Traduzco, luego olvido Keep yourself from losing your memory to the Internet




Greater than 20 minutes, my friend!

(You can scroll down to read the article in English)

 

Todos sabemos que el advenimiento de la red informática mundial, mejor conocida como Internet, ha sido, quizás, el avance tecnológico más importante desde la invención de la imprenta, simplificando y acelerando la búsqueda de información de maneras inimaginables hasta hace unas décadas. Lo que tal vez sea novedad para algunos es que ya están empezando a sentirse sus consecuencias nefastas en la capacidad de atención y concentración y en la memoria de quienes usan Internet de continuo. En este sentido, los traductores no somos la excepción: tanto para los que nacieron en la era digital como para los que fuimos testigos asombrados de los actuales avances en tecnología de la información, el uso de Internet en nuestra profesión es imprescindible y ya no podemos imaginar trabajar de otro modo. Es más, los límites son bastante difusos y tampoco podemos imaginar prescindir de Internet en nuestra vida personal. Tendremos que hallar maneras de evitar que ello nos lleve a prescindir de funciones básicas de nuestro cerebro.

La labor del traductor, en cifras

Un traductor típico traduce habitualmente tres mil palabras por día; puede decirse entonces que, en promedio, la cantidad de palabras que traduce por hora es de aproximadamente trescientas y, por minuto, de alrededor de cinco. Esto significa que los traductores tomamos al menos dos «microdecisiones» terminológicas por minuto mientras trabajamos, y que la cantidad de microdecisiones de este tipo que tomamos en un día cualquiera es de alrededor de mil doscientas.

Mil doscientas veces al día nos entregamos al desafío de encontrar en nuestra lengua el equivalente a una palabra en un idioma extranjero o viceversa. Si el texto que estamos traduciendo no nos es absolutamente familiar, o si no está escrito de manera clara y coherente, la magnitud de ese desafío puede multiplicarse exponencialmente.

Es aquí es donde entra en escena el recurso que ha transformado más profundamente la labor de investigación del traductor: el uso de Internet. Para los traductores experimentados, dedicados a un campo de especialización específico, es relativamente sencillo encontrar fuentes de información confiables que nos permitan trabajar con mayor rigor y celeridad. El uso de Internet es un recurso prácticamente indispensable, por ejemplo, en la compilación de corpus lingüísticos de especialidad, una de las herramientas de uso habitual en nuestro trabajo, que nos permite determinar cómo se expresan y escriben los especialistas.

En la actualidad, sería impensable traducir sin un acceso a Internet rápido e ininterrumpido. De hecho, muchos nos aseguramos de tener más de un proveedor de servicios de Internet como parte de nuestro plan para contingencias. Lo que muchos de nosotros nunca previmos es que las mil doscientas microdecisiones que solemos tomar diariamente en nuestras diez horas diarias de conexión, durante cinco, seis o siete días a la semana, terminarían cambiando la manera en que funciona nuestro cerebro, nuestra habilidad para recordar rápidamente datos básicos y nuestra capacidad para concentrarnos en lecturas relativamente cortas.

Efectos negativos de la facilidad de acceso a la información

Desde tiempos inmemoriales, el ser humano siempre ha confiado no solo en la información almacenada en su propio cerebro, sino también en los datos específicos de cuya preservación son supuestos responsables otros miembros de su grupo social. En el hogar, por ejemplo, puede ser la madre la que habitualmente recuerde las fechas de cumpleaños de toda la familia y el padre el que sepa qué club de fútbol quedó en tercer lugar en el campeonato mundial hace diez años.

Esta distribución de la memoria evita la duplicación innecesaria de esfuerzos y sirve para ampliar la memoria colectiva del grupo. Al desligarnos de responsabilidad por cierto tipo de información, liberamos recursos cognitivos que, de otra manera, hubiéramos tenido que utilizar para recordar esa información, y los usamos para incrementar la profundidad de nuestros conocimientos en las áreas de las que nos consideramos a cargo.

