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Automated Machine Translation
Thread poster: Katharina Harer

Katharina Harer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:20
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Oct 20, 2015

After translating for over ten years it has come to my attention that the automated machine translations are gaining in popularity with big companies. An agent from an agency I work with recently told me that soon we might all be out of a job, due to automated machine translations becoming better and better.

What are your experiences as translators and what is your prognosis?


 

cecilea7
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2010)
Portuguese to French
+ ...
I truly believe so... Oct 20, 2015

large companies appear more inclined to pay for revisions rather than translations, relying on machine translation and getting the job done at editing prices. I completely refuse to do any machine editing at that price, it remains a normal translation and as such, requires normal payment.

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:32 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:33 GMT]


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think that the problem is not whether or not computers "can" translate... Oct 20, 2015

... but that clients "believe" they can.

If computers could translate so easily, then why did I spend over eight hours this weekend researching terms for a 2,000 word document?

The problem is that to the untrained eye, a machine translation looks 85% done and they think all we need to do is fix the remaining 15%. However, that supposed 15% represents 90% of the work involved in translation.


[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:32 GMT]


 

Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:20
Member
English to Swedish
Only general texts Oct 20, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

... but that clients "believe" they can.

If computers could translate so easily, then why did I spend over eight hours this weekend researching terms for a 2,000 word document?



And that is the reason why machine translation will never replace real translators other than in very general texts.

Ed. Please disregard the word 'never' and think of something less definite.

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:28 GMT]


 

Jenae Spry  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:20
French to English
We are still some time off from that Oct 20, 2015

Some translators will lose their job to MT, but MT is, in my opinion some time off from being able to understand a lot. However, I do think that even experienced and highly talented translators should expect to see post-editing as the future of translation. In my opinion, that's not a terrible thing. I would be ok with a discount of say 35-50% for good quality MT (which I've yet to see). It would be nice to not have to feel like I'm reinventing the wheel and I could get a lot more done. If I end up making more or the same per hour I spend I'm translating, that's really all that matters.

 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:20
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
The PEMT Pareto principle Oct 20, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

The problem is that to the untrained eye, a machine translation looks 85% done and they think all we need to do is fix the remaining 15%. However, that supposed 15% represents 90% of the work involved in translation.


A keen observation! I'll remember it for future use.
Gerard


 

Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 14:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Popular misconception Oct 20, 2015

Robin Joensuu wrote (with my emphasis):

And that is the reason why machine translation will never replace real translators other than in very general texts.

Ed. Please disregard the word 'never' and think of something less definite.

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:28 GMT]


On the contrary, MT is - and will continue to be - most 'able' (and cost-effective) in very tightly-defined specialist fields, such as automotive parts lists (where it has been used for at least 20 years already). When MT can translate something very general - like the letter I wrote to my mother this afternoon - then we'll have a problem on our hands.

RL

[Edited at 2015-10-20 21:20 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It still takes longer to fix than to translate from scratch Oct 20, 2015

Jeff Whittaker is absolutely right. Clients do not always appreciate that 85% OK does NOT mean you can get a good translation in 15% of the time it would take to do it from scratch. Or even 25 or 50% for that matter.

Often it actually takes LONGER to question each sentence and decide whether it is good enough or not, than simply to work on a straight translation. After a while I get totally blocked and have to take a long break!

In standardised situations and where the style is not critical, machine translation may be useful. For draft quality and the 'here today, deleted tomorrow' kind of communications, it is very difficult for many humans to deliver fast enough.

I have been to two seminars this year on machine translation, and the general conclusion was that translators are not going to be out of a job for a long time. The volumes to be translated are exploding, and we can't keep up.

However, language is far more complex than many people realise, and humans are far more creative than they think they are.
When computers can write the catchy songs and do the marketing blurbs from scratch, maybe they will be able to translate them too.

When computers are able to draft complicated legal documents from scratch, they may be able to translate them too.

When they can sort out ALL the abbreviations in the Dictionary of Medical Acronyms & Abbreviations and get the right ones in the right context... in multiple languages...

The work left to translators will amost certainly get more demanding - and we already use CATs to take care of repetitions.

It is a fallacy that at some stage everything there is to say will have been said, and therefore it can be translated and stored in some cloud, in searchable form where a computer can find it. Who says there is one best way to translate each phrase anyway? In all the world's 6000 + languages?

There are always going to be new situations, new developments in language, and different ways of saying everything. Computers are always going to be several steps behind - or at least for many years to come.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
For my language pair, MT performs poorly in very general texts Oct 20, 2015

Robin Joensuu wrote:

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

... but that clients "believe" they can.

If computers could translate so easily, then why did I spend over eight hours this weekend researching terms for a 2,000 word document?



And that is the reason why machine translation will never replace real translators other than in very general texts.

Ed. Please disregard the word 'never' and think of something less definite.

[Edited at 2015-10-20 20:28 GMT]


It does better in specialized fields.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 01:20
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Technical and legal texts Oct 21, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:

Jeff Whittaker is absolutely right. Clients do not always appreciate that 85% OK does NOT mean you can get a good translation in 15% of the time it would take to do it from scratch. Or even 25 or 50% for that matter.

Often it actually takes LONGER to question each sentence and decide whether it is good enough or not, than simply to work on a straight translation. After a while I get totally blocked and have to take a long break!



MT is effective to translate non-idiomatic texts if you know algorithm of the software. I translate non-complicate texts mainly with MT and take shorter time to edit as referred to as "post-editing" of MT. I believe that idiomatic texts need human translation, though. The reason is that language is a lively tool for human beings. And MT is designed for mass production and a supporting tool.

Soonthon L.


 

Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 20:20
Czech to English
+ ...
Are we modern-day lamplighters? Oct 21, 2015

I’m a “half-empty” guy. In 2010, I told myself I had 10 years to get my house in order (pay off the mortgage etc.), as in 2020 we would all be fighting for scraps (the idiomatic texts machine translation will still be unable to handle). Even the European Commission has got in on the act with post-editing and has been expanding this area rapidly in the past year or so.

I did a post-editing job as an experiment and worked out that, all told (time taken plus rate), switching to post-editing would reduce my earning power by 25% (not the end of the world). I wasn’t happy with the final product, but the client obviously wasn’t expecting miracles (or were they?).


 

Dani Karuniawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 01:20
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Robot will be a future job killer in any fields Oct 21, 2015

Katharina Harer wrote:

After translating for over ten years it has come to my attention that the automated machine translations are gaining in popularity with big companies. An agent from an agency I work with recently told me that soon we might all be out of a job, due to automated machine translations becoming better and better.

What are your experiences as translators and what is your prognosis?


Recently, I saw a smart machine (robot), which was examining faeces, urine, and blood in a modern hospital. It worked much faster than human lab analysts. In minutes, it delivered lab results.

I also hear information about a big printing company applying new robotic technology. As a result, it cuts its human workers from thousands to dozens.

A friend of mine, an auditor, told me that he bought an expensive software (robot) and, as a result), he needed fewer accountants in his office.

Robot will be a future job killer in any professional fields, not only in our field.



[Edited at 2015-10-21 12:53 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No, that isn't quite true, IMO Oct 21, 2015

Katharina Harer wrote:
An agent from an agency I work with recently told me that soon we might all be out of a job, due to automated machine translations becoming better and better.

It's the agencies that will be soon out of business. Why would a client need an agency in that scenario? They can just buy, rent or pay to use a sophisticated online MT tool, or simