Volume 12, No. 1 
January 2008

  Jost Zetzsche


Front Page

Select one of the previous 42 issues.


Index 1997-2008

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Doing a Hard Job Right
by Kirk Anderson

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Do We Really Need Translation Standards After All? A Comparison of US and European Standards for Translation Services
by Gérard de Angéli
Ethical Implications of Translation Technologies
by Érika Nogueira de Andrade Stupiello

  Translators Around the World
American Translators Association Surpasses 10,000 Members
by Joshua Rosenblum

  In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Rosa Codina
by Verónica Albin
In Memoriam: Dr. William Macfarlane Park
by Andrew Park and Ann Sherwin
In Memoriam: William J. Grimes
by Isabel Leonard
In Memoriam: Leslie Willson

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages — The Punctuation War
by Ted Crump

  Translation Theory
Good Translation: Art, Craft, or Science?
by Mahmoud Ordudary
¿Es la traducción una ciencia o una tecnología?
Macarena Molina Gutiérrez

  Translation Nuts and Bolts
Übersetzung elliptischer Strukturen aus dem Französischen und Portugiesischen
Katrin Herget, Holger Proschwitz

  Translation of Advertising
New Zealand in Translation: Presenting a Country's Image in a Government Website
by Zhao Ning

  Arts and Entertainment
The Contact Between Cultures and the Role of Translation and the Mass Media
by Juan José Martínez-Sierra, Ph.D.

  Book Review
Double the Pleasure: The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine Translated by Norman Shapiro
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.
Review of "The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary" by Robert Alter
by Alexandra Glynn

An Integrated Approach to the Translation of Special Terms with Special Reference to Chinese term lüse shipin (green food)
by Zhu Yubin

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Hindrances in Arabic-English Intercultural Translation
by Adel Salem Bahameed, Ph.D.
Unique Korean Cultural Concepts in Interpersonal Relations
by D. Bannon

  Literary Translation
Chinese Translation of Literary Black Dialect and Translation Strategy Reconsidered: The Case of Alice Walker's The Color Purple
by Yi-ping Wu and Yu-ching Chang
A Study of Persian Translations of Narrative Style: A case study of Virginia Woolf's The Waves
by Somaye Delzendehrooy

  Translators' Tools
Technology and the Fine Arts
by Jost Zetzsche
Generating a Corpus-Based Metalanguage: The Igbo Language Example
by Enoch Ajunwa
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Translators' Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Translators' Tools

Technology and the Fine Arts

by Jost Zetzsche

or those of us who are translators, technology has increasingly become a necessity. Years ago we grudgingly agreed to use word processors, and now we even own TEnTs (translation environment tools). But deep in our hearts we often long for the days that are so well depicted in this image of St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators and, judging by his innumerable appearances on translators' websites, the most revered of our role models.


While St. Jerome's linguistic achievements are beyond doubt (and probably beyond our reach), his image here in his quaint study seems to communicate something else: a highly romanticized idea of translation that has very little in common with our role as modern translators who work in highly computerized environments.

I had a few minutes in the subway today to spend reading in "The Story of Writing" by A. Robinson. This is not a ground-breaking work, but it's a lovely book that nicely outlines the history of writing. (Now that I've outed myself as a lover of writing, check out my sporadic collection of characters.) The number of complex writing systems of the past and present are mind-boggling. Stunning systems like Cuneiform, the Egyptian hieroglyphs, Rongorongo, Chinese and its many descendants, and even alphabet- or quasi-alphabet-based scripts must have felt like insurmountable hurdles to computer developers in the 1980s and early 1990s. At those times it was a struggle to enter one language at a time, let alone several different scripts together on one page. (I remember being given my first DOS-based Chinese data entry system in 1990 in a rather covert operation: it turned out to be an illegal copy of a system that had been developed for the Chinese government and was not supposed to be distributed at all!)

Now fast forward about 15 years to today, when it's possible to view webpages like this:

These different languages that appear on Wikipedia's home page are each represented in their own individual scripts. Just a few years ago most of them could not have been displayed at all because neither the operating systems nor the browser would have supported the code. A few years later, many could have been displayed individually, provided you had the right fonts installed, had your operating system configured to support complex languages, and made your browser display them in the correct code pages. But they could not have been displayed together.

Only very recently have a number of factors converged to make this polyglot page possible: a) current operating systems support complex languages rather seamlessly; b) fonts are available (such as Arial Unicode or Code 2000) that support a large number of "minor" writing systems; and c) most importantly, Unicode has put an end to the need for many different code pages and having to worry about different code pages for different character sets (see a Translation Journal report of the advent of Unicode many years ago). The webpage above is written in UTF-8, the most common form of Unicode for web purposes and, as you can see, the languages are all displayed correctly. Well, almost all. If you look more closely at the listing in the last paragraph you can see one entry with squares. That's Oriya, a font that Firefox struggles with.

So now we come back full circle to the "fine arts" in the title, an image of St Jerome, and technology in general. The point I am trying to make is this: We can frown all we want on technology and the changes it has caused in our work environments. However, while we have spent the last few years frowning, a large array of language processing technologies have come to a point where things are falling into place. While language barriers exist (and we should be the first to welcome that fact!), languages can now live side by side, at least virtually. That's truly fine art, and I can't imagine St. Jerome not embracing that.

Technology bears no value in and of itself, but the effective employment of technology can wield great force, either positive or negative. The above is an example of something incredibly positive. Only by being knowledgeable about technology and by employing it wisely and effectively can we continue to push language technology toward a positive future.