Ya Sócrates se quejaba de que los libros eran enemigos de la memoria, dado que los individuos, en lugar de recordar las cosas por sí mismos, habían comenzado a depender de la palabra escrita. Actualmente, a todos los fines prácticos, ha dejado de ser eficiente usar el cerebro para almacenar información. Debemos reconocer que el uso casi permanente de Internet tiene efectos formidables en nuestra vida. Hay quienes comparan Internet con un «cerebro fuera de borda» o un disco rígido externo, con una capacidad de memoria muy superior a la que tiene —o necesita— un cerebro humano, y preocupa a los investigadores que sea tan adictivo como el alcohol o el tabaco, alentando el mismo tipo de comportamientos compulsivos.

La facilidad para acceder a la información, una de las ventajas fundamentales del uso de Internet, está teniendo hondos efectos en nuestra capacidad para retener la información adquirida. Se han realizado estudios que indican que puede alterar los mecanismos del cerebro responsables de la memoria a largo plazo. Según Elias Aboujaoude, doctor en medicina, psiquiatra e investigador de la Universidad de Stanford, «¿Para qué preocuparnos por recordar cuando tenemos toda la información a un clic de distancia? Memorizar se ha transformado en un arte perdido».

 Hoy en día, podemos acceder instantáneamente a la totalidad de la memoria humana a través de Internet con solo realizar una búsqueda rápida. Muchos afirman que, a causa de esta inmediatez, Internet está menoscabando nuestras facultades cognitivas, socavando el impulso de guardar información en nuestros propios bancos biológicos de memoria, en lo que se ha dado en llamar el «efecto Google».

En su controversial artículo Is Google Making Us Stupid?, Nicholas Carr, escritor norteamericano, experto en las nuevas tecnologías de la comunicación, afirma: «En los últimos años, he tenido la incómoda sensación de que alguien o algo ha estado jugando con mi cerebro, reestructurando mis circuitos neuronales, reprogramando mi memoria. Hasta donde puedo decir, mi mente no está fallando, pero definitivamente está cambiando».

Dos plagas de la era de la información: la sensación de saber y el fenómeno de la punta de la lengua

Dos de los fenómenos más notables causados por el uso continuo de la tecnología para acceder a la información son la incómodasensación de saber (convicción de que se posee cierta información a pesar de no haber podido recuperarla de la memoria en un momento determinado) y el fenómeno de la punta de la lengua (estado similar a la sensación de saber, pero en el cual la recuperación se percibe como inminente).

Los traductores hemos dejado de esforzarnos por recordar datos, para tratar de acordarnos de cómo y dónde encontrarlos. Si se nos pregunta, por ejemplo, por la traducción de una parte específica y poco conocida del cuerpo humano y no la recordamos inmediatamente, lo más probable es que nuestra reacción inicial no sea pensar en la anatomía humana en absoluto, sino tratar de ver cómo resolver nuestra duda a través de Internet. Además, hay estudios que demuestran que, una vez hallado el dato que buscamos, tendemos a memorizar no el dato en sí mismo, sino cómo y dónde lo hemos encontrado para franquear más fácilmente esa dificultad si vuelve a presentársenos más adelante.

Efectos negativos de la adaptación al exceso de información

Ya dando por sentado el hecho de que los traductores recurrimos casi automáticamente a realizar una búsqueda en Internet antes de sondear nuestra propia memoria, debemos admitir que la enormidad de la información disponible en Internet supera nuestra capacidad para asimilarla, al menos en un lapso razonable. Es así que comenzamos a utilizar, muchas veces intuitivamente, una serie de técnicas que nos permiten adaptarnos a tal exceso de datos.

