Irmy: I slept with someone for it. Does that make me a whore?
Kleinmann: [Referring to the money he's holding] This?
Irmy: Just one person. Does that make me a whore?
Kleinmann: Well, no, only by the dictionary definition.
---Shadows and Fog
I’m looking at the program for the “Great Translation Debate,” a virtual conference organized by ProZ.com and TAUS. One session will dicuss the proposition that “Translation automation is good for the industry.” That is orthodox debate structure: You float a proposition and two teams argue, one of them for and the other against. That is the ritual structure set up in Oxford debating societies and practiced in universities throughout the world. However, in this case, we have a very curious twist on that venerable model. In the immortal words of Sideshow Bob: “Oh, Cousin Merle, really…”
The panelists are Renato Beninatto, Kirti Vashee, an MT specialist called Mirko Plitt and someone from the Common Sense Advisory. Now, I have nothing against any of these people. I disagree with Beninatto’s entire philosophy but, as a cultural phenomenon, he basically just baffles me. How can someone that lazy, who makes basic math mistakes in his presentations, who knows absolutely nothing about anything, be such an esteemed and ubiquitous pundit? The man truly is the perfect embodiment of the future of hamsterized localization. And Vashee is all right, even though he doesn’t like me anymore. I once made a silly joke on this blog about the keynote speaker at a conference he attended and Mr. Vashee vigorously corrected me in a crushing rebuttal by pointing out that there wasn’t one keynote speaker…. but three keynote speakers! After the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Keynote Speakers, he doesn’t even retweet my rants but rather leaves anonymous comments signed “Tom,” which, for the record, I think is the most unimaginative alias ever.
But frankly, didn’t the organizers think of inviting someone who can, you know, take the other side of this issue? I mean, for the love of Ding Dong… It is like inviting the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, Mother Teresa and some Torquemadaesque, fanatical, Bible-thumping Inquisitor to discuss the pros and cons of the Catholic Church. If the ProZ people don’t own a dictionary, they really really need to look up the word “debate” in a free online version.
The way this “debate” is structured, it will be more along the lines of that old advertising campaign in which two out-of-control mobs of Budweiser addicts fight over what makes the beer great, whether its great taste or the fact that it is less filling. (I’m guessing minus the hot models in skimpy tops, which further diminishes the appeal for me.)
I’m guessing the “Great Debate” will go a little like this:
Henry Dotterer: Let me begin by asking Kirti what he thinks about translation automation.Kirti Vashee: Well, Henry, I’ll tell you. I think it’s spiffy. Just spiffy.Dotterer: Your rebuttal, Renato?Beninatto: Gee, my position is slightly different. I think it’s super-spiffy.Dotterer: Okay, let’s keep it civil. Mirko, care to present a counterargument?Plitt: Boy, I sure hate to disagree with both of these fine gentlemen, but everyone knows that translation automation is super-duper-spiffy.Dotterer: Your summation, Bible-thumping fanatic foaming at the mouth?Bible-thumping fanatic: (foaming at the mouth) Aaaarrrgghhhh! Repent, sinners! You are all going to Hell!Dotterer: I’m sorry, could you be more specific?Bible-thumping fanatic: (thinks about it for a second) Uhm…. spiffy?
If only… Actually, if they invite a rabid Bible-thumping fanatic, that might actually make it worth watching. As it stands, though, a nude pillow fight at the Playboy Mansion will be more adversarial (and far more intellectually stimulating) than this travesty.
And, while we are at it, is there some constitutional requirement that Kirti Vashee and Renato Beninatto have to be at every single localization event? Do they just show up for free at these gigs, or are they paid in hors d’oeuvres and cheese doodles? I am beginning to suspect that Vashee and Beninatto are the same person. Are they joined at the hip? Has anyone actually seen them occupy different portions of the space-time continuum? Has anyone tested whether one speaks while the other takes a drink of water? Is the “Beninashee” (or “Vashinatto”) some kind of monstrous cyborg created by Asia Online to sow confusion among the heathens?
For the record, I don’t actually believe any of those things, but as the ProZ organizers have demonstrated, reality can be several degrees more absurd than the things that are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center, several small-and-medium-sized brokerages, asset management institutions based in Spain, and H.B.O. International. To contact him, visit his website and write to the address listed there. You can also join his LinkedIn network or follow him on Twitter.