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Translation in a digital age

It’s hard to avoid translation in our everyday lives. We find translations on food labels and instruction manuals, websites, and TV screens. Switch on the daily news, or turn over a bottle of shampoo, and the chances are the information will have been translated.

In politics, culture and business, translation plays an essential role in our global, inter-connected world. But how is that role changing in a digital age?

Half a century ago, translation was a relatively simple process involving a linguist and their tools of the trade:  dictionaries, pens, paper and a typewriter. Now it’s undergoing a radical change as a result of advances in digital technology and the internet.

Developments in machine translation, crowd-sourcing, translation apps, and free online services are revolutionising the ways we produce and use translations. A Japanese company have even developed a pair of glasses that instantly translates text – a product that seems to belong in a sci-fi film!

Next week, the British Academy will host a discussion on Translation in a Digital Age. They’ll explore how these developments are challenging traditional understandings of translation, and look at the commercial, professional, political and cultural dimensions.

With a varied line-up of expert speakers, it promises to be a fascinating discussion. Sarah Ardizzone, a translator and curator of the Spectacular Translation Machine project at the Southbank Centre, will join Professor Jeremy Munday, of the Univerisity of Leeds and Professor Stephen Pulman FBA of the University of Oxford. The other speakers will be Dr Matt Stuttle of Google, and Lingo24’s very own Director of Machine Translation, Professor Andy Way.

The discussion will be co-chaired by Professor Charles Forsdick  of the University of Liverpool and Professor Andrew Prescott of King’s College London.

The panellists will assess the implications of recent developments in machine translation and other technologies, and how the role of humans in translation is changing. Professor Way will speak about recent improvements in machine translation technology, although he believes human linguists will always play a vital role in the process.

The discussion takes place on Monday 11th November at Carlton House Terrace, London, and is part of the British Academy & Guardian Language Festival. It’s organised in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

And there’s loads more going on in the Language Festival this month, from a photography exhibition celebrating multilingualism in London to an online discussion on the role of languages in diplomacy and security. Check out the full programme.

Want to know more about translation technology and our professional translation services? Get in touch with our friendly team.

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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