisory shows that demand for translation is outpacing supply — so if anything, human translators are becoming even more important. However, they are part of a much larger ecosystem, one that keeps global business churning and international communication flowing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The battle of the translators: man vs machine

Once, machine translation was only possible in a galaxy far, far away — from Star Trek’s Universal Translator to Hitchhiker’s Babel Fish. But now that Microsoft’s Skype Translator enables callers speaking different languages to converse in real-time via machine translation, that science fiction fantasy has become a non-fiction reality. But in the battle of the translators, who wins — man or machine?

Skype’s new translator is an impressive technological feat that is able to take spoken words, convert them into text, translate the text, and then synthesize it back into spoken words in the language of the person on the other end of the call, all in a fraction of a second. All-in-all a platform that will be enormously helpful for breaking down barriers and enabling business and social conversations across the planet — If you haven’t tried it, find a Spanish-speaking friend and check it out. You will be muy soprendido.

Yet, with the growing globalization of business and commerce, many of whom struggle to communicate with customers, officials, employees and partners in foreign markets, comes a burgeoning demand for high quality translations. Couple that with the fact that consumers have proven time and again that they are far more likely to buy when a website or e-commerce platform is tailor translated into their native tongue, and the need is unmistakable.

Anyone who has tried to read a Google Translated article knows that machine translations still don’t entirely get things like context, colloquial and nuance. This hysterical rendition of the hit song “Let It Go” — where the lyrics were Google Translated into another language and translated back into English (“Lit white snow on the mountain tonight/ no visible legs/Discrimination Law/is probably the queen….”) — makes this point crystal clear.

Having your message lost in translation is often comic, but it can also be downright embarrassing. Take the case of Sajid Javid, the British Economic Secretary to the Treasury (similar to Secretary of the Treasury), whose title was quite literally translated to a visiting Japanese delegation as “Cheap Typist”. And of course, it can go beyond funny and awkward, it can actually do damage to your business. Just ask Pepsi, which, when introducing their product to the Chinese market, used the slogan “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation”, which was translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” (a promise Pepsi could never deliver on).

In short, when localizing your website or marketing materials for foreign speakers and markets, you best make sure nothing is getting lost in translation.

The Skype Translator, with its advanced machine learning, will no doubt get better with time, but still has a long way to go to match the level of accuracy, creativity and flair for language of a professional human translator.

So, while machine translations may be great for rudimentary translations or even video calls, professional human translators are expert craftsmen, linguists, wordsmiths and proofreaders all wrapped in one. In addition to possessing cultural insight, they also are better editors who shape and perfect a piece for better public consumption, guaranteeing a level of faithfulness to the original document — a skill that not even the most cutting-edge machine translation technology is capable of doing just yet.

Machine translators are simply not yet at the level of their chess-playing counterparts, which can beat humans at their own game. As long as automatic translators lack the self-awareness, insight and fluency of a professional human translator, a combination of human translation assisted by machine translation may be the optimal solution.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

7 times the Onion was lost in translation

On Sunday, Jack Warner, now a member of Parliament in Trinidad, released a video statement in a bid to defend himself from bombshell allegations of corruption during his time as a vice president of FIFA. In his video, Warner asked how he could be “responsible for any perceived culture of FIFA” and how Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, could have been reelected if FIFA was so bad.

But then, Warner stopped to make his most dramatic point. “And then I look to see that FIFA has “frantically” announced 2015 — 2015, this year — this year, Olympic final, and the World Cup begins May 27.”

Warner was holding up a printout of an article from the Onion titled: “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States.” As most American readers will know, the Onion is a satirical publication. This article was a joke. The U.S. is not hosting the World Cup in a few months’ time.

After Warner’s mistake became apparent, the video was swiftly taken down and, a few hours later, replaced by another video with all reference to the Onion removed. It was too late, however.

Ex-FIFA official Jack Warner defends himself by citing article from the Onion
Play Video1:37

Embattled former FIFA official Jack Warner released a video in which he raised questions about why he had been singled out, but he cited an article from the Onion in his defense. (Jack Warner/Independent Liberal Party)

It’s certainly an embarrassing mistake for Warner to make, but he’s far from the first person to make such a gaffe. Since its foundation in 1988, the satirical publication has been taken seriously by people all over the world. It seems that sometimes, satire just doesn’t translate internationally.

