Translation Technology Supports Professional Translators’ Work

There’s no doubt that every professional translator wants to do his or her job as well as possible. Delivering high quality translations every time is a key to a strongly positive reputation which is important in finding new jobs and contacts. However, the pressure to work more efficiently all the time can be exhausting when you want to reach the same high quality goals every time. Could translation technology help? Or is it the cause for the situation at the first place?

Translation technology is a wide concept. It contains for example translation memory tools, speech-to-speech and text-to-speech translators, different speech-to-text technologies, real-time translators for cameras and eye-wear, and machine translators. They are all made by people. They are made to people. They are made to ease our lives. Still we are somewhat scared of them and thus we haven’t been able to learn how to get the most out of those amazing products. We think that machine translation is perhaps the most unutilized translation technology although it has a huge potential.

Many professional translators have negative attitude especially towards machine translation. It is normal to human nature be skeptical towards new things but machine translation is not a new thing anymore. However, the fear of losing jobs and seeing the profession to change is strong. Machine translators and professionals see languages very differently. Humans feel that being a translator is almost like being an artist. For machines, languages and translation is causalities, numbers, possibilities and statistics; basically it’s math. Mathematicians and artists rarely share the same ideology.

The truth is that languages can be calculated at some level. Despite the thing that every language has irregularities, they are still mostly regular. The development of machine translation has been possible because languages have rules and because they are predictable. The same presupposition can be found behind almost all translation technologies. This is why it is a bit strange that some technologies are more acceptable than others. For example many translators use translation memories (TM) regularly but using machine translation (MT) causes strong disapproval among the colleagues.

TMs actually don’t differ that much from machine translation. Still MT is seen as something bad that destroys the whole industry. While translation memories are used to guarantee high quality and consistency, machine translation is almost like a sign of an apocalypse. Maybe it’s the lack of control what causes conflicting feelings between MT and TM. However, when used efficiently, all translation technologies are very helpful.

Translation technologies are designed to support the translation professionals’ work. They won’t replace human professionals. The most important and most interesting documents, books and other texts will be given to professional translators also in the future. Translation technologies handle efficiently those repetitive tasks which tend to bore people.

It is probably true that translation technologies will change the translation profession. Maybe there will be more proofreading and interesting translation projects and less boring translation tasks available in the future. This may not be a bad thing, right?

 

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3 thoughts on “Translation Technology Supports Professional Translators’ Work”

  1. Although as a translator, I have a fear of losing my business to machines to a certain degree, too, I think that machine translation is a good thing just as any new technology that makes people’s lives easier. What I want to add is that to protect ourselves from losing our jobs we, translators, must get more competitive. To achieve this, I’d focus my development efforts on three areas:
    1. Just get better at what you do. Translate better.
    2. Use technology to translate more efficiently. The 2,000-3,000 words per day norm is history.
    3. Become better specialized because good subject matter knowledge makes you more efficient. When you choose your specializations, go for those less prone to MT competition such as medical and legal.

  2. I agree with you Roman. Translation technologies are an opportunity more than a threat but there’s no doupt that the translation work itself will change, just like you said. Good attitude will help a lot when adapting oneself to this changes.

    Thank you for leaving your comment. All the best in your work as a translator!

  3. I don’t think there’s any need to worry that the work of translators will ever totally be usurped by machines. There will always be subtle nuances (idiolects, cultural references for example) that require the personal touch of a talented translator!

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