Found in translation

Eight things we learnt about translation on International Translation Day

It’s not just about taking books from one language into another.

“Why do you translate?”
“I really like the idea of world peace.”

It was a packed day at the British Library. Over a hundred translators, publishers, writers, actors, literary agents, readers, students and enthusiasts came together to celebrate International Translation Day 2017, organised by the British Library in collaboration with Free Word Centre and English PEN.

The day started with an Opening Plenary on UK’s changing demographics and politics and its impact on translations, especially in the post-Brexit era. Speakers for this session included award-winning translator Sarah Ardizzone, poet and translator Vanni Bianconi, professional linguist and PhD candidate Francisca McNeill and Professor of Bilingualism Adrian Blackledge, chaired by Erica Jarnes (managing director, Poetry Translation Centre). This was followed by debates and ideas around translations and its impact on gender and sexuality, human rights, children’s literature, Arab literature or political activism.

The day ended with the most unique mass-translation workshop conducted by an East London-based theatre group, [Foreign Affairs], where our translations were brought to life on stage right under our noses!

And in the process of the discussions, debates and declamations, here are eight take-aways from the day:

Translation is linguistic hospitality

We have all heard the old “perfume bottle” analogy when it comes to translation. You can transfer perfume from one bottle to another with as much care as you like, but something will always be lost in the process. However, the opening plenary at #ITD2017 introduced the concept of translation as “linguistic hospitality”. Vanni Bianconi, a poet and translator from Italy, and the founder and artistic director of Babel, a festival of literature and translation, compared the process of translation to making one language a comfortable home for another home.

Pictures are the words children find to play into words”: Sarah Ardizzone

Despite the range of languages discussed during the day at British Library, including English, Arabic, German, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, one of the most interesting revelations was about a book published in a language we have never heard of. A children’s book titled Du Iz Tak? has been written in a completely mysterious, playful, and invented language, made up by the insect protagonists of the book. It is a book where words and translations hold no meaning because stories and ideas can be translated into pictures, understood perfectly by young and curious minds.

A hidden treasure of sounds and poems

In a session on translating poetry, we were introduced to an easy way to discover poets and poems from Albania, Bahrain, Guatemala, Belarus, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and 80 other countries on an online platform, where we can read and listen to over 10,000 poems by over 1,200 poets, along with over 16,000 translations. Lyrikline helps you experience the joy of diverse, multilingual, contemporary poetry, and we took 20 years to hear about it.

You can translate for the stage

Theatre translation is an emerging field of practice, bringing theatre artists and playwrights from around the world closer to one another for collaborations and productions. [Foreign Affairs] is an East London-based theatre group which produces “thrilling and engaging site-found physical theatre rooted in translation”. The group has remixed versions of works by Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov, applying choreography, words, and audio-visual technologies, as well as a variety of contemporary themes, to drama classics.

They conducted the closing session at the ITD celebration by conducting a mass-translation workshop for all the participants and attendees. Speaking different languages, we came together to work on short pieces of theatre, translating them into a language of our choice, and watching them come alive on stage at the end of the workshop.

An enthusiastic school librarian makes a huge difference

In a session to discuss what might be considered offensive while translating children’s literature, and who the gatekeepers should be, translator Daniel Hahn pointed out that it is a depressing fact that, in general, school librarians are rarely interested in children’s literature. One such passionate librarian from the South-West of England has started a platform called Library Mice for children’s literature, where she recommends the right books for every age (while also strongly supporting the No To Age Banding campaign). You can read from the “French Friday” section or the “Fabulous Five” section, for instance, or discover a new picture-book a week.

Arabic literature in translation spiked after 9/11

There was a session dedicated solely to “Translating Arabic”. The revelation: Interest in Arabic literature in translation saw a massive increase in the West after 9/11. There was a sudden curiosity about Arab culture and politics.

Translations impacts gender in language

Translation has in the past not only reproduced different texts and cultures for wider audiences around the world, it has also had a significant impact on some linguistic traditions along the way. ShengChi Hsu, a PhD student from the University of Warwick, talked about the most fascinating history of gender in modern Chinese.

The third person pronoun “ta” had always denoted “human” (as opposed to “man” or “woman”). There was no need for a gendered pronoun until they had to translate female pronouns from European languages, in the early 20th century. This led to the invention of a new pronoun in the language, denoting “woman”. As a result, the hitherto genderless pronoun “ta” automatically became a masculine pronoun and continues to denote a masculine identity. A remarkable instance of translation affecting the mainstream vocabulary of modern Chinese.

And what exactly is International Translation Day?

This day is celebrated on September 30, in celebration of St Jerome’s feast. St Jerome is considered the patron saint of translators, and is best known for translating most of the Bible into Latin from the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, as well as for translating parts of the Hebrew Gospel into Greek. The celebration of this day has been promoted by FIT (International Federation of Translators) which was set up in 1953. Since 1991, FIT has ensured that International Translation Day is observed every year on this date, as a means of showing solidarity with the worldwide translation community. It was officially recognised by the UN only in May 2017, however.

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At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.