So, here are six of of the other examples of the Onion convincing foreign readers that America is even more weird than it actually is.

A Chinese newspaper reported that lawmakers were threatening to pull out of Washington unless they get a new Capital with features like a “retractable rotunda.”

In 2002, the state-run Beijing Evening News published an article based upon the Onion’s “Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built.” While the Beijing Evening News originally refused to run a retraction, even challenging Western reporters to prove that their article was wrong, it later offered a printed apology to readers.

“Some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them, with the aim of making money,” the apology read. “This is what the Onion does.”

A Danish TV station reported that Sean Penn had written a 1,900-word open letter to The Washington Post to find out who had registered “” before he could.

The Web site of TV2, a major television station in Denmark, published an article in 2006 based on an Onion article that said actor Penn had written to The Post and threatened “a certain inconsiderate a——” who had taken his name for the e-mail address.

“It is difficult to decide who is most ridiculous,” the article concludes. “The person who believed that he could go be Sean Penn on the Internet, or Sean Penn who is trying to create an email address with his own name.”

Two Bangladeshi newspapers reported that Neil Armstrong had admitted that the moon landing was fake.

Both Daily Manab Zamin and New Nation picked up a story published by the Onion, titled “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked,” in 2009 without realizing it was satire.

“We thought it was true so we printed it without checking,” associate editor Hasanuzzuman Khan told the AFP news agency after his paper apologized for the error. “We didn’t know the Onion was not a real news site.”

A former Singaporean MP posted an article to her Facebook about Obama not wanting another term.

Lim Hwee Hua posted “Obama Openly Asks Nation Why On Earth He Would Want to Serve For Another Term” to her Facebook page in 2012, apparently not realizing it was satire. “Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama’s campaign strategy might be,” she wrote in a comment, according to screenshots.

The post now appears to be deleted.

Iran’s official FARS news agency republished a fake poll published in the Onion that said rural whites preferred then-Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Obama.

FARS apparently not only took the Onion’s 2012 article “Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama” as fact, they also took it word-for-word and republished it, plagiarizing a satirical article in the process.

The Onion later added a line to the bottom of their article: “For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization, Fars.”

A Chinese state newspaper ran a 55-page slideshow of pictures of Kim Jong Un after the Onion named him sexiest man of the year.

China’s People’s Daily apparently took the Onion’s “Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion‘s Sexiest Man Alive For 2012” seriously and, in a bid to get their own spin on the news, published 55 photographs of the North Korean leader on their Web site.

Remember, we get fooled too.

Before American readers get too comfortable, it’s worth pointing out that Americans have been fooled by the Onion’s stories, too: For example, in 2012 Republican Congressman John Fleming posted a link to an article on the Onion about an $8 billion Planned Parenthood “Abortionplex” to his Facebook page.

And it’s not just home-grown satire that dupes us. Remember the story of Kim Jong Un feeding his uncle to a pack of dogs? That story was eventually sourced back to a satirical Chinese Weibo account.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Karolinska releases English translation of misconduct report on trachea surgeon

The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm today released its English translation of a report critical of surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, famous for transplanting tissue-engineered tracheae into more than a dozen people. The report concludes that Macchiarini committed scientific misconduct in publications describing the results of several of the transplants. Karolinska, where Macchiarini is a visiting professor, commissioned the external inquiry after allegations arose in August 2014.

The investigator, Bengt Gerdin, professor emeritus of surgery at Uppsala University, examined six papers about the patients and one on animal tests of the procedure and found multiple problems that he deemed serious enough to constitute misconduct, including inaccurate descriptions of the condition of patients at the time of publication and stating that ethical permission had been obtained for the work although there is none on record. The report, submitted to the Karolinska vice chancellor on 13 May, concludes that Macchiarini “bears the main responsibility for the publication of false or incomplete information in several papers, and is therefore guilty of scientific misconduct.”

Macchiarini has disputed the allegations, but he told ScienceInsider that he could not comment further until Karolinska Vice Chancellor Anders Hamsten issues his decision on the case. That is expected sometime in June.

