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Translator: If You Can’t Beat the Machine, Join It

Is it possible that technology could turn against those who believe they are using it to their advantage? Could a situation similar to that of Terminator II happen in the field of translation?

Currently, 3 billion gigabytes of data are generated per day, and automatic translation services today are able to process more words per minute than all human translators in a year.

Although machine translation is currently unable to produce the same quality as human translation, it’s worth speaking in defence of machine translation, as stated in this blog entry, since we are dependent upon technology and the quality of machine translation is set to improve rapidly. For example, in at least a number of fields, machine translation is expected to reach an acceptable level within the next 10 to 15 years.

There are numerous examples in which technological developments have spread panic among members of a profession emulated by the new technology, in fear that innovation might bring an end to the human work involved. However, the relentless advance of machine translation, as discussed in this post, is creating new opportunities to coexist with technology, such as post-editing, or revision of the machine output.

The truth of the matter is that with regard to high-quality human translation, there is no other option than for it to coexist alongside machine translation, and for human translators to focus on the areas of the linguistic content that are beyond the abilities of machine translation, such as poetry, humor and marketing (to give just a few examples) and take on the new roles emerging in this new era, as operators of increasingly intelligent machines.