Entre las más comunes se destacan:

  • la lectura exploratoria (skimming), una lectura rápida y activa, focalizada en determinar cuál es la idea general del texto; utilizamos estrategias como ubicar palabras clave y valernos de ayudas tipográficas (texto en negrita, texto resaltado, títulos, subtítulos, gráficos y sus encabezados);
  • la lectura analítica rápida (scanning), una lectura orientada a buscar los datos deseados, ignorando el resto del contenido; en este caso, lo que hacemos es «barrer» el texto con la vista, buscando nombres propios u otras palabras, números, fechas u otros datos específicos.

Ocasionalmente, también recurrimos a lo que podríamos llamar unavista previa, que nos ayuda a determinar si el material es apropiado y puede resultarnos útil. Las estrategias que utilizamos en este caso incluyen examinar el título a fin de realizar conjeturas acerca del contenido del material, determinar el nombre del autor, la fecha de publicación, etc., para sacar conclusiones acerca de si el material es pertinente, leer el prólogo o la introducción en búsqueda de información relevante, o revisar el índice para hacernos una idea general del contenido.

Estos métodos hacen que podamos acceder a una gran cantidad de información en un espacio de tiempo mucho más breve, pero se está llegando a la conclusión de que, a la larga, estos hábitos de lectura nos impiden concentrarnos largo tiempo en la lectura y nos hacen más propensos a la distracción.

Si bien esto no afecta mayormente el proceso de traducción en sí mismo, de por sí ágil y muchas veces caracterizado por intensas descargas de adrenalina, empieza a notarse, sí, cuando nos enfrentamos a la corrección o revisión de un texto, propio o ajeno. Es posible entonces que apliquemos automáticamente, casi sin darnos cuenta, estos mismos métodos de lectura, con las consecuencias que pueden inferirse rápidamente. Muchas veces nos descubrimos leyendo un texto «a vuelo de pájaro», cuando deberíamos estar haciendo una lectura detenida y cuidadosa, palabra por palabra, prestando atención a signos de puntuación y errores que podrían burlar las defensas del corrector automático. La lectura rápida puede transformarse en nuestro peor adversario cuando trabajamos como correctores o revisores.

También se está empezando a percibir que estos hábitos de lectura, que tan útiles nos resultan en nuestro trabajo, van impregnando poco a poco también nuestra vida personal. En este ámbito, podemos llegar a encontrar difícil leer noticias o artículos extensos e incluso libros, e impacientarnos cuando nos hallamos ante argumentos largos. A estas alturas, la búsqueda perentoria de información se convierte para nosotros en algo así como una obsesión. La misma tecnología que nos permite ser cada vez más ágiles también nos va llevando a tener comportamientos cada vez más rígidos.

Cómo contrarrestar, al menos en parte, el efecto Google

La buena noticia es que, si nos lo proponemos, podemos revertir, aunque sea parcialmente, estos efectos.

Las herramientas más útiles parecen ser evitar en lo posible la lectura rápida e irreflexiva, concentrándonos en realizar una lectura profunda y atenta y haciendo un esfuerzo consciente por consolidar la información. En otras palabras, evitar la distracción y alimentar la memoria a largo plazo[1], los dos aspectos más afectados por el uso constante de Internet en nuestro trabajo diario.

Tengamos en cuenta que, además de ser placentero, leer profundamente estimula el almacenamiento de información en la memoria. En su ensayo Traducción – Interacción: lecturas interactivas e interaccionales como preparación a la traducción, Jeanne Dancette habla de la utilidad de «resumir, detenerse en los obstáculos dando marcha atrás para verificar o aclarar un punto, y hacer anticipaciones o predicciones sobre el texto». Estos pueden ser buenos puntos de partida para [volver a] desarrollar nuestra capacidad lectora y, tal vez, recuperar nuestro antiguo placer por la lectura.

Hagamos un pequeño paréntesis aquí para reflexionar acerca de cómo llevar esto a la práctica traductora, tanto en que respecta a la atención en la lectura como a la consolidación de la información en la memoria a largo plazo y el uso de nuestros propios recursos internos.

  • Si bien todos sabemos de la urgencia que caracteriza la mayor parte de nuestros encargos, leer atentamente el texto y detenernos en los obstáculos que pueda presentar antes de comenzar a traducir podría ser una excelente manera de encarar cualquier trabajo. Muchos ya lo hacemos habitualmente, pero a todos nos serviría para comprender profundamente el texto antes de pretender volcarlo fielmente a la lengua de destino.
  • También sería sumamente útil perder unos minutos, o incluso solo unos segundos, tratando de recordar términos o expresiones que ya conocemos —o, si esto no es posible, hacer algún tipo de anticipación o predicción— antes de realizar una búsqueda en Internet.

El hecho de realizar el esfuerzo de memorizar sirve para reeducar el cerebro, ya que modifica nuestras sinapsis cerebrales de modo de poder aprehender ideas y habilidades nuevas no solo en el momento presente, sino también en el futuro.

Para lograr este almacenamiento de información en la memoria a largo plazo se requiere pasar por un proceso conocido como consolidación. Si la información no se consolida, se olvida. Almacenar datos y establecer conexiones entre ellos requiere un alto grado deconcentración y compromiso intelectual o emocional. Si utilizamos Internet sistemáticamente como recurso inmediato para sustituir el uso de nuestra propia memoria, sin atravesar el proceso interno de consolidación, no tardaremos en ver los resultados en nuestra memoria a largo plazo.

Por último, es interesante recordar que, dada la manera en que funciona el cerebro, la generación de recuerdos duraderos es un proceso que requiere del transcurso de varias horas y ocurre fundamentalmente durante el descanso. Es por ello que descansar apropiadamente también es esencial para no olvidar lo aprendido.

Conclusión

Cuanto más usamos Internet, impulsados velozmente de una página a otra por motores de búsqueda e hipervínculos, más entrenamos al cerebro para la distracción, para el procesamiento rápido y eficiente de la información, pero sin una atención sostenida. Tratemos de actuar rápidamente para evitar que esto nos afecte permanentemente y recordemos, por último, que para el cerebro humano —que no para las computadoras— el cielo es el límite.

 

Nota al pie

[1] Podemos hablar de tres tipos de memoria: la memoria sensorial, que puede durar unos segundos y se hace evidente, p. ej., al «recuperar» de la memoria algo que acabamos de escuchar, tras la apariencia de no haberlo comprendido; la memoria a corto plazo, que puede durar unos minutos e incluso horas, y la memoria a largo plazo, que puede durar años.

 

If Spanish is not your native language, or if you would like to read an adaptation of this article to English, here you go!

 

The development of the Internet may have been the most significant technological innovation since the invention of the printing press. It has simplified and speeded up the search for information in ways that were unimaginable until a few decades ago. However, its harmful effects on the attention, concentration and memory capacity of those who make an intensive use of Internet search tools are starting to become evident. In this respect, we, translators, are not the exception— Both for those who were born in the digital era and for the ones, like me, who have followed information technology advancements in awe, the use of the Internet in our profession is a bare necessity, and we can no longer picture ourselves doing without it. What is more, we cannot imagine ourselves doing without the Internet in our personal lives either. But we will need to find ways to prevent this from interfering with basic functions of our brains.

A translator’s work, in figures

Typically, we translate about 3,000 words per day, which means that, on average, the number of words we translate per hour is about 300, and the number of words we translate per minute is about 5. Thus, we usually make at least two terminology-related “micro-decisions” per minute while at work, and the number of such micro-decisions we make on any given day is about 1,200. One thousand two hundred times a day we face the challenge of finding a mother-tongue equivalent to a term in a foreign language, or vice versa. If the text we are translating is not completely familiar to us, or if it has not been written in a clear, consistent manner, the size of the challenge can increase exponentially.

It is at this point where the resource that has most deeply transformed our research work, i.e., the use of the Internet, comes into play. Today, it would be unthinkable for us to work without a high-speed, uninterrupted access to the Internet. In fact, many of us have signed up with more than one Internet service provider as part of our contingency plans.

