Monday, May 25, 2009

Training Students So They Can Leave?

This month's issue of The Lane Report is dedicated to "Kentucky's workforce getting smarter." The feature article discusses how recession is (or isn't) driving students into school and how Kentucky is one of only five states in the nation to have a drop in college enrollment.

What I found more interesting, however, is a table in the back of the issue supplied by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. It lists the number of bachelor's degrees awarded by public colleges in Kentucky by subject. I was very surprised to see that foreign language BA's were up. With an average that had been 95.2 foreign language graduates per year for 1999-2007, the Commonwealth's public colleges awarded 195 foreign language BA's in 2008.

While on the surface, this seems like a good thing, my question is, are we preparing them for nothing? Yes, there is a great deal you can do in Kentucky with a degree in foreign language. In addition to translating and interpreting, you can work in government, social service, tourism, journalism, and the list goes on. The jolly old fall-back I always heard was “You can teach.” And of course, the more successful graduates are always welcome to come apply to work for me. The jobs are there. And while the Kentuckians stepping out this spring to apply for them are, as The Lane Report puts it, getting smarter, is Kentucky?

Today, I lost my interpreting coordinator to Ohio. A talented employee with a true passion for learning, she and her fiance wanted to pursue PhD's and couldn’t get them in Kentucky. I know, I know, you CAN get a PhD in Kentucky. But can you get one in Spanish? Nope. Sorry, Charlie. No PhD’s in Spanish or French or German or in any other language for that matter. Simply put, if you want to learn a language at that level, Kentucky’s universities can't help you. In an economy striving to educate its workforce for survival, one of my best employees is having to leave the state in order to further her education. And now I'm trying to fill a position that wouldn't have even been open if Kentucky had offered my employee the opportunity to learn.

I understand the Commonwealth is doing all it can. I understand you can't be the best at everything. But I also understand that if these 195 students, plus their equivalents from private schools like Centre and Asbury, can't keep learning what they love best, they will learn it elsewhere. This is what smart people do: they go where they can grow.

So, what next Lane Report? Now that Kentucky’s workforce has gotten smarter, what will Kentucky do to keep them?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bob Dylan Thinks We're Cool?

Messing around on Sony's website today, I came up with this little Dylan video. You'll have to let me know what you think:

(I feel it important to add that Mr Dylan has NOT actually endorsed In Every Language in real life. In fact, he probably doesn't even know who we are.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Take My Word for It

See the importance of localization as shared by Dave Vance, the former president of Caterpillar University, which is part of the larger company Caterpillar, the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment:

12th Grader Shapes Translation History?

I don't know if anyone in the Millburn School District (New Jersey) had heard of machine translation before they met Hayden Metsky, but I'm sure they all have now.

According to yesterday's issue of the Independent Press, the local paper there in Millburn, New Jersey--wherever that is, the 12th grade Metsky and his teacher, Paul Gilmore, won an all-expense paid trip to Reno Nevada for the International Science and Engineering Fair. "As a finalist in the North Jersey Regional Science Fair, the preliminary competition for the ISEF, Mr. Metsky and three other students won trips for themselves and a teacher to the finals...He was also a finalist in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search and in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology."

Young Metsky's project? "Improving Statistical Machine Translation Through Template-based Phrase-table Extensions," a title even I don't understand. And, from what I gathered from the Independent Press report, neither did the journalist who wrote the article. Only stating that the project "involves a method of improving translation between world languages [and that Metsky] created software aimed at increasing the accuracy of automated computer translation, called machine translation," the article doesn't discuss Metsky's project itself, only what machine translation is, something most people who care about the topic already know.

I personally would like to learn more about the student's project. Any effort to improve machine translation can only be a good thing, if not for the industry, then at least for the world. And the advancements have got to come from somewhere. To quote Common Sense Advisory guru, Renato Beninatto, a bit out of context, "Nothing will change until we keep trying to out-Trados Trados. Innovation requires paradigm shift to collaboration & real open source." Maybe Mr Metsky, then, is exactly what this industry needs. We grown-ups tend to have our politics, if not our corporate maneuverings, and I think it's really cool, for lack of a better word, that the latest advancement I've heard of has come from some kid in New Jersey.

