I was on an assignment in Toronto during the horrific van attack, and am still thinking about the victims of this senseless violence and their families. That afternoon, looking out from my hotel window towards the lake, the police officer who arrested the perpetrator without resorting to force was also on my mind.


I always say that non-violence is not the weapon of the weak. It is the weapon of the strong.

(Betty Williams)




“…Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Lost in translation

Hi everyone,

It’s a new year! Hopefully, you also started yours with renewed energy and insights gained from a relaxing break. Recent talk about Google’s latest “neural machine translation,” and A.I. (artificial intelligence) had me reading up on some of the advances and issues that may impact my profession.

Doom and gloom talk of translators (written texts) and interpreters (spoken language) being replaced by computers/machines has abounded for decades. Early on in my career, over 25 years ago, some people advised me against taking this path, arguing that in the near future computers would be able to translate. Well, I didn’t believe it back then, and I still don’t.

Granted, we have come a long way with machine translation (MT) and other language-related computerized systems such as voice recognition. These days, many translators and interpreters benefit from using various computer technologies to assist in translation processes. These technologies do help us to translate more quickly and accurately. But in the final analysis, can machine translation really replace human translation? The simple answer is still “no,”  and here is why: Computers cannot truly grasp meaning, because they lack consciousness. Since they are unable to understand or be conscious of themselves and others in the world, they cannot fully grasp the meaning of written or spoken language.

Good! I for one am looking forward to a productive and interesting year!

For more on this, I recommend this Economist Technology Quarterly article:

and this December article in the NY Times:

Happy New Year! Your Traveling Translator


Listening ears

Hola, fellow friends and travelers,

How is life treating you these days? It seems everywhere I go, inspiration lurks. On a recent bus ride (yes, I like to be driven – but more on that in another post) I overheard this conversation between two seniors:

Senior 1 (after telling a few not so funny jokes to Senior 2): “Oh well, as a kid I used to annoy my grandmother with all my constant talking, too …”

Senior 2: grunts

Senior 1: “She used to say something to me, I still remember to this day. ‘Boy, she said, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason!”

Spot on, if you ask me, right?

Now you know reason no. 1, why I enjoy taking public transportation.

Travel on! Balu 405

Hustle and bustle

Hello friends, colleagues and fellow adventurers,

September is officially here (or has been for a while) and I have been organizing my next trip since my last post. This time I am off to Canada’s capital: Ottawa and then on to Montreal in Quebec for an interpreting assignment. I’ll continue blogging and uploading some photos on the road, interpreting schedule permitting.

With September here, everyone returning from vacation, and kids going back to school, I have noticed how easy (and tempting) it can be to get pulled in different directions. Work, commitments, family members, pets, extended family and others tugging on various sleeves (pant legs) or just plain on me, I sometimes find challenging to stay on course.  And, as soon as my focus leaves my work and my commitments (including the most vital personal commitments), everything seems to get a bit blurry (probably because I am not focusing on it!) I’ve had a couple of conversations about this with friends and colleagues recently – good to know I’m not the only one… So today, after receiving an email from my Luna Yoga friend in Austria  first thing in the am, inviting me to her new yoga/ energy/ dance studio opening,  I realized this:

Precisely because there is so much hustle and bustle – which is distracting – it is even more important to work on my internal focus and give myself what I need to stay centered (time, exercise, space, whatever). So I returned to my practice of “the daily walk” (first thing in the morning) to clear my mind.  I am also clearing my office/ environment of any clutter, because that, too, can be distracting. And sometimes and in between I am practicing just being still for a few minutes and doing nothing.

I’ll keep you posted. Happy travels!

Your Traveling Translator