By JILL KUSHNER BISHOP, Multilingual Connections
Machine translation can undermine nuanced research data and analysis—here's a close look at human/machine difference.
Connecting with other people is at the heart of ethnographic research – understanding their perspectives, preferences, and behaviors helps organizations create and align offerings with consumers. Research relies on clear communication to optimize participant experience and develop meaningful insights from research results. Yet not all communication is created equal – especially when working in multiple languages. Translation by machine or an inexperienced translator often lacks cultural nuance and can miss the mark, resulting in a poor participant experience, study attrition, less than optimal interpretation, and ultimately insufficient research outcomes.
To illustrate the differences in output between human and machine translation, we set up several experiments – first pitting human vs. machine and then pitting two experienced translators against each other....
by JILL KUSHNER BISHOP, Multilingual Connections
Languages are alive—vibrant and eloquent expressions of who we are. During my doctoral fieldwork I looked at how people used language to enact and express their identity, how connections and community were created through speech and how forms of talk, particular phrases or words, could transport people across time and space. Words matter. So when contemplating translation, how can you ensure a focus on each word while not losing sight of the broader cultural considerations?
When research brings you to multilingual communities—whether globally or in your own backyard—it’s essential to consider the linguistic and cultural practices of your target audience. Assuming you’re doing work in their language of choice, you’ll likely have content that needs to be translated or audio that needs to be transcribed to analyze the data you’ve collected.
In either case, nuance matters. Choices of words, phrases or metaphors—yours or theirs—signify by conveying meaning about ideas,...