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Media translation matters...

Now that translation technology has become more user-friendly, do we still need skilled professionals in other languages rather than their (hopefully) excellent native speakers?

You enjoy watching international programmes, but you want subtitles in your native language. You want to read that best-selling book written in a language you don’t grasp, so you look for alternative solutions. The use of automated instant translation, which is widely available via the Internet, is the easiest way to go.

Now that translation technology has become more user-friendly, do we still need skilled professionals in other languages rather than their (hopefully) excellent native speakers?

Converting a message from one language to another is a key component of mass communication. It has a close relationship with the media and the translation disciplines, ranging from a book to a film to television dramas to novels, news, commercials, video games, and audio-visuals. The interaction of language, translation, and culture is an important aspect of communication.

These services are quick, and mostly free, and can publish an article in as many languages as the publication requires, or desires. Having news, audio-visuals, and other forms of media production in various languages aims beyond the here and now, and can attract tourists and investors.

On the one side, free automated translation services can be highly profitable. However, conveying meaning when using machines from one language to another is not an easy task; machines lack cultural characteristics and communication peculiarities. We have seen some examples in the World Cup 2022, in which language barriers, culture, and interpretation triggered global social media reactions. Though a Translation Memory (TM) database can increase the overall efficiency of a translation process.

Translation plays an essential role in international reporting; for example, take into consideration the play on words, idiomatic expressions, and historical references used in texts and images. Once again, the World Cup 2022 is rich with samples of “memes” highlighting issues in communication with a multilingual audience! The image of a tourism destination can change in a short time. Social media platforms lead the discourse, and language evolves.

Translation is difficult; expressions are not always correctly interpreted, or sentences are not clear. We’ve seen it time and again when a piece of information can be distorted. The translator or the “media officer” displays his or her linguistic ability-or the lack of it- including, (un) knowledge of another culture. The cases of misinterpretation during the World Cup 2022 are a laboratory for media understanding and literacy; the tip of the iceberg!

In “Translation Goes to the Movies,” Michael Cronin highlights how translation is one of the concerns of film-makers in dealing with questions of culture, identity, conflict, and representation. The use of translation machines in movies does not provide cultural context and they can create confusion with idioms or even the use of insensitive words. The human element is essential.

In a multilingual global society, translators, inexperienced journalists, or “media officers” are unaware of “false friends” words or phrases. These are words in the original, as studies refer to them, and often the young journalist or news translator cannot think of a correct version or they lack cultural knowledge. Let us clarify that there are times when unclear messages are intended.

Changing the medium alters the meaning: chameleon convergence. News texts are being adapted to new modes as well as various cultural and linguistic contexts. The way ideas are organized, fragmented, and communicated changes.

There is also the issue of accountability. The best is not to keep some audiences at a disadvantage. There are no longer excuses. However, on top of a lack of responsibility to audiences, there are organisations, and media professionals, that disable the translation option.

Translation activity remains marginal despite its centrality in mass media. In journalism, accountability is fundamental, so those working within the media should bear the onus for accurate interpretation of information.

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