"Et tu, ©ompute?" Or, Is Text Translation by Machines an Act of Breach or Revolution?

author: Abraham B. Hsuan, Irwin & Hsuan LLP
published: Jan. 11, 2013,   recorded: December 2012,   views: 3898


Related Open Educational Resources

Related content

Report a problem or upload files

If you have found a problem with this lecture or would like to send us extra material, articles, exercises, etc., please use our ticket system to describe your request and upload the data.
Enter your e-mail into the 'Cc' field, and we will keep you updated with your request's status.
Lecture popularity: You need to login to cast your vote.


Walter Benjamin, one of the first thinkers to articulate a clear need to think about the new regimes created by the powers of mechanical reproduction, wrote in his essay "The Translator's Task" ("Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers") that translation is not about achieving a stylistic or expressive fidelity to the original text. Rather, "[a] real translation is transparent." It renders the original in a "pure language," by which I read my copy of Benjamin's essay (in English translation) to mean, 'rendering the original in the form of its essential ideas.' (See Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator" (introduction to a Baudelaire translation, 1923; this text translated by Harry Zohn, 1968), taken from the anthology, The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti (London: Routledge, 2000)). As the awkwardness of this dutybased citation illustrates in part, the effort and industry of translation strikes at the heart of the idea/expression dichotomy which has long helped to keep the potential tyranny by Copyright Laws in check and balance. With machines becoming capable of translating copyrighted (and copyright-free) materials, often without human agency or mediation wherever and whenever needed, we are forced to rethink some longstanding views about what constitutes knowledge, what is creative or unique (or human) about expression, who should benefit from concepts of "fair use" and "free speech," etc. etc. In short, whether the act of text translation by machines converts textual materials into knowledge (which is a human right) or a capital asset (which is a property right) or a hybrid or something else entirely, and who (or what) must answer for the powerful machines that can commit such acts.

Link this page

Would you like to put a link to this lecture on your homepage?
Go ahead! Copy the HTML snippet !

Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Anne Murphy, November 27, 2023 at 11:59 a.m.:

It is very useful to know foreign languages. I would like to take a course and learn Spanish. But for now I don’t have such an opportunity. But thanks to essay writing service reviews uk https://bit.ly/3QoE7K3 I was able to save my time. I found a service that helped me with theses and essays. There is more free time. I think that now I can study Spanish as much as I need.

Write your own review or comment:

make sure you have javascript enabled or clear this field: