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A.I. and Literary Translation

Is Artificial Intelligence advanced enough to grasp and process literary texts in all their linguistic richness, and translate them into another language? Will it ever be advanced enough? Or will it remain "artificial" instead of "artistic"? Perhaps it doesn't have to be perfect to be useful and can work as a tool to support literary translators in their work – Let's ask some experts! 

Human vs. Artificial Intelligence: Fierce Competition or friendly partners?Philippos Vassiliades | CC-BY-SA
Do machines know what they are doing?Philippos Vassiliades | CC-BY-SA
How does A.I. "work" in literary translation?Philippos Vassiliades | CC-BY-SA
An image of Gugulethu Duma singing with the number 18 in front and the Talking Culture logo Goethe-Institut London

Talking Culture #18: The Healing Power of Cultural Practice

For this episode, we speak to multidisciplinary artist Gugulethu Duma aka Dumama about her involvement with the Goethe-Institut over the years and across continents, which includes film festivals, music performances, a podcast project and workshops. We discuss the complex poetics of curating in a space that is scarred by colonialism and apartheid. Gugulethu will welcome us into her multidisciplinary world to vindicate the healing power of artistic practices and the challenges encountered along the way.

Online Discussion – Translators: Robots in Disguise?

We take a glimpse into the future of literary translation in view of developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Our panel of experts addressed questions such as:
Which recent developments make the translation of literature by AI more feasible?
Can human creativity and sensitivity in interpreting literary texts be matched, or even surpassed by AI?
Does AI pose a threat to the future existence of literary translators, or could new online translation tools lead to significant changes in the way human translators work?

Host: translator Katy Derbyshire
- Duncan Large, Academic Director of the British Centre of Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia
- Lucia Specia, Chair in Natural Language Processing at Imperial College London.

More about the online event

How close does machine translation get to human translators?

Professor Lucia Specia is an expert on language technology, natural language processing and machine translation at Imperial College London.

She talked to us about the latest technological advancements in A.I. and translation, and how human translators can team up with machines to improve their work.
The interview was conducted by Priyanka Dasgupta.​

Interview questions:
0:53 - What has been the advantage of machine translation over human translation, historically?
7:02 - How easy or tough is it for machines to achieve good quality literary translation?
9:40 - How far are we from getting exact literary translations using machines?
14:15 - How can this technology help the publishing industry?
17:27 - Will using machines reduce errors in translation in comparison to human scope for error?
21:13 - Is the gap between human and machine translation getting smaller than ever?
24:17 - Do you have any examples of particularly good literary translations using machines?
25:46 - What would be the financial implication of growing technology on the publishing industry?
30:42 - How do you see human and machine translation co-existing in the coming years?

Translators' Workshop Photo: Steph Morris

Translators' Workshop - Goethe-Institut London
Translating a Poem – On the right Trakl?

In a workshop session, the group of the German Translators' Workshop created an English translation of the poem "Vorstadt im Föhn" by the expressionist poet Georg Trakl – and the differences between their translation and the one generated through the neural machine translation website DeepL range from striking to funny!

Translators' Stammtisch Photo: Goethe-Institut Glasgow

Translators' Meetings - Goethe-Institut Glasgow
Translators’ Stamm­tisch

The Translators’ Stammtisch is open to literary translators of all language combinations and takes place at the Goethe-Institut Glasgow once a month. Currently run as an online meeting on Zoom, it has never been easier to join in!

Translation Theory Lab Frei zur kommerziellen Nutzung.

Translation Events - Goethe-Institut Glasgow
Translation Theory Lab: "Translation as Transhumance"

The Translation Theory Lab is open to all translators, near and far, working in any language pair, who have an interest in deeper background questions about translation and translators: What is the ethical and moral obligation of the translator? What happens to the translator’s relationship with their mother tongue in the process of translation?