Translation in Transition—Christelle Maignan

Thanks for sharing this very interesting article, Christelle. Yes, embracing change is definitely in our interest if we want to thrive in our jobs! It’s so sad to see so many of us spending so much time and energy complaining about the situation in our profession, but not go any further. It would be so much better if they used this time and energy to develop themselves and discover uncharted territories.

—Fabienne Coupe

A Tale of Two Collaborative Classrooms: Early Success and Follow-on Failure—Steven Gendell

I would like to comment on the experiences you described in your article. I never taught in a classroom myself, but have friends who are teachers or instructors, and they’ve gone through the same disparaging experiences as you—having groups of students so different on matters of previous knowledge, initiative/proactivity, and engagement.

It also seems that the main culprit in that hapless situation was the school when it decided to open up registration to the general public. Right there, it pushed through the window the best chance it had to put together a cohesive group of students.

I can understand the school’s need to make the course financially justifiable, but putting together such a classroom won’t benefit anyone in the long term. Students don’t grow as they should, the teacher is left frustrated, and the school risks having its reputation tarnished.

—Ana Gauz

Translation in Transition—Christelle Maignan

The idea Christelle puts forth in her article—“progress actually follows an exponential trend where the speed of change increases constantly”—immediate strikes me as a bit odd. Why an exponential trend? Why not a parabolic trend, or a trend that follows a power curve of 4.87? Surely such a trend cannot continue indefinitely—of course it can’t.

The idea reminds me of the harsh warnings of the Reverend Malthus in his 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus warned that a supposedly geometric increase in population would hit against a simple linear increase in food production, resulting in inevitable famine and starvation What he ignored is that there are other limits to population growth than death from starvation, as we see in many developed countries where the population is essentially static. Food production does not have to have simple linear growth: we can actually get better at producing more food for the same number of people.

Change is incremental, but that doesn’t mean that there are no limits to the increasing speed of change. Certainly there have been more technological advances in the past 100 years than in previous centuries, but this is not because of some inherent exponential rate law. It’s because we now are spending less and less of our limited resources on staying alive, so we can spend more of those resources on other things, such as technological development. But we can’t spend more than 100%, since there are limits to what can happen. Another limit to the rate of change is the need to transfer knowledge. This will never be 100% efficient, as anyone who has ever taught a child to read will see immediately.

In our own profession, the MT lobby is saying that we all have to use MT because human translators will be redundant in the next 10 years. They’ve been saying that for 60 years now! Certainly MT is getting better, and CAT tools are getting better, but this is an incremental change made possible by the reduced cost of computing power. Now I don’t know when this trend is going to end—not any time soon seems like a good bet—but I know there are limits to the rate of change. It’s like the mortgage brokers who claim that house prices will always rise faster than wages, forever, as if there were no limits—we saw what happened with that one!

In summary, change is not something we can opt out of, not as human beings and not as professionals and business owners. Fortunately, life and evolution have equipped each one of us with a wide range of psychological and social capacities for dealing with this change. Some of us may need outside professional help at some point or other in our lives, but the majority of us won’t. We need to be wary of the doomsayers, both as individuals and as a profession, because the real challenge is identifying which changes are most important for each one of us, not decrying the fact that there is change.

—Nigel Wheatley

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