Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Venturefest Bristol 2011

Translation is sometimes perceived as an ivory tower activity, far removed from the realities of technological innovation and social interaction. But quite the contrary is true: translation is very much grounded in reality and constantly reaches out to the worlds of modern technology, science and business.

This blog article is about a business event which took place right on my doorstep. On 3 November the new Bristol & Bath science park opened its doors to Venturefest Bristol 2011. Organised by Science City Bristol, it brought together local businesses, investors, academics and the business support community, and was promoted as a catalyst for accelerating the growth of new ventures. I instantly knew this was a must-go event: the science park is within walking (or for me cycling) distance from where I live in Emersons Green. Attendance was free, and I made sure I wasn’t overly busy work-wise that week.

It was a flying, but worthwhile visit: I had a good look around, picked up some leaflets and brochures, made a few new contacts, took and gave away business cards – I even had the honour of being shown around the premises by Richard Pitkin, director of the science park Innovation Centre. The Innovation Centre with its hot-desking spaces, high-tech labs and bespoke buildings is a stylish, modern place with a very pleasant feel to it indeed. With economic prospects generally looking gloomy, it was refreshing to mingle with locals and feel that overall sense of business optimism!

The event focussed on demonstrating new business ideas, for example a new piece of software called Poetiks. It was explained to me by its developer Greg Garrad. Poetiks is designed as an e-learning tool for the classroom. It’s a web application that accelerates poem analyses via an easy-to-use interface, taking the tedious, repetitive work out of the analysis process. More information can be found at http://www.poetiks.com/. Funnily enough, poetry, like translation, is sometimes pidgeonholed as an unprofitable art, but this isn’t why I’ve picked out Poetiks for this blog article. (Translation, by the way, is not an unprofitable art.)

I’ve picked out Poetiks for this blog article because of its striking similarities to translation software. Translation software too takes some of the dull, mechanical work off translators’ shoulders. This frees up room for the intricate component of the translation process which requires human intellectual – and often inspirational − input. In general terms, translation software speeds up the translation process by storing previously translated words, phrases and sentences packaged as so-called ‘translation units’.

As I mentioned, translation constantly reaches out to the worlds of modern technology, science and business. Translation and technology are inextricably linked. I’m convinced that translation quality nowadays is better across the board than it was in the pre-internet era. It seems odd to think that such a wealth of research possibilities didn’t exist not that long ago. Translators today work in a very computerised, internet-integrated, highly networked environment. Here’s something that may be worth checking out: one of the latest, intriguing developments is that memoQ 5.0, as the first translation tool to do so, now features an integrated GoogleMT machine translation plugin.