For experienced translators working in a narrow field of specialization, it is relatively simple to find reliable sources of information to achieve higher levels of accuracy and speed. Today, the use of the Internet is vital, e.g., in the development of specialized linguistic corpora, a common tool of our trade in the present state of things.

But many of us never imagined that the 1,200 micro-decisions we usually make during the 10 hours we connect ourselves to the Internet every day, sometimes 7 days a week, would end up changing how our brains work, our capacity to quickly remember basic data, and our ability to focus on fairly short pieces of reading.

Negative effects of the ease of access to information

Since time immemorial, humans have relied not only on the information stored in their own brains, but also on specific data for the preservation of which other members of their social groups are “responsible.” At home, for example, it may be the mother who usually remembers birthdays, while it may be the father who knows which soccer team came in third in the World Championship ten years ago.

This distribution of memory tasks avoids the unnecessary duplication of efforts and helps expand the group’s collective memory capacity. By off-loading responsibility for certain types of information, we free up cognitive resources that would otherwise be required to remember such information; instead, we use them to increase the depth of our knowledge in the areas we consider ourselves to be in charge of.

As helpful as this approach may be, though, it needs to be used with care. Socrates already regretted how detrimental writing would be to human memory in the long run, as individuals, rather than recalling things on their own, had started to depend on the written word. At present, for all practical purposes, it seems to be no longer efficient for us to use our brains to store information. But we must acknowledge that near-constant use of the Internet has formidable effects on our lives. Some people compare the Internet to an “outboard brain” or an external hard drive, with a memory capacity much larger than that a human brain has —or needs, for that matter. Researchers are concerned that the use of the Internet may be as addictive as alcohol or tobacco, encouraging the same kind of compulsive behaviors.

The ease of access to information, one of the primary benefits of Internet use, is having profound effects on our ability to retain the information acquired. Currently completed studies suggest that it can alter the mechanisms our brains use to build long-term memory. According to Elias Aboujaoude, M.D., psychiatrist and investigator at Stanford University, “Why bother to remember when all information is at our fingertips […]. Memorizing has become a lost art as we have moved from cramming our brains to cramming our hard drives and virtual stores.”

Nowadays, we can instantly access the entire contents of human memory through a straightforward, quick search on the Internet. It is held by many that, as a result of this immediacy, Internet use is impairing our cognitive abilities, undermining our impulse to store information in our own biological memory banks, which has come to be labeled as the “Google Effect.”

In his controversial article Is Google Making Us Stupid?, American writer Nicholas Carr, expert in the new communication technologies, states: “Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping my neural circuitry, reprogramming my memory. My mind isn’t going—as far as I can tell—but it’s changing.”

Two plagues of the Information Age: the feeling of knowing (FOK) and the tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) experiences

Two of the most significant phenomena caused by the continuous use of technology to access information are the uncomfortablefeeling of knowing (i.e., the certainty that you have knowledge of some piece of information in spite of being unable to retrieve it from your memory at a given time), and the tip-of-the-tongue state, orpresque vu (French for “almost seen”), a state similar to the feeling of knowing, but in which retrieval is perceived as actually imminent).

These days, we do not make so much of an effort to remember data, as we do to remember how and where to locate them. If we are asked, e.g., to translate the name of a specific bone in the human body, our first reaction will most likely not be to think about human anatomy at all, but to try and figure out how to resolve the query using the Internet. Additionally, there are studies showing that, once we find the piece of data we are looking for, we tend to memorize not the data itself, but rather how and where we have found it so we can tackle the difficulty more easily if faced with it again later.

