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Translation and interpretation are not dying…yet
Translation is basically the process to express in writing the meaning from one language (source) to another (target). Interpretation is the oral version of translation.
However, this process is not as simple as it seems. Some of the requirements are: Proficient language skills, fast thinking, subject matter knowledge, disposition to research and permanent learning.
Learning our mother tongue happens in several stages and the most important is the first one which happens naturally based on the environment we are raised; however, learning a second language may require a different approach according the learner’s age or the purpose to learn the language. (You may also be interested in reading Why learning a second language and What foreign language to learn).
With that being said, it’s important to highlight that, for many years, translation and interpretation tasks were conducted exclusively by people; gradually, with technology evolution, more machine involvement was gaining relevance to the point of replacing repetitive or simple tasks performed by humans.
Nowadays, it’s impressive the advance of Artificial Intelligence in the linguistic field with tasks carried out by computer software. Some of those tasks include, voice recognition, audio transcription, machine translation, vocabulary database access, automated spelling checking, and more.
The question would be: Will machines totally replace translators and interpreters?
In my opinion, yes, but not totally. Only to a certain extent and not yet.
Despite some parts have already been replaced, for instance, translating simple sentences in some languages is highly accurate via computer software, much like voice recognition and audio transcription which have advanced a great deal but are still in their infancy stage.
Technology has also provided benefits to translators and interpreters. One of them is collaboration through Internet via forums, email, webinars, terminology banks, and CAT tools.
Regarding CAT tools, which stands for Computer Aided (Assisted) Translation, are just computer applications to help in conducting the translation work much faster, easily and with more consistency. I am astonished to know that some companies still believe doing translations with CAT tools is the same as machine translations.
The information entered to a CAT translation memory is intended to be done by a human, so it can be reused when similar segments need to be translated again. However, human intervention is still required because words have different meanings according to the context.
As per machine translations, as said before, it’s acceptable for short simple sentences. But for complex syntactic expressions, there is still a long way to go for reaching a decent status.
The only great benefit of machine translations I can see now is for translation agencies which can justify the reduction of translators’ rates by doing themselves a preliminary translation with software. In my case, I charge the same rate because most of the time I have to do the translation from scratch.
Human translators and interpreters are still relevant for tasks that require high level of professionalism and zero grammatical errors or style adequacy. But for how long?
Well, I can foresee a mutation of the current tasks that linguists are performing today instead of a total eradication of these professionals.
if we think carefully, the speedy evolution of technology is astonishing, and we must get prepared to an abrupt or gradual transition.
I can also perceive a reformed Lingua Franca, either English or another language, but mostly based on electronic devices, such as mobile phones, watches, glasses, clothes or other items where Internet of Things (IoT) is augmenting its dominance.
We are already seeing on mobile devices communication with reduced sentences, based on acronyms or rich in emojis or other type of symbology.
I don’t see this transformation as negative for linguists. We just need to adapt to imminent changes and help the new generations to get ready for embracing innovation with an open-minded attitude and entire disposition to achieve effectiveness.
If you have some experiences or opinions in this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.
- What do you think translators/interpreters can do to avoid displacement?
- Will most human languages disappear in the near future?
- How best can linguist take advantage of technology?
- In what other ways can linguists be useful to society?