Beat the Machine: A Mini Virtual Translation Slam by the ATA FLD
My name is Sam Mowry and I’m here to help us all translate better. Strong words, I know, but one thing I’ve found to be true in my translation career is that the more exposure you have to translations, particularly good translations, the better translator you become. To that end, this is the first in what I hope will become an ongoing series of posts here in À Propos.
The premise is simple: I’ve never met a translator who, when confronted with someone else’s translation, doesn’t secretly or not-so-secretly think to themselves, “I could have done it better.” Moreover, as human translators, we know we’re vastly superior to every machine translation option on the market. We’re going to combine those concepts into a monthly “beat the machine” virtual translation slam (and by that I mean slamming those machine translations into the ground!).
Every two months, I will post a French sentence with an English translation produced by a widely available machine translation engine. This will incite the faithful readers of this blog to rise to the challenge and show how much better it could be by submitting their own versions of the translated sentence. The following month, I will publish a blog post where I share some of the best submissions and discuss what makes them so good. This is a chance to show what a difference the human touch makes and improve our own translation practices in the process by seeing how other translators approach the same problem.
The first sentence is:
L’excellentissime pianiste classique autrichien Friedrich Gulda n’eût peut-être pas été d’accord, lui qui ne cessa de transgresser les deux grands ordres (jazz et classique) en les reprisant et déprisant dans des concerts qui filaient standards de jazz, classiques des classiques.
Fun, right? Hat tip to FLD member Beth Smith, who provided this sentence. Here is what DeepL spat out:
Perhaps the excellent Austrian classical pianist Friedrich Gulda would not have agreed, as he never stopped transgressing the two great orders (jazz and classical) by reproducing them in concerts that spun jazz standards, classics from classics.
You are no doubt chomping at the bit already to submit your much better translation of this sentence. You can do that HERE.
Submissions must be received by July 22, 2020. The follow-up blog post discussing the best solutions will be posted on or around August 1, 2020.
Please note the following:
- Only FLD members will have their translations posted on this blog. Membership is free for current ATA members, so if you aren’t a member yet, make sure to join before you submit your translation. When you log in to your account on the ATA website, the number of divisions you belong to is listed at the top of the page. Click “Modify” to change which divisions you belong to (and add the FLD!).
- You are free to submit your sentence anonymously, but half the fun will be crediting the creative submissions we receive by name and recognizing their authors.
- You may submit as many times as you like, in case you have a stroke of genius after your initial submission. I will only discuss one submission per person in the review post.
Finally, we’re hoping to continue this series with all of your help! Have you come across a particularly pesky sentence you can share for this project? Please send it along! Are you interested in helping us do the same virtual translation slam, but from English to French? We’d love to have one or more volunteers to do this series, but in reverse! If you’re interested, please contact Ben Karl, the À Propos editor, or myself, Sam Mowry, to let us know!
Sam Mowry is an ATA-certified French into English translator specializing in international development, medicine, official documents, and being mouthy on the internet. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly on Twitter at @SamTranslates.