Just back from a talk on the history of stained glass that was held at AFT’s North York campus—I was surprised the walk back home took just about 20–25 minutes or so. Obviously, I wouldn’t have understood everything. (Actually I doubt I would have understood everything even if the talk were in English.) But then I went there really mainly as a useful kind of distraction, or inspiration… something like that. It’s ironic: Back when I was actually an AFT student I would never go to these talks because they would always clash with my classes. (And the one time my teacher actually decided to have the whole class go to a presentation on translation I missed class because I was too tired after returning from AIGA Pivot and fell asleep.) Now that I’m not an AFT student, I’m starting to go to these talks—at least to those that are art related. I probably only got 50% out of the talk, maybe less, which is, I guess, a good way to remind me that language is a real barrier. But I would really be skeptical if someone went to me and told me that a machine of some sort would solve this language problem. But the other thing, too, was about my being 10 minutes late. As it turned out, since my walk back home only took 20–25 minutes, my walk there should also have taken just 20–25 minutes, which means that had I not trusted in TTC’s NVAS system, I would probably have gotten there on time. The NVAS, essentially, is worse than useless. GPS can’t solve reliability issues. No one is working on those NVAS related quads, but this means that if anyone actually worked on those quads the final design artefact would be pretty much just as useless as NVAS itself…
Working through the source text of a translation contest, suddenly the inadequacy of ordinary dictionaries and thesauri was bugging me again. There are at least semi-usable thesauri for English, but for Chinese, there is virtually nothing usable. (True, the Revised Dictionary of the National Language is somewhat useful as a thesaurus too, but it is not even comprehensive enough as a dictionary…) So that quad that I drew in the summer semester (which I believe no one really noticed and so no one commented on) suddenly came back to me: We do need a better thesaurus, and in the fine tradition of Princeton’s WordNet, it should probably be an open platform where people can contribute. We really need “a better thesaurus,” for both English and Chinese, where people can look up not only synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, and that vague notion they call “sister terms,” but antonyms, emphatics, and causatives (yes, those alledgely Semitic ideas). The lack of something that can jog our memory to come up with that elusive causative we invariably need is, in my humble opinion, a serious problem for translators. Maybe that can be a project, or a paper, or something. I don’t know. Does this really have anything to do with my program? I never got that feedback I needed.
Where Design Is Going, And How To Be There, posted just two days ago on AIGA’s web site, sounds eerily relevant to our program. In fact it seems to fit right into the theme of our first assigned reading for the next semester. The fly in the ointment? It quoted a Chinese proverb which apparently is only a very loose translation.
I thought it was a language-related question so I posted this on my other blog. So read it there.