Singapore International Translation Symposium

84000 Presentation in Singapore International Translation Symposium 2013

The 84000 Executive Director, Huang Jing Rui, was invited as a panellist to present on “Translation and Technology” at the inaugural Singapore International Translation Symposium held at the Old Parliament House in Singapore, on February 2-3, 2013. Co-organized by The Arts House and the Interlexis Group, this was the first major translation symposium held in Singapore that gathers translators, industry players and policymakers from around Asia to share views on translation.

Singapore International Translation Symposium 2013, Old Parliament House, Singapore. Photo: The Arts House

The aim of the symposium – based on the theme Translation Matters – was to promote public awareness of the work that translators do and to allow for the cross-pollination of ideas and practices across the fields of literature, media, theatre, business, diplomacy, technology and lexicography. International speakers were invited, including those from Australia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.

Guest of Honor Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Education, Singapore, opened the symposium by highlighting the important role of translation in facilitating communication.

Mr. William Phuan (Director, The Arts House) presenting a token of appreciation to Ms. Sim Ann. Photo: The Arts House

A variety of themes were discussed throughout the two-day symposium, including:

  • Translation of indigenous literature and literary works;
  • Translation and diplomacy;
  • Translation and theater;
  • Use and development of technology;
  • Translation as profession;
  • Interpretation as profession;
  • Translation versus bilingualism;
  • The translation market in China;
  • Translator training and accreditation; and
  • State support of translation.

Panel on translation as a profession. From left to right: Tan Dan Feng (InterLexis), Shelly Bryant (Translator), Azalea Birch (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale), John H. McGlynn (Lontar Foundation). Photo: The Arts House

Speaking as a panellist on “Translation and Technology”, Jing Rui discussed the critical role that technology plays in 84000’s work of preserving, translating, and disseminating the classical Tibetan texts of the Kangyur and Tengyur. Jing Rui showcased the online 84000 Reading Room (, which uses state-of-the-art technology to provide an immersive online reading environment with interactive functions such as the three-language glossary. Through making available the use of source text scans, translators’ tools, and lexical resources, the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC), 84000, and other organizations and institutions have made it possible for the 140 translators to access source texts and reference materials from anywhere in the world. Information sharing and voice communication tools such as Skype, GoToMeeting and Dropbox have further increased the ability of the globally dispersed team of staff and volunteers to communicate and coordinate their work.

A friendly debate ensued over whether machine translation or computer-aided translation could replace the human translator. As is the case for 84000, one particular challenge is the development of translation tools catered to the specialized field of literary heritage. While there were differing views on the general usefulness and reliability of machine translation, presenters agreed that technology is here to stay and that it has a vital role to play in enhancing translator efficiency. It must not be forgotten, however, that translation is an art that requires appreciation of specific cultural, historical and political contexts, in addition to the informed interpretation of subtle nuances in languages. This aspect of human wisdom can never be replaced by machines.

Panel on translation and technology. From left to right: Huang Jing Rui (84000), Joshua Borden (Novator (SG)), Susan Xu (SIM University), Zhu Hongbing (GistXL Technology). Photo: The Arts House

The two-day symposium was attended by more than a hundred participants. Participation in the symposium marks a step forward for 84000 as it moves beyond the Buddhist audience to a secular one that appreciates its mission to rescue and make available one of the world’s largest ancient cultural heritages.

Photo slideshow of Singapore International Translation Symposium 2013:

Photos: The Arts House, Khenpo Choying Dorjee, Ushnisha Ng

Posted: 14 Mar 2013