How adjusting to the excess of information is changing our behaviors

The vastness of the information available on the WWW utterly beats our ability to take it in, at least within a reasonable amount of time. As discussed above, more often than not, we nearly mechanically perform a search on the Internet before probing our own memories, and we tend to use, many times without being fully aware of it, a series of techniques that allow us to adjust to such an overload of data. These include:

  • Skimming, or reading a piece of writing quickly and actively, while focusing on identifying the main idea; this involves using strategies such as locating key words and anchoring our attention to typographical markers (e.g., underlined, bold, italicized, or highlighted words; headings and subheadings; diagrams, charts, tables; etc.).
  • Scanning, i.e., sweeping our eyes over chunks of text in search forspecific pieces of information (e.g., proper or common nouns, numbers, dates, or other specific data), while ignoring the rest of the contents.
  • Previewing, to help determine whether the material can be helpful to us. The strategies we use in this case include examining the title, determining the name of the author, the date of the publication, etc.; reading the abstract or introduction, if any, or the first sentence of each paragraph, in search for relevant information; or checking the table of contents to get a general idea of what the material is about.

These reading methods enable us to access a large amount of information in a much shorter period of time, but it is thought that, once these methods become a habit, they can prevent us from concentrating on reading for long, and make us more prone to distraction.

Even though this does not largely affect the translation process —usually an active task—, it does become evident when proofreading or editing, which are, by their own nature, more passive activities. When doing so, we may mechanically tend to use the reading methods discussed above, with the unfortunate consequences that can be readily inferred. We may find ourselves sweeping our eyes over a piece of translated text, instead of reading it slowly, carefully, one word at a time, paying attention to punctuation marks and errors that may have escaped the spell checker.

It is also becoming apparent that these routines, which we may find so helpful at work, are little by little pervading our personal lives as well. In this context, we may grow increasingly reluctant to read lengthy articles or pieces of news and even books, or become impatient when having to listen to someone who does not quickly get to the point. Our pressing need for “mining” relevant information without much ado may turn into somewhat of an obsession for us.The same technology that allows us to be increasingly dynamic is, at the same time, leading us to display more and more rigid behaviors.

How to counteract, at least in part, the Google Effect

The good news is that we can reverse, even if only to some extent, these effects.

The most helpful approach seems to be avoiding quick, absent-minded reading, focusing on engaging in deep, careful reading, and making a conscious effort to consolidate the information acquired. In other words, the best thing we can do is build our concentration and nourish our long-term memory[1], the two aspects most severely affected by intensive, mechanical use of Internet search engines.

In addition to being pleasurable, deep reading stimulates the storage of information in the human memory. In her essayTraduction-interaction  : Lectures interactives et interactionnelles comme préparation à la traduction, Jeanne Dancette underlines the usefulness of “summarizing, stopping at obstacles and going back to verify or clarify an issue, and making anticipations and projections based on what we are reading.” These can be good starting points to [re]develop our reading ability, and, perhaps, to recover our old pleasure for reading.

Now, let’s see how to implement this in our translation practice by increasing our attention when reading, consolidating information in our long-term memory, and tapping our own internal resources.

  • Although time pressures are a common feature of most translation-related jobs, reading the text carefully and stopping at any difficulties or obscurities it may present (preferably before starting the translation task itself) could be an excellent way of approaching a new job. Many of us already do this as part of our routines, which helps us get a thorough understanding of the source text before we try to accurately convey it in our target language.
  • And while we are translating, it could also be extremely helpful for us to spend a few minutes, or even just a few seconds, trying to remember terms or expressions we are certain to have seen before —or to attempt to make some kind of anticipation or prediction about them— before performing a search on the Internet.

The mere fact of making the effort to memorize will help reeducate our brains, rewiring our brain synapses to help us learn new ideas and skills, not only at the present time, but also in the future.

Storing information in our long-term memory requires going through a process known as consolidation. If the information is not consolidated, it is forgotten. Storing pieces of data and establishing connections between them requires a large degree of concentration and intellectual or emotional commitment. It is also important to note that, given the way in which the human brain works, long-term memory processing requires several hours and occurs primarily during resting time. Sleeping well is therefore key in order not to forget what we have learned.

Conclusion

If we consistently use the Internet as an immediate resource, neglecting our own memory banks and bypassing our internal consolidation processes, it will not take long for us to see the consequences on our long-term memory.

