What do digital technologies and grammar have in common?

Today’s exponential rate of technological change no longer affects our economy and society in a linear manner, digital technologies are now more pervasive and inter-connected. We struggle to keep up with the limitless array of technologies and how best to use them. There don’t seem to be any limits and “even if our devices are switched off, cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when our smartphone is within reach” – Ward et al. (2017) Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity.

James Hewitt, Head of Science & Innovation at Hintsa Performance has suggested that we need to impose limits to our use of technology, a bit like grammar, structure and punctuation impose limits on our use of language and thereby allowing language to maximise its creativity and usefulness. He argues that unless we choose to create limits on our use of technology “our attention will continue to be harvested to the point of exhaustion.”

As translators, we are constantly keeping up with technology – changes in software, the advances of neural machine translation, artificial intelligence, constant emails and more. Thinking about applying “grammar” rules to limit our use digital technologies resonated with me as a language professional as this framework may be a helpful way of thinking for professional translators as they seek to understand and adapt to technology in a manner that supports their work flows and productivity.

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Book review: Found in Translation

Found in Translation: How Translation Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

A book dedicated to translators, gasp! Is this book here to publicly recognise that it is because of us the world communicates? It would seem so. Jost Zetzche, a German translator who has written a doctorate on translation in history and Nataly Kelly, a Spanish interpreter and scholar in sociolinguistics, paint a vivid canvas of just how many aspects of everyday life are profoundly affected by translation. Well researched and presented, Found in Translation reveals the extent to which the products we use and the freedoms and pleasures we enjoy are made possible by translation. Above and beyond world politics and global business, the book is divided into chapters that cover areas as diverse as space travel, legal cases, battlefields, fashion, medicine, terrorism, marketing, the European Union, Ikea, Dr Seuss, the Simpsons, Twitter, Shakespeare, cinema, sport, religion, love, porn, the airline industry, food and more. Each chapter is interspersed with highlighted text boxes that provide examples of funny diplomatic and marketing mistranslations, linguistic facts or quirky stories such as being able to access the ATM in Latin at the Vatican. Read more