Not to mention the fact that one of the top prizes in a recent science and engineering competition had to do with translation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Centre College Thinks We're Cool

Okay. Revealing my "goober" side here, I have to share how happy I am to learn that "Translating & Interpreting" has been selected by Centre College as an alumni blog to feature. (The complete list can be viewed here.)

I graduated from Centre in 1999 and there are few things more I seek from this life than to make that College proud.

So, thanks, Centre, for picking me. I think you're pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Civil Rights in Schools: Whose Issue Is It?

Much to my chagrin, I've only recently learned of Horne v Flores, a case that began in Arizona that has now reached the Supreme Court, having been heard on April 20th. In the legal works, so to speak, for 17 years, the case began with an English language learner (ELL) named Miriam Flores who was enrolled in public school in Nogales, Arizona.

According to the SCOTUS website, a group of parents and students filed suit on behalf of Miss Flores and other students learning English, claiming the district had "fail[ed] to take 'appropriate action' to overcome learning barriers for ELL students." In other words, they felt like these children weren't being given a fair shot because they were not native speakers of English.

Whether they were or they weren't treated fairly is now for the Supreme Court to decide, but where my question lies concerning this case is in the legislation that classifies the discrimination.

Citing "specific ELL requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" and the Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1974 (EEOA), the group's attorneys made a strong enough of a case to win in district court. But what I'm wondering in all of this is where's Title VI come into play?

I've spent a good part of my evening tonight looking over the SCOTUS site and reading different reports on the Horne v Flores hearing. To me, if the discrimination happened the way the plantiffs say it did, then we have a clear violation of Title VI, which states that "no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be
denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." So, if these students were discriminated against because of their language (which is certainly linked to national origin) and since public schools do receive federal funding, how does Title VI not apply?

I realize this is a translating and interpreting blog, but when rights are chiseled away in one place, they tend to quickly be chiseled away in another. And Title VI certainly affects translators and interpreters to a profound and notable degree, if for no other reason than it guarantees we'll be required. So, I thought you, my dear readers, might find this interesting all the same.

Tell me what you think. Whose issue is it? Simply that of education legislators or that of the nation's civil rights laws as a whole?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthcare Providers Struggle with Language Support

While reading the ATA Newsbrief of the week, I came across this excerpt from Eliza Barclay's article "Speaking the Same Language" which ran in the Washington (DC) Post on April 21:

The growth of immigrant communities throughout the United States has been challenging for hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers that must negotiate lingual and cultural pitfalls. In the Washington, DC-area, there is a notable lack of language and cultural services in both large physician practices and small primary care clinics. Isabel van Isschot at La Clinica del Pueblo calls the failure to provide an interpreter "a form of discrimination." Immigrants with enough knowledge of English to get by at work may have a tougher time understanding doctors because of medical terminology. The cost of language services is a major issue for doctors and hospitals, who say the government should pay for the services. However, hospitals and physicians who accept federal funds are required to offer language services under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some federal funding for interpreting services is accessible via Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, but only the state of California has made private insurers responsible for providing interpreting services to patients. Proponents say the issue is not a political priority. In Montgomery County, Maryland, Sonia Mora, Manager of the Latino Health Initiative in the Department of Health and Human Services, says language services have significantly improved during the past five years. Montgomery County provides professional medical interpreters to county clinics for free. "Now we're starting to see that it's going to save us money, because people are going to be healthier," Mora says.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Translation error makes Audi look racist

What difference do two words make? A lot, especially if you work in the PR department at Audi. Thanks to a recent translation error, the automobile maker advertised its Audi RS6 V10 biturbo as a bit more racist than racy. Having translated the original German model name as "White Power," the manufacturer quickly apologized, blaming a non-native English speaking PR department for the error.

"Due to a mistranslation of our latest project car - the Audi RS6 V10 biturbo - there were lots of radical right-wing rumors on all different blogs and pages that received our first press report. We distance ourselves from the project title - it was done by our press agency which obviously mistranslated our German project name into English. Furthermore we distance ourselves from anything that has to do with that group synonym and we would also like to say sorry if anyone got personally touched."

Now I'll be honest here and say that I own a translation company, but I don't think you have to have a vested interest to see the clear logic behind hiring professional translators to perform your translations. Translators translate and press agencies handle press, which I'm sure Audi has received a lot of since their error.

And that's my two cents on Audi's two words.