The more we use the Internet, letting ourselves be swiftly carried from one site to another via search engines and hyperlinks, the more we are training our brains for distraction, for processing information in a quick and efficient way, but without sustained attention. We need to take action fast if we want to keep this from affecting us permanently. And we should not underestimate the power of the human brain, for which —unlike a computer, no matter how sophisticated— the sky is the limit.

 

[1] We can distinguish between three types of memory, i.e., sensory memory, which can last just a few seconds (it becomes evident, e.g., when retrieving from our memories something we have just heard, after apparently having missed it); short-term memory, which can last from a few minutes to a few hours; and long-term memory, which can last years.

 

 

Acknowledgment:

Photo used with permission from the author, photographer Salvatore Dore. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmind2_0

All rights reserved.

 

Sources

American Psychological Association, APA, 2010. APA. Diccionario conciso de psicología. 1st ed. Colombia: Editorial El Manual Moderno.

Carles Soriano Mas, 2007. Fundamentos de Neurociencia/Fundamentals of Neuroscience (Manuales/ Psicología) (Spanish Edition). Edition. EDIUOC.

Greenblatt, A., 2010. Impact of the Internet on Thinking: Is the Web Changing the Way We Think? CQ Researcher, [Online], Volume 30, Number 33, 773-796. Available at: http://www.sagepub.com/ritzerintro/study/materials/cqresearcher/77708_interthink.pdf [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Lecto-comprensión de la lengua inglesa. 2012. Textos en inglés y en español: elementos en común. [ONLINE] Available at: http://monterofabiana.blogspot.com.ar/2012/10/teoria-y-actividades.html?view=magazine. [Accessed 18 May 15].

Nicholas Carr. 2008. Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/. [Accessed 17 May 15].

Nicholas Carr, 2011. Superficiales (The Shallows) (Spanish Edition). Edition. Taurus.

Rodríguez, E. (2003). La lectura. Cali (Valle, Colombia): Programa Editorial Universidad del Valle.

Wegner, Daniel M. et al, 2013. The Internet Has Become the External Hard Drive for Our Memories. Scientific American, [Online], Volume 309, Issue 6, N/A. Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-internet-has-become-the-external-hard-drive-for-our-memories/?page=1 [Accessed 18 May 2015].

9 thoughts on “Traduzco, luego olvido Keep yourself from losing your memory to the Internet

  1. Great article, Nora and congrats on publishing the first bilingual article on The Open Mic! And wow, what a great and informative post! I also think that the Internet, apps and online tools has a negative effect on our memory. For example, I noticed that i no longer learn the terminology. I just rely on my term base and translation memory to do the job for me.

    Although it’s not a good thing, I believe this is a part of human evolution. The fact that I don’t need to keep all those terms in my memory helps me to ficus on other tasks and be more creative in my work. Remembering terms is more of a mechanical task, so by letting the machine do this task I put less pressure on my brain, which is ultimately a good thing because I can focus on more important tasks that require more creativity.

    1. Thank you, Dmitry! I was actually a bit concerned about whether my bilingual article would be welcome, esp. when I’m aware it’s VERY long. But someone had to give the first step, and I did! 🙂 I had done a lot of research when I wrote the Spanish version some time ago, and I thought it was worth giving it a try and translating it (adapting it, to be more accurate) into English.

      You make a very interesting point when you say that you’re no longer learning your terminology, but relying on your termbase and translation memories. That’s what we all do, actually. And perhaps, it’s the only thing we can do. The real danger here is that we get used to this mechanism, and start being unable to recall words of daily living as well. Because we know they’re somewhere to be found online. I’m now 56 and have been translating for more than 34 years, and if I can leave anything behind, it’s this piece of advice: use your brain, both to store and retrieve data, and to be creative. For more on this subject, you can also read: Stuck? A walk in the park may be all you need (link to translartisan.wordpress.com).

      And, once again, thanks a million for the great window to the world you have created for us at The Open Mic!

