I just got back from the latest Copeland Colloquium at Amherst College, “Translation in the Age of Google Translate,” with languages and literature faculty members Cathy Ciepiela, Laure Katsaros, and Andrew Parker. It was convenient (it was in the Frost Library, which I was familiar with from my afternoon with Cowan, and they ended it just before one so people could get to classes, which meant I could leave to meet my wife without missing any of the discussion) and quite interesting, but I was a bit annoyed by the tone of it, which was largely negative: not only are the results of Google translation unreliable, but it’s done (shudder) for profit! To illustrate how bad it was, one of the panelists quoted a passage from Flaubert as translated by Google: ha, Google used “it” instead of “she”! During the discussion period, I pointed out that people, by and large, do not use Google Translate on Flaubert but on more mundane documents like news stories, and they are not so much concerned about grammatical perfection as about getting the gist, at which Google Translate is usually pretty good. Another audience member pointed out that many people around the world do not have the kind of access to human translators and translation services that “we at Amherst” have, and Google Translate is their only means of accessing the world outside of their own language. The panelists were gracious enough to concede these points and admit that they were, inevitably, looking at it from their own perspective as translators and language teachers. It was an enjoyable way to spend the lunch hour (and the lunch was excellent!); I expect I’ll be going to other such talks.