This thought-provoking article about machine translation, by social media marketing consultant Anikó Pető-Mordovski, first appeared on the First Edition Translations blog.  She has kindly agreed to let us reproduce the article here now – do let us know your thoughts after you’ve read it.

Machine Learning in Focus – What Does the Future Hold for the

Translation Industry? by Anikó Pető-Mordovski

The subject of machine translation or MT is very trendy and nearly impossible to avoid nowadays in the translation industry. It frequently pops up in conversations in linguistic circles and key words such as neural, adaptive, post-edited often make their way into discussions.

Anikó Pető photoI must admit I have slightly ambivalent feelings about the use of MT and I am generally a bit apprehensive about it. I see how it might be helpful in some cases but in my opinion, it can go very-very wrong in the wrong hands. Discussions with colleagues in the industry are invaluable and may help reassure me and others who think like me: the arrival of MT may not be the end of the translation world after all.

Of course, there are translators who are quite vocal about their worries regarding MT: they fear they will lose out on projects because machines will take their jobs or their hard work will lose its value as clients will prefer the cheap and quick machine translation instead.

Others are more optimistic and may note that since they’ve started using machine translation (strictly with post-editing!), their productivity has increased a lot which actually means that they can take on a lot more work.

There are some who envision that translators will have to diversify as their role will fundamentally change. In the future there won’t be a need for “translators” as such, as localisation professionals will be involved from the product design stage, they’ll be advisors at multinational companies, they’ll work as creative copywriters as marketing material will not be translated but written in the target languages from scratch with the target audiences in mind. Those who are on this view believe the translation industry will dramatically change in the coming years as MT becomes more and more reliable and machines learn to learn from their mistakes.

While we can only guess at this point how MT will affect the industry in the next decades and each and every person I talk to have a different opinion about that, there is one point on which everyone seems to agree: machine translation will not replace human translators. Although it might change the way translators work, it will not take their place and it will be only used as a tool to aid translators’ work and increase their productivity, just like computers, translation memory software, the vast information found on the internet… Clients should not and (hopefully!) will not use machine translation without human involvement as the results will never be the same as if a text was written by a living, breathing translator.

And if we ever get to the point where machines and AI can write just as creatively and intuitively as a human, well…, then we will have other things to worry about.

What do you think about machine translation? Do you find it useful? When is it justified to use it? Share your thoughts below!

First Edition Translations, based in Cambridge, offers comprehensive and professional translation and interpreting services to industry and commerce in the UK and internationally.

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