      Big hugs,
      Nora

  2. Thanks for the great article Nora! I read it in Spanish but I’ll reply in English to keep the discussion as open as possible. I switched from part-time to full-time translating when my children were born, and I mostly ascribe the dramatic memory loss of the last few years to lack of sleep, self-doubt, and all the other terrifying things that parenting brings. But your article made me think again. I also worry continually about about the effects of the Internet (on me, on my kids, on humanity as a whole) while also relying on it enormously in my professional life. There’s an amusing scene in the film When We Were Young, which is one long riff on the differences between digital natives and the generation before them, where the characters can’t remember something other and one of them suggests not googling it and just enjoying “not knowing” which turns out to be something neither they or we are very good at these days. I thought that your caveat on editing and proper reading was particularly interesting and it definitely made me reflect on my own practices. Two other thoughts: I’ve recently transitioned from mainly typing my translations to dictating them (using Dragon) which I imagine functions differently/activates different parts of the brain and therefore interacts differently with memory (yes, my extremely vague understandings of the workings of the brain are entirely derived from translations for neurolinguists that I’ve probably mostly forgotten!). I suppose that short of doing a whole lot of CAT scans (the other kind of CAT! ) on translators at work there is an much way of proving this, but I’m at least going to be keeping an eye on myself to see if I think my memory is working differently by routing my translations through speech rather than through the keyboard. Oh, and apropos of not much at all, whenever I read something about what a great invention the Internet is, I always think of this article by the Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang about how the washing machine has been a more important invention on the Internet for women’s entry into the marketplace link to theguardian.com. Looking forward to reading your next article!

    1. Thank YOU for your comment, Victoria!

      I didn’t watch the film you mention, but I found very appealing (and relaxing) the idea of just enjoying “not knowing” every now and then for a break! 🙂

      And it’ll be quite interesting to hear your comments about the impact of using Dragon Dictation on your memory function some time from now.

      As regards the article in The Guardian, I entirely agree with Joon’s perspective that the Google Effect is not one that affects the population at large, except in the area of leisure. Problem with us, translators, is that it affects ALL aspects of our lives.

      Thanks so much again and hopefully till soon!
      Nora

  3. Very interesting Nora, and yes, I agree it can be a problem, as when people get addicted to it, like smartphones and playing games or chating on the bus instead of looking to what is happening around you. It even can be fatal. Some hundred years ago, in the University, the issue was allowing calculators or not. The issue there was not only people losing the capacity to calculate, but the fact some had access to calculators and others didn’t and it would be unfair in exams.
    However, there is one feature your sources don’t seem to consider: calculators replace our accounting capabilities, something which is merely mechanic, that is, a calculator can do it. The fact that machines can replace us in doing that faster, gives us extra time to think about what we can do with the results of those calculations or what they mean, something machines can’t do. And this is equivalent in term search in the Internet or any other media, the mechanical part of memory is replaced, in some tasks, by more time to evaluate and discern. Of course, we can get addicted to it when it dominates, and we don’t practice our memory in other circumstances, and that is where your article is a good warning.

    1. Hi, Richard!

      Thank you for your comment and my apologies for my delay in responding!

      I hope it’s clear that I’m actually not against the use of the Internet; quite the opposite, I use it day in, day out, for many reasons— it helps me do a better job, it helps me do it faster, and yes, it gives me extra time to do things a machine cannot do. In fact, I’m not against the use of calculators (I’m terrible at math!) or any other machines or aids either, as long as they don’t trigger addiction.

      Today, after relying heavily on the Internet in my translation practice for the past couple of decades, I find myself pausing once every few words when I’m talking, trying to find the right word to use. But I’ve discovered that if I make a conscious, sustained effort to remember… I DO! And I hope this simple piece of advice can help others.

      Thanks again and hopefully till soon!
      Nora

Leave a Reply

The Open Mic

Where translators share their stories and where clients find professional translators.

Find Translators OR Register as a translator