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InterpretAmerica Blog

Barry S. Olsen


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Silicon Valley Has Something to Teach Translators and Interpreters

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 7, 2014 12:40:44 AM / by Barry S. Olsen

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Simplicity of use drives the adoption of new technologies. Complexity only drives away potential users. This is as true for translation and interpreting as it is for new technology. 

Earlier this month I had the chance to rub shoulders with some of the most innovative companies in the unified communications and collaboration space, also known as UCC. If you haven’t heard of UCC before, don’t be too surprised. The enterprises and innovators I met at the Wainhouse Research 2013 UC+C Summit, hadn’t really given much thought to language services either, as their video systems and collaboration platforms clearly showed (with the exception of the company I was there to represent).

 This is a disconnect I have come to expect whenever I venture into Silicon Valley and one that interpreters desperately need to remedy to ensure that language services (particularly interpreting) are not left out as these new remote collaboration platforms are envisioned, designed and ultimately rolled out. The good news is that many companies were aware of the growing language needs of their clients and are keen to meet those needs where they can—a good sign indeed.

At the end of my two days in technology wonderland I took away three clear lessons that are directly applicable to language services and interpreting, in particular:
First, simplicity of use drives the adoption of new technologies. Complexity only drives away potential users. This is as true for translation and interpreting as it is for new technology. The simpler we make it for our end users to gain access to and use interpreting the greater our market will be.

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BARRY'S BLOG: Man vs. Machine...Translation

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 7, 2014 12:38:56 AM / by Barry S. Olsen

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Technology is permeating every nook and cranny of the language services space, with mixed results.

For those familiar with American folklore, the name John Henry will surely ring a bell. He worked as a steel driver—a laborer responsible for driving steel drill bits into solid rock with a sledgehammer to make holes for explosives used to blast rock for the construction of railroad tunnels in the late 1900s in the eastern United States. His prowess and productivity were known far and wide and became the stuff of legend.

Until one day, when John Henry came face to face with the latest technological invention of his day—the steam-powered drill, brought to the railroad construction site by a salesman, who then challenged any man to prove he could drill faster than this newfangled contraption.

So why am I recounting a tall tale from American folklore? It’s a fair enough question. Well, it just so happens that the 20th World Congress of the International Federation of Translators (FIT) will take place in Berlin, Germany, August 4-6, 2014. The topic chosen for the latest installment of this triennial international gathering of language professionals is “Man vs. Machine? The Future of Translators, Interpreters and Terminologists.” A prescient title, to be sure, given the flurry of technological innovation surrounding language services and the general sense of uneasiness this innovation is causing among translators and interpreters.

Technology is permeating every nook and cranny of the language services space, with mixed results from the different platforms and solutions being created and with varied reactions from translators and interpreters. The FIT Congress will be an ideal venue for translators, interpreters and terminologists to tackle this existential question for our professions.

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BARRY'S BLOG: Kickstarting the Conversation on Interpreting, Technology and Disruption

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 7, 2014 12:36:33 AM / by Barry S. Olsen

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An open conversation between interpreters and technology providers about disruptive technologies has been long overdue.

Last week I had an unprecedented opportunity to sit down with three digital disruptors who have their eyes trained on making multilingual communication, in particular interpreting, more accessible than ever before. Remote interpreting veterans, Mayel deBorniol, co-founder of BabelverseDan Gatti, VP of Sales at Stratus Video and, Jakob Rohn, CEO ofCapiche.pro, a newcomer to the remote interpreting space, traveled to Reston, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, to share their visions of what remote interpreting can be.

These three were joined by Linda Golley, who manages the interpreter service program at the University of Washington Medical Center. Linda is a technological visionary when it comes to language access and how it will fit in the healthcare paradigm of the future, where patient and caregiver will often not even be in the same room and where pill bottles may well talk to us to tell us to take our medication.

An open conversation between interpreters and technology providers about disruptive technologies has been long overdue. As is the case with any initial conversation, the participants have to get to know one another and share their ideas. So we started with Linda giving her vision of the radical changes in the offing for interpreters in healthcare settings. Then the three remaining panelists gave their vision of where they want to take interpreting, focusing on what makes each of their various offerings unique.

Here are three topics that generated significant interest among our attendees during the panel discussion and ensuing Q&A:

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BARRY'S BLOG: Technology, Translation and Teaching: The Perfect Storm

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 7, 2014 12:34:56 AM / by Barry S. Olsen

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We are living in a time of increased opportunity, competition, competence and communication.

Welcome! I’m rolling out the cyber-welcome mat to anyone interested in multilingual communication, technology or interpreter and translator training. The idea of my very own blog has been growing and maturing in my mind for more than five years now. I have toyed with the idea on numerous occasions and written many posts and articles over the years for professional publications and blogs like the ATA Chronicle, the NAJIT BlogAIIC Communicate! and of course, the InterpretAmerica Blog, but for various reasons the time just wasn’t right to start blogging regularly.

Now that has changed because, as far as I can tell, there is a perfect storm brewing on the horizon. It’s a combination of three important topics that I care immensely about —multilingual communication, education and technology. At the intersection of the three is an area so rich with possibility, so ripe for change and so rife with fear and hand wringing that digital disruption is inevitable. In fact, it is already taking place.

In this equation, the enabler—or instigator, depending on how you feel about it—is technology, namely cloud computing and the digitalization of almost everything. All the buzzwords and acronyms in language services, communications and education stem from it (think, MOOCs, statistical machine translation, BYODUC&CVRI, crowdsourcing and such). The world’s burgeoning digital infrastructure is empowering and providing opportunities to talented individuals around the globe allowing them to obtain education and compete globally, this is especially true for tech-savvy language professionals and teachers.

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