THE MAN OF MYSTERY
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXIS LEVITIN
Alexis Levitin is interviewed by a reporter for a PBS television station about meeting one of America's most famous authors, J.D. Salinger. You can watch the extended interview in two parts on ALTA's YouTube channel. The first encounter took place in 1968 near Dartmouth College, where Levitin was teaching. It was followed by other meetings at the home of the reclusive author high on a hill with no visible access either by road or footpath. The interview is in two parts: Part 1, Part 2.
LITERARY MAGAZINE INTERVIEWS JIM KATES
Jim Kates was featured in an interview in "Subtropics" the literary magazine of the University of Florida and asked to comment on the inspiration behind his translation of a sonnet by Olivier di Magny. The interview ranges through a great many interesting areas and, in fact, engendered a delightful original sonnet. To have a look go to Subtropics.
NEW MODERATOR FOR ALTAlk
Erica Mena has agreed to be the new moderator of ALTAlk. Please come and join the conversation, and thank you, Erica!
MORE COMMENTARY ON MACHINE TRANSLATION
In a follow-up on recent discussion of machine translation and the Google translation program, David Bellos has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times. He describes Google as "a statistical machine translation system, which means that it doesn't try to unpick or understand anything. Instead of taking a sentence to pieces and then rebuilding it in the "target" tongue as the older machine translators do, Google Translate looks for similar sentences in already translated texts somewhere out there on the Web. Having found the most likely existing match through an incredibly clever and speedy statistical reckoning device, Google Translate coughs it up... That's how it simulates - but only simulates - what we suppose goes on in a translator's head. But there are important limitations that users of this or any other statistical machine translation system need to understand...It is not conceived or programmed to take into account the purpose, real-world context or style of any utterance. That's what literary translation is about. For works that are truly original - and therefore worth translating - statistical machine translation hasn't got a hope. Google Translate can provide stupendous services in many domains, but it is not set up to interpret or make readable work that is not routine - and it is unfair to ask it to try. After all, when it comes to the real challenges of literary translation, human beings have a hard time of it, too. See the entire article in the March 20 New York Times.
NEW LANGUAGE APPLICATIONS FROM GOOGLE
According to a March 19 article in The Irish Times, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt demonstrated a new prototype of his firm's visual search application, Google Goggles at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It works with the company's MT technology, Google Translate, to make a smartphone application that can read a foreign language text taken by a camera photo, such as a menu or street sign, and get it translated instantly.
Google has also confirmed that it is working on a mobile speech-to-speech translation application that it expects to become available within a couple of years.Using existing technologies in voice recognition combined with Google Translate, the firm aims to have a system capable of understanding a caller's voice and translating it into something close to the equivalent in a foreign language. But it won't be anywhere near perfect. It is widely acknowledged that, despite recent advances, automated MT is still crude compared to human translations.
To read more, see the Irish Times of March 19.
Director David Bellos in class at Princeton
PROGRAM IN TRANSLATION STUDIES AT PRINCETON
A new certificate program launched by Princeton this fall claims to be the largest, most extensive effort in the country to educate students about the important role that translation plays across academic fields and in cultural understanding. Students pursuing the new certificate can focus on the field of translation through a broad selection of courses in the arts, humanities and sciences, working with faculty from numerous departments. The program includes professors in 17 departments, programs and centers -- from language departments to psychology and physics -- and has attracted certificate candidates who speak numerous languages. For more on this new program, see the April 16 issue of News at Princeton.
ANTHOLOGY - 81 TRANSLATIONS
Volta: A Multilingual Anthology is an unusual anthology containing eighty-two poems in eighty-two languages. Eighty-one of these poems are translations of one poem, the eighty-second. The anthology, which began in issue 9 of ILQ with seventy-five languages is still growing.
As Richard Berengarten writes in his introduction, this project is "a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity". Apart from invoking the pleasure of learning about different languages, the anthology opens up many questions. For example: How many languages could this project extend to? Is translatability a universal feature of language itself? What does 'originality' actually mean? What difference is there between writing and translating a poem? And could the fact that these poems come from all over the world bear out Octavio Paz's claim: "For the first time in our history, we are contemporaries of all humanity"? You can read the current issue of Volta by clicking here.