Language facts: Greek

The Greek language (or Modern Greek or Hellenic as it is sometimes called) belongs to the Indo-European language family and is the continuity of Ancient Greek. Both languages share almost the same alphabet, grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Latin language and all the Latin-derived languages were influenced by Ancient Greek.

Nowadays Greek is spoken by over 17 million people around the world, mainly in Greece but also in the U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, etc. A dialect of Greek (Greek Cypriot) is also spoken in Cyprus. Greek is the official language in Greece and Cyprus as well as an official EU language. 

LANGUAGE OF THE ANTIQUITY

Greek is the language that in it's own way has helped to define today's Western culture. Not only is it the oldest recorded living language in the world (written down in clay around 1450-1350 BC), but it is also the core of Ancient literature and knowledge, such as Homer's epic poems Illias and Odyssey, Platonic dialogues, the entire work of Aristotle, even the New Testament – all were written down in Greek. During the time of the Antiquity, Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean and together with Latin (then the language of Romans who competed and eventually overcame the Greeks) it has been the subject of an entire discipline of studies, the so called Classics. 

ALPHABET

The Greek alphabet is considered to be the earliest European alphabet (since about 9th century BC). Greek language and it's ancient forms used in fact three writing systems in the course of history – Linear B (a set of 87 syllabic signs and more than 100 ideographs that signify objects and it is believed these ideograms had no phonetic meaning), Cypriot syllabary – closely related to Linear B, but abandoned during the Classical era to be replaced by today's Greek alphabet (current variant is the so-called Ionic). 

Today's Greek writing system has 24 letters, whereas English has 26. 

 

Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω 

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Demystifying machine translation: Do translators need to worry?

"See translation". Two increasingly visible words in the digital environment. Whether it's about built-in machine translation (MT) apps and gadgets in social media, browsers, or even the soon-to-be-available wireless earplugs connected to smartphones that translate human speech as we speak, machine translation is all around us. Machines are learning and improving exponentially, and attentive translators could be increasingly bothered by the fact that some mystical Joe Bot takes over their potential income. There are a few reasons, why translators don't (yet) need to worry about their remote future and well-being. Not just for general or Shakespearean style translation, but also many other fields.

Three reasons favoring human translators

  1. Machines think logically, while human language is not logical.

Global human language as a generalized form of any human communication is like an organism. It's highly complicated, imperfect, evolving and even somewhat illogical if the intention is to to rewrite and transfer the written word into the rigid, binary world – ergo the language of machines. Over seven billion people with various historical and cultural backgrounds have accumulated such a vast number of fuzzy content to deal with that even with increasing computing capacity and advanced artificial intelligence, today's MT solutions are still unable to deliver satisfying results.

  1. MT discriminates.

The more "logical", in-use and exception-free a language is (English and Spanish are good examples), the closer it gets to the thinking, or processing, of MT bots. Frankly, sometimes it's rather disturbing how accurate MT gets with translation into English, but the more complicated rules and exceptions and illogical nuances a language has, the more desperate results the translation apps return. Eventually, it's always the human brain that puts the pieces together and one can probably conclude that the less narrower  your language focus is, the longer you can laugh at what Google and other service bot translators deliver, albeit with some exceptions.

  1. MT can slow down the translation process.

Simple, short segments, mainly of general text and even technical stuff, constitute an area where MT can be very helpful if the work-flow of the translation environment is well designed. With well-prepared translation resources, MT can save time for  translators as it can correctly translate a fair deal of content. However, the "fair deal of content" – of course depending on the language – really does not make up (based on our internal data and experience) much more than about 10-15% of the overall text mass. Longer segments are still a challenge for translation engines, and often they deliver unintelligent results that can take a lot long for a translator to straighten out than simply translating such segments from scratch.

Together with translation memories and glossaries, translators have an arsenal of content at their disposal, which of course can help but this can also distract and cause loss of time when the translator tries picking his/her best options among all given resources. Decision paralysis, or work obstruction for lack of a better word, are well-known to translators working with MT.

They need to make numerous decisions for each and every text segment they work on: which fuzzy match would be best for the segment, is the machine proposal acceptable, does glossary proposals interfere, is grammar correct, etc.?

Summing up, we have a paradox where certain types of work-flows with MT intended to speed up the translation actually does the contrary and slows down the process as a result of overinput, human hesitation, a quest for perfection and vagueness and inconsistency that a human trained translator has learned to avoid. 

