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‘Machines cannot compete with humans’
BY MATOVU ABDALLAH TWAHA November 28, 2017
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DUBAI: A British professor from the American University in Cairo (AUC), and an Arabic translator into English has said the field of translation is very abundant because machines cannot “pick the culture of the language thus can’t understand the idioms and phrases.”

Neil Hewison, the translator of Yusuf Idris’s novel about revolutionary Cairo in 1952, City of Love and Ashes, and Wedding Night by Yusuf Abu Rayya was sharing his ideas about translation with this reporter immediately after the two-day Knowledge Summit in Dubai on Nov.21-22.

“Translating from Arabic into English (and vice versa) is inherently no more difficult than translating between any two other languages, provided the translator has sufficient knowledge of the source language and the culture in which it is used, and a sufficiently high degree of skill in expressing ideas clearly in the target language.

“The problem is that automated translation programs as they currently exist don’t have the comprehensive knowledge of a language that human native speakers have, and perhaps more critically they don’t have an understanding of the culture in which the language is used.

“Cultural references will usually escape them, and they often cannot cope with idiomatic expressions, which they translate literally and thus incomprehensibly — we have all seen how machine translations into our own language can be difficult to understand.”

Hewison, who until October 2017 was the Associate Director for Editorial Programs for the AUC Press, after more than thirty years working at the publishing house has been previously quoted that his goals were to bring out Arabic novels that could be “enjoyable and familiar for a wide range of English-language readers.”

Asked of his thinking on the number of initiatives made to advance quest for knowledge in the UAE and from the UAE to the Arab World; the author of The Fayoum: History and Guide said that what he saw at the Knowledge Summit, “there is a strong determination in the Arab world, and particularly in the UAE, to be at the forefront of the quest for knowledge, the development of new technologies, and the application of technologies for the general good in the twenty-first century and beyond.

“I was particularly interested in the plans to build a Mars City in the UAE, as part of the global ambition to establish human colonies on Mars.”

On how best translation would be handled to make powerful contribution to knowledge advancement; Hewison said; “Machine translation has advanced remarkably but is still in its infancy, and it will be a long time before it will catch up with the work of skilled human translators, if at all.

“Since translation is essential to the effective global exchange of information, the continued training of translators to and from all major languages is clearly desirable.”
 

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