by Maike Kohler
30 September is International Translation Day. To celebrate this occasion, the Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate chapters of the Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ) organised an after-work event for their members in the Zeughaus at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim. exact! happily accepted the invitation and is pleased to report on this informative and entertaining evening.
First on the agenda was a presentation on Saint Jerome, the patron saint of our occupation whose traditional feast day corresponds with International Translation day. This was followed by a podium discussion weighing the opportunities and risks associated with machine translation (MT). After the content-related portion of the evening, there was time set aside for relaxed conversation and a celebration in the lovely atmosphere of the museum’s Florian Waldeck Hall.
Barbara Sabel, translator for agricultural technology and a mentor in the BDÜ, opened the after-work event with an equally critical and humorous lecture on the relevance of Saint Jerome for the modern translation profession.
Although she did not portray the saint solely as an inspiring role model, Sabel did end by concluding that Jerome is worthy of praise for one very important characteristic: he dared to try something new and was innovative for his time. He was courageous enough to take on the translation of a text as important as the Old Testament. And it is precisely this character trait that the Association of Interpreters and Translators must embody today. Our occupational group needs initiative, innovation, a new image of ourselves as translators. Translators should not let themselves be overwhelmed by the current wave of digitalisation, but must take an active role in shaping their future. This was the topic of the subsequent podium discussion.
The digital age – the transformation – is bearing down on us as translators. Who will be calling the shots in the translation process going forward: people or machines? Which business models will continue to work in the future? How will we have to adjust? These questions were discussed by panel guests Dr Kelly Neudorfer, Deborah Fry, Dr Daniel Falk and Julia Böhm. Simon Diez, translator, interpreter and moderator, confidently led the discussion.
It was clear by the end of the podium discussion: MT is simply a further tool. Translators are not in competition with machines, but with other people who can better operate those machines. Our profession should see MT as an opportunity and get a clear idea both of what machines are capable of and what can still only be covered with sound human reasoning. Then translators will be able to advise their customers on whether using MT for a job is sensible or not. Driving home this point, the discussion concluded with a quote by Stephen Hawking: Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
After these thought-provoking discussions, participants were able to close out the evening by enjoying live music and stimulating conversations. We would like to express our thanks for the successful event and are looking forward to the upcoming 3rd international BDÜ Conference with the motto “Translating and Interpreting 4.0” taking place in Bonn on 22–24 November, where we are excited to continue the discussion around the topic of MT.
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