The main argument talking against MT is the way we interact and think. Yes, machines can beat the human brain in terms of volume and sheer processing power, but until MT actually becomes able to reflect human intuition, work flexibly and with an ability to improvise, impress and excel, real quality – which is what matters most in translation – namely the art of translation will still rest with us humans.

Future of MT

The question then is if there is a future for machine translation. The answer is a definite Yes. It will without doubt become a valuable tool to professional translators working in scientific fields. Once we learn to tame the output and recognize the short-comings, there is a good chance it can boost productivity.

Language facts: Slovak

Slovak, also known as Slovakian, is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages (together with Czech and Polish). The language is very similar to Czech and the two are mutually intelligible, with the exception of some dialects in East Slovakia that have structural differences and is hardly comprehensible to those familiar with the official version. 

Slovak has been influenced by many languages, including Czech, Polish, German and Hungarian. It's the official language in Slovakia and Vojvodina (in Serbia), as well as an official EU language, with over 5 million native speakers in Slovakia and small minorities in the USA, Czech Republic and Serbia.

Language – a tool of failed revolution

Slovak is a descendant to Proto-Slavic language, from which it started to differ around the 8-9th century after inhabiting today's area of Slovakia. In 863, the first script – the Glagolitic alphabet – was used to write down the "Old Slavonic" (language of Slovene – the Slavic inhabitants of the area) after the arrival of Constantine and Methodius (brothers and Byzantine theologians and inventors of the script). The brothers even pushed through Old Slavonic as the fourth liturgical language. This was however abolished in 885 and the area got back to using latin script.

Slovak was not constituted until the middle of 19th century and its codification itself marks the era of a strong national movement against former Hungarian supremacy. In the European revolutionary years of 1848-1849, the group around protestant literate Ľudovít Štúr promoted the use of Slovak language in their publications and engaged in the nationalistic brawl (which was logically followed by reprisals from Hungarian government). After Austria-Hungary was established in 1867, the government forced a strong Magyarization including conversion of all Slovak schools (from elementary to universities) to Hungarian, while Slovak language was allowed only as a foreign language with very limited extent of one hour per week. Slovak language was not officially recognized until 1918, when Czechoslovakia was established.

Alphabet 

Slovak uses the Latin alphabet with diacritics. It is a common practice to change the spelling of foreign words into Slovak to establish a new Slovak word (e.g. weekend = víkend, dubbing = dabing, etc.).

 

A Á Ä B C Č D Ď Dz Dž E É F G H Ch I Í J K L Ľ M N Ň O Ó Ô P Q R Ŕ S Š T Ť U Ú V W X Y Ý Z Ž

a á ä b c č d ď dz dž e é f g h ch i í j k l ľ m n ň o ó ô p q r ŕ s š t ť u ú v w x y ý z ž

Brexit and translation industry: What's next?

Somehow over the past decades, we have become used to increasing interaction of nations and cultures and some things seemed almost certain. Such as the common European market and its focus on tearing down existing barriers. By June 24th, the (business) world got shocked by the decision of a narrow British majority to leave the European Union. What does it mean for the translation industry?

Today, it's hard to predict anything. But as global translation business – estimated to be worth USD 38 billion in 2015 by CSA Research – thrives from multinational interaction and global as well as European business growth, a USD 1.4 billion translation market aiming to raise the barriers and cut off the common EU market is hardly something to be happy about. 

idioma as an overseas member of the UK Association of Translation Companies, can only agree with the concerns of ATC that Brexit will damage not only the United Kingdom, but also the European translation industry, the question is of the extent and duration.

"A survey of the UK’s language service providers, which are responsible for more than 12,000 jobs, showed that (...) more than two thirds said their businesses with EU-based enterprises will be compromised by a UK departure, while 50% revealed nearly one third of their current revenue is generated from customers based in other EU countries."

Geoffrey Bowden, General Secretary of the ATC (more here).

Sterling on it's knees resulting in increased sales on UK Amazon probably won't compensate for decreased investments and international trade, and eventually there could very well be a necessity to optimize the input factors (= more streamlining, reducing pays and vacancies) in the long-term development of the translation industry and/or raise fees in lieu of lower volumes.

It seems that the question of the day is how to come out of this pickle only bruised, not cut. And it looks like we will have to wait for the answers quite a long time – for several years if we should trust statements from the EU's own bureaucrats.

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