The Future Still Needs a Pen and Paper - Catarina Fonte

Friday Mar 23   04:15 PM to 05:15 PM (1 hour)
In 1954, on occasion of the birth of the first computer with incorporated translation software, IBM acknowledged in a press release that “the logic required to convert a small segment of two languages requires two and a half times as many instructions to the computer as are required to simulate the flight of a guided missile”. Despite the historical and commercial significance of IBM’s accomplishment, the world was then witnessing the beginning of a realization for linguists and electronics alike: that communication is faster and easier and that the world is better off with an electronic aid to the human brain. Today, worldwide research and technical expertise have shown us that despite being a ubiquitous and mass-accessible tool, machine translation (MT) creates the fleeting illusion that languages are only separated by a calculated combination of computer algorithms. Machines can provide vast amounts of storage but their function is essentially to replace units rather than structures, to make up in speed what they lack in context. Translators are ever-evolving professionals, and just like language they cannot be “contained” nor “finalized”. Their potential for acculturation is as indefinite as the myriad of semantic possibilities of a single word ever in time. In an era where online translation is an unavoidable commonplace, the added value that human beings can bring to their work is to keep strengthening their intellectual core in an environment where machine and man do not clash nor compete but complement each other to bring the best translation that every language deserves. Man builds the machine and the machine builds a more resourceful man. Only the awareness of this equality can create a reasonable and mutually profitable environment where both can serve language, the most complex tool of human communication. 
Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

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