Macchiarini and his colleagues attracted widespread attention by developing a technique intended to help patients whose tracheae were badly damaged by cancer, injury, or birth defects. They designed a polymer scaffold, which is seeded with the patient’s stem cells to construct a replacement trachea. The stem cells are supposed to grow over the scaffold and eventually develop into a living organ.

Misconduct alleged

The allegations of misconduct came from four researchers at the Karolinska Institute and the affiliated Karolinska University Hospital, where three transplants took place. The four critics—who co-authored several of the controversial papers—say they became concerned in the fall of 2013 when they learned of serious complications in the first patient to receive an artificial trachea at Karolinska. (They say they were not involved in the care of that patient after the initial surgery in 2011. He was treated at a hospital at Karolinska’s Huddinge campus, 25 kilometers from the critics’ primary location in Solna.) When they looked into the case records of the patients operated on at Karolinska, they concluded that the papers failed to mention the serious complications the patients had suffered, and ultimately asked Karolinska to investigate.

In particular dispute is a paper published in December 2011 in The Lancet. It claims that, 5 months after surgery, the recipient, a 36-year-old graduate student, had no complications and the graft was showing early signs of tissue growth. However, there are no clinical records of the patient’s status 5 months after surgery, Gerdin points out; the available clinical data in the records were from August, 11 weeks after surgery. In November, several weeks after the paper was accepted but before it was published, the patient was readmitted to Karolinska with complications that ultimately required a stent to keep his airway open. The engineered trachea had significant problems, the critics say in their complaint, but Macchiarini did not notify The Lancet. Nor did he mention the complications in a Lancet review paper published 3 months later. That paper says that the graft was in good condition 8 months after surgery.

Allegations disputed

In his initial written response to the accusations, Macchiarini denied any misrepresentation. Philipp Jungebluth, an assistant professor at Karolinska who was recruited with Macchiarini as a postdoctoral researcher, also maintains that all the papers in question are accurate. Both he and Macchiarini say that the complications that arose after the paper was accepted were not relevant, because the article was intended to provide a clinical snapshot. Jungebluth says that despite the complications, the patient did well for at least a year after his initial surgery. He finished his studies and had a second child after the transplant, Jungebluth notes. All the patients who received artificial tracheae were complex medical cases who had no other options, he says, and post-transplant complications were to be expected.

The four physicians who reported concerns about Macchiarini also alleged that he did not get proper authorization from an ethics review board for the surgeries and failed to get informed consent from the patients. Such issues fall under Swedish health care law rather than scientific misconduct regulations, Gerdin says, so his report did not pass final judgment on those allegations. The Swedish Medical Products Agency referred the case to a prosecutor earlier this month.

Second investigation

A separate investigation by Karolinska’s ethics council into allegations of misconduct brought by Pierre Delaere, a surgeon at UZ Leuven in Belgium, was completed in April. Delaere, who has developed a different method for replacing a damaged trachea, has long criticized Macchiarini’s work, saying that his papers do not reflect the true condition of the trachea recipients. The ethics council report concluded that Delaere’s complaints were either due to a difference of opinion or were too vague to be substantiated. Gerdin says he does not disagree with that report. The allegations brought by the Karolinska researchers were more concrete, Gerdin says, and addressed specific discrepancies between patient records and published papers.

Gerdin’s report says Macchiarini bears the primary responsibility for the misconduct. However, he also faults the Karolinska Institute for failing to anticipate that Macchiarini’s surgeries would need clear ethical oversight and the co-authors for signing off on papers that were inaccurate.

Macchiarini and the researchers who brought the complaints have 2 weeks to comment on Gerdin’s findings. Vice Chancellor Hamsten will then decide what action to take, a Karolinska representative says.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Language Translation: What Global Companies Should Know –

Imagine having your company’s press release read worldwide, or doing business with prestigious overseas clients. Your small business may not be there yet, but thanks to an increasingly global economy, those dreams are becoming a reality for many companies.

As the business world continues to go global, the need for language-translation services is greater than ever. Translation experts shared their thoughts on the latest industry trends and what international businesses need to know.

Businesses have many different motivations for translating content for international audiences. It may be to facilitate an overseas business partnership, or to expand their market reach and sell to global consumers. But regardless of the reason, businesses are becoming more particular about which pieces of content they put energy into translating, and for whom. [The Best Business Translation Services]

– See more at:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting lost in the translation

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”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment