Friday, April 24, 2015

NPIT3 Call for Papers

The long-awaited news of NPIT3 has arrived at last. Here it is. For those of you new to the field, NPIT stands for Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation. We have to be grateful to IUED for picking up the ball and running with it. I've agreed to serve on the advisory committee.

Call for Papers

Institute of Translation and Interpreting (IUED)
Zurich University of Applied Sciences,
5-7 May 2016 in Winterthur (near Zurich), Switzerland

Probably the most widespread form of cultural and linguistic mediation, non-professional interpreting and translation has slowly, after 40 years, begun to receive the recognition it deserves within interpreting and translation studies. Pushing the boundaries of many definitions of translation and interpreting, it encompasses a dynamic, under-researched field that is not necessarily subject to the norms and expectations that guide and constrain the interpreting and translation profession. Even the designation “non-professional” is unclear, referring at once to unpaid, volunteer translation or interpreting and to translators and interpreters without specific training.

NPIT3 provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to discuss definitional, theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues surrounding the activities of non-professional interpreting and translation. Carrying forward the discussion initiated by the First International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation (NPIT1) at the University of Bologna/Forlì in 2012 and continued at Mainz University/Germersheim in 2014 (NPIT2), we invite proposals for panels, presentations, or posters that deal with any theoretical, empirical and methodological aspect of research related to the general theme of non-professional interpreting and translation.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
 Ad hoc translation/interpreting in everyday situations
 Language brokering by children and adolescents for family members and their entourages (oral. written or sign language)
 Other interpreting by children and the development of their ability
 Church and missionary interpreters and translators
 Non-professional AVT and new media (e.g. crowdsourcing, fansubbing, fandubbing, fanfiction)
 Non-professional translation/interpreting in community, health, pastoral or social care
 Non-professional translation/interpreting in crisis situations
 Wartime temporary interpreters and translators
 Interpreting in prisons and between prisoners
 Organization of non-professional interpreting and translation services
 Recruiting and/or training non-professional interpreters and translators
 Professionalization, certification, and para-professionalism
 Interdisciplinary approaches to research into non-professional interpreting and translation
 Mapping the field of non-professional interpreting and translation

The conference language will be English. However, presentations in German, French, and Italian are welcome. To facilitate peer evaluation, proposals and abstracts should be submitted in English.

Submission procedure:
Proposals for panels, individual papers, and posters should be submitted as an attached file (i.e. .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf) to by 30 September 2015. Details about the form of each type conference contribution are provided below.

Panel proposals:
Panels should comprise 3-4 paper presentations given within a 120-minute timeframe and cover one or more of the topics listed above. Panels will be reviewed en bloc based on the abstracts provided by the organizers of the respective panels. A panel submission must include the following:
 an outline of the theme and aims of the panel as well as an appropriate title (including the names, affiliations, and email addresses of the panel organizers)
 a list of invited contributors and/or discussants (including their names, affiliations, email addresses)
 5 keywords that describe the panel (e.g., subject, methodology, theoretical framework)
 an abstract for each contribution to the panel (300 words including references)
Proposals for individual papers:

Each paper presentation will be scheduled for 20 minutes plus 10 minutes discussion. A paper submission must include the following:
 the title of the paper, name, affiliation, and email address of the author(s)
 5 keywords that describe the paper (e.g., subject, methodology, theoretical framework)
 a 300-word abstract (plus references)

Proposals for posters:
A slot in the conference program will be allocated to short poster presentations (max. 5 minutes), and the posters will be on view for the duration of the conference. A poster submission must include the following:
 the title of the poster, name, affiliation, and email address of the author(s)
 5 keywords that describe the poster (e.g., subject, methodology, theoretical framework)
 a 300-word abstract (including references)
All abstracts for panels, individual papers, and posters will be double-blind peer-reviewed and evaluated anonymously by the NPIT3 Advisory Board and local organizers. The submissions will be assessed on the basis of their relevance to the conference theme and topics as well as their theoretical background and research design.

Important dates
Deadline for submission (panels, individual papers and posters): 30 September 2015
Notification of acceptance: 1 December 2015
Deadline for speaker registration: 1 April 2016

Conference information
Registration, fees, accommodation, and venue: available on the conference website in early 2016
Conference chair: Gary Massey
Local organising committee: Michaela Albl-Mikasa, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow, Andrea Hunziker Heeb, Raquel Montero

Image: Winterthur. Source: Wikipedia

Monday, April 20, 2015

Urdu Language Brokering in the USA

It's been quite a while since there was anything on this blog about language brokering in its heartland, the USA. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, language brokering is the interpreting done by the bilingual offspring of immigrant parents for their parents, families and other members of their entourage.) So I hasten to pass on a description that has just been published. It contains a surprise:
"Pakistani-Americans are the second fastest growing [immigrant] group in the United States according to the Pew Research Center, and yet many are unable to fully adapt to their new lives due to a persistent language barrier. Research conducted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice shows over 80% of Pakistani-Americans do not speak English at home, while over 12% suffer from linguistic isolation. Linguistic isolation is defined by the US Census Bureau as living in a household in which all members aged 14 years and older speak a non-English language and also speak English less than 'very well'."
"The Pakistani community faces the challenge of a language spoken rather rarely in America. Or at least perceived by Americans as rare [says one child of immigrants]."
It's at this point that the young language brokers come into their own as essential intermediaries.
"'As an 8-year-old child, I had to accompany my grandmother to the doctor to ensure the doctor could understand her,' [one now adult broker named Pandya says] of her own family's experiences with linguistic isolation. 'That's a huge burden on a child. For one thing, no 8-year-old knows all the medical terminology. I felt I was my grandmother's anchor.'
"Pandya also recalls how many Indian and Pakistani friends of hers helped their parents do the taxes and pay the bills – because the adults had trouble understanding even the most basic instructions. She says the problem can also affect the children's education. Linguistically isolated children are often forced to serve as interpreters at parent-teacher conferences if the schools are unable to provide interpreters. The young people I work with end up acting as interpreters [for their parents],' says Pandya. Imagine you're 15 years old. What are you going to do if you're serving as that intermediary? [Of course] you're going to tell your mom 'Yeah I`m getting straight As.'
"'The specifics of anything tend to do with class,' she says, 'If you are a well-to-do Pakistani immigrant…, you probably spoke English back home… It's more a function of class and language is tied to that.'
'The power dynamic is flipped, says Pandya. 'You are no longer the child, you're the adult now. You're growing up really quickly.'"

Eric Cortellessa. Lost in Translation. Newsweek, 13 April 2015.

Urdu. Wikipedia, 2015.

Urdu calligraphy. Source: Wikipedia.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fit For Purpose

In a paper she has recently revived on (see References), Elisabet Tiselius, citing Grbic, reminds us that there are other ways of evaluating interpretation quality than the traditional one.

So what's the traditional one? It's to chunk the source text and its translation into short segments (translation units), compare them one by one, assigning a score of 'good' or 'bad' to each one (a procedure that is inevitably subjective to some degree), and then add up the scores or else subtract them from 100. Modern alignment software makes this easy.

"Grbic explores the concept of quality as it has been treated in interpreting literature and interpreting studies. She divides the construct of interpreting into different dimensions according to how it is perceived…. Third, quality is defined as something that is fit for a certain purpose, with a premium placed on customer satisfaction and value for money."
What Grbic says about interpreting applies also to written translation.

Here are two examples to illustrate "that is fit for a certain purpose", or for short fit for purpose (FFP). The first has already been recounted on this blog but it was back in April 2010 – Gosh! This blog has been going for five years already! – so I may be forgiven for repeating myself. Back around 1990, a branch of the Canadian government was using machine translation (MT) to translate into French the notices of job vacancies that were posted up each day in government employment centres in English. It was a requirement of the Canadian laws on bilingualism. The MT system contracted to do it was, to say the least, rather primitive, and at one point it became notorious for a classic mistake. The French for man is homme. But Man. (with the initial capital and the dot) is also a standard abbreviation for Manitoba, one of the Canadian provinces. So whenever there was a job vacancy in a town in that province, the location would come out, for example, as Winnipeg, Homme. One day I found myself sitting next to a senior official from the ministry at a conference and I couldn't resist asking him about this. He was piqued to retort:
“The only people who complain about our translations are professional translators and university professors like you. Our clients are happy with them because they get them the same day. If they had to wait even 24 hours while we sent them to the government translation bureau, the chances are that the vacancy would already be filled. And as for Manitoba / Homme, well they soon learn that Homme means Manitoba. For them, our translations serve their purpose.”
The second example is much more recent, in fact from last week. A Spanish student wanted to find articles about how expert translators use their dictionaries. Among the many that Google found for her was one in German and she doesn't know any German. So she ran the title through Google Translate, which gave her:
"Para fundamento técnico-acción de uso del diccionario de investigación."
Apart from the bad grammar of the first part, the latter part of the Spanish is an outright mistranslation. If we compare it with the German
- Zur handlungstheoretischen Grundlegung der Wörterbuchbenutzungsforschung
we see that the translation ought not to be uso del diccionario de investigación (use of the research dictionary) but investigación del uso del diccionario (research on the use of dictionaries). Complex syntax is still a stumbling block for Google Translate and software like it. Never mind. All she wanted at that stage was a confirmation that the article dealt with the use of dictionaries, and she got it. The translation was screwed up yet it was nevertheless fit for purpose.

Incidentally this use of MT to search for relevant publications like needles in a haystack, known as scanning, was one of the earliest applications of MT. In the early 1970s, alarmed by the unexpected success of the Russian Sputnik, the United States Air Force used it at their Wright Patterson base to scan Soviet technical publications. Usefulness for scanning may still be MT developers' best defence against critics of their systems' output.

However, the admission of FFP as a standard of translation leads to another problem. How can we score it and scale it? Unlike the traditional approach, it has no established procedures. The government official implied his own simplistic answer: no user complaints means 100% FFP. But below 100%? Perhaps a solution lies in sounding out customer satisfaction with a one-line questionnaire to be attached to each translation:
"On a scale of 1 to 5 (useless to very satisfactory), indicate whether this translation has met your needs."
Other suggestions welcome.

Elisabet Tiselius. The development of expertise – or not. Three simltaneous interpreters' development over time. 2013. Available for downloading from (

Nadja Grbic (pardon the missimg diacritic on the c). Constructing interpreting quality. Interpretng: International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 232-257, 2008.

Herbert Ernst Wiegand. Zur handlungstheoretischen Grundlegung der Wörterbuchbenutzungsforschung. Lexicographica No. 3, pp. 178-227, 1987.

Elisabet Tiselius.