Austin Area Translators & Interpreters Association

Archive for March, 2008

A sceptical view of machine translation

In his article “Computing’s Final Frontiers“, PC guru John C. Dvorak takes a critical look at several technologies (among them machine translation and voice recognition) that, in his opninion, have not and will not fulfill the great expectations associated with them. My favorite quote:

A few gizmos out there can say “Hello, where is the train station?” or “I have a blue pencil” in 40 different languages. But we’re still yearning for a real translation system. Most written translations I see of memos, newspapers, books, and magazines are a joke. Sometimes it is a miracle if you can even get the gist of the text [….] It’s laughable. And this is with the written word, which should be easy to understand. The final frontier with this technology is the gadget that translates what you say and speaks it in a foreign language. I am certain that the smart money has long since bailed out of these types of projects.

  • Filed under: resources
  • The New York Times reports the death of Robert Fagles, translator of the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid.


  • Filed under: milestones
  • IAEA Safety Glossary

    IAEA Safety Glossary

    The IAEA Safety Glossary defines and explains technical terms used in International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards and other safety-related IAEA publications, and it provides information on their usage.

    PDFs of the 2007 edition are available in five of the agency’s six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Russian. The Spanish version is still being translated. The English version is monolingual; the others give English equivalents along with same-language definitions.

    Thanks to Hank Phillips for the tip.


  • Filed under: resources
  • The Ultimate Vista Experience?

    I finally broke down and bought a laptop with the Windows Vista operating system preinstalled. The reason was that my 5-year-old laptop running Windows XP was simply no longer fast enough for the programs I needed to use.

    I specifically chose a machine with Vista Ultimate. Here are the reasons why:

    • Vista Ultimate allows you to download and install language packs that change the interface language (menus, buttons, messages, etc.) of Windows. This is an enormous advantage for translators who often translate computer manuals or localize software. In the past, you could download Microsoft glossaries to find the official translations, but recently Microsoft replaced the complete glossaries with a limited version. Therefore, Vista Ultimate is really useful when you have to translate sentences such as "Click on Start, then Settings, then on Control Panel" into Spanish, or French or German or any of the other 36 supported languages (see a list of features of various Vista versions here).
    • You can switch between interface languages or associates languages with specific user accounts, which is nice in a multilingual household.
    • Another advantage of Vista Ultimate is Ready Boost, a technology that allows you to use a (sufficiently fast) USB stick as "extra RAM".

    So far, my Vista Ultimate experience was better than expected. The laptop recognized my wireless network and connected to the internet without any problems. By default, the operating system is a bit overcautious, constantly asking whether you really want to do this or that…

    Of course I still do most of my work on an XP desktop and have not tried to hook up older peripherals to the Vista machine. Yet sooner or later, Vista will be unavoidable, and when you select your next computer, you might want to consider Vista Ultimate for its multilingual features.


  • Filed under: resources
  • Grammar workshop filling fast

    Only a few places remain in the English-Spanish contrastive grammar workshop, to be presented by Xosé Castro on April 5th. If you’ve been intending to register, but haven’t done so, don’t delay! Contact Laura Vlasman to find out whether there is still room in the workshop.

  • Filed under: learning, SIGs
  • The Yellow Beetle: a localization story

    Localization is a crucial element in the process of translation because it involves the precise understanding of meaning. This is obviously a factor when communicating a message from one language to another. But it also comes into play within languages, for example from one region to another. As in this story about a chance encounter.


  • Filed under: diversions
  • Chinese Color Etymologies

    chinese-yellowThe character etymologies and modern associations for the Chinese words for six common colors that are associative compounds are discussed in a recent COLOURLovers article.

    90% of modern Chinese characters are phono-semantic compounds: they are part semantic (a portion of the character, called a radical, provides the general meaning) and part phonetic (the other portion of the character tells you how it is pronounced). The characters for red, green, blue, and purple in Chinese are phono-semantic (all bearing the radical for silk, ?), but a few color characters are associative compounds: two or more ideographic elements combined to create another meaning.

  • Filed under: diversions
  • Beyond The Letter

    The AATIA will soon cease to publish its newsletter and move all communication to an electronic environment.


  • Filed under: members, milestones
  • AATIA is one of the nation’s leading resources and advocates for the translation and interpretation community. Our mission: to serve AATIA members through education, networking, and promotion of translation and interpretation professions.

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