Translation as news, source linking as obligation

Sinologistical Violincellist does a fine job, as usual, of digging into what might have been said by North Korea recently. It has shown up in Business Week, for example, as “unprecedented nuclear strikes” — their quotation marks.

But where’s the original source? Missing in action, so far. So SV takes the indirect approach and translates a Chinese report on the same incident as:

strengthen the power of [our] self-defensive nuclear deterrent

He notes that this milder version doesn’t prove any case that North Korea wasn’t as provocative as reports suggest. It may just as well be Chinese media oversight directing writers to tone down the rhetoric. In either case it clearly shows the need for some original sourcing.

What’s up with traditional media companies and the lack of original sourcing anyway? Linking to originals is so easy, yet so rare. How many times have you read an article from a media company that forced you to go searching for content the author must have read to write the article? It’s hard to push back the suspicion that there’s a general policy of limited linking, maybe a fear that more linking would expose the derivative nature of so much reporting.

Not to sound ungrateful to those reporters who work hard to get new angles on a story. For example, a couple weeks ago I posted about a Reuters article by Ben Blanchard that mentioned a project to build “a vocal database of all China’s dialects and languages.” I mentioned that I was trying to find out more from him and now I’ve been neglectful in not saying that he was kind enough to respond, saying, “It was announced by Xinhua last week, with predictably few details. I also know very little about it! But it seems to be a Ministry of Education initiative.”

He dug up a Xinhua report in English that I’ve pasted below, but said there was a Chinese version out there somewhere too. If anyone does manage to find something new, please email me (bjshengr <at> gmail <dot> com) and I’ll get the story updated.

China will develop an extensive vocal database for language resources in the next 10 years by recording local dialects and languages of ethnic groups, according to the State Language Commission. “Dialects and languages that embody different cultures are changing fast, and some are even on the verge of extinction. We have to protect them using modern methods such as recording and videotaping,” said Li Yuming, a senior official with the committee, at a meeting held Tuesday.

The vocal database project started in east China’s Jiangsu Province in 2008. The topics that the participates talk about include local custom, music, culture and local history. According to Li, in every town, only four people who speak the standard dialect get the chance to be recorded, with an average recording time of one and a half to two hours.

“The amount of data we will have in the end will be huge,”said Li, adding that the final database would include data from10,000 town-level communities. Li noted that the database would have other functions besides preservation, including providing local language services during emergencies. He cited the language problem encountered during the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. After the quake struck, the lack of knowledge about local dialects became a big obstacle when people nationwide dialed the hotline to inquire about their relatives.

09/03/2010 13:49 GMT

Leave a Reply