Plurilingualism and the future of translation

Published 19th December 2012
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nullThere has been a lot of fuss in the translation world lately about this Chinese girl who can write, not only employing both hands simultaneously, but in different directions and languages as well. Chen Siyuan is said to be able to even write poetry using different hands for consecutive sentences and, perhaps most surprising of all, writing Chinese with one hand and English with the other. However, to my mind, apart from ambidextrosity, this girl seems to have been blessed with yet another talent; she is smart enough to know what to make out of her talent by using it to offer translation services. Indeed, one would think that, on hearing this news, translators worldwide would be experiencing fits of jealousy…but are they?

Alright, let me play the devil’s advocate here. Accurate, fast writing is undoubtedly an essential skill for any language professional. Still, in this age of computers and CAT Tools, does this incredible ability of Chen’s make a huge difference to a translator’s performance? Don’t get me wrong; in no way am I trying to degrade this extraordinary gift. What I mean to do is counter-propose that, for the sake of the profession, it might be more helpful if a person was able to do the same with different keyboards. In fact, it would be absolutely brilliant (here’s your new challenge Chen!).

What does traditional writing have to offer to the translation industry, then? Is it that Chen’s case of ambidextrosity results from particular right and left hemisphere functions which might have more beneficial outcomes? And even if the latter is not the case, is it probable that she has managed to develop advanced processing abilities by means of practising, which might be of use to her translation projects? The ability to process multiple languages in one’s brain is enviable and plurilinguals are always a valuable addition to the translation world.  Chen has clearly demonstrated an aptitude for languages and multitasking, but does she resemble a bilingual person in her ability to function in two different languages at the same time? Moreover, will this still be the case once the writing means change?

We would love to hear your views on this challenging argument. In case it is not one of those days when you are feeling resourceful, why not take a tour of our languages page and let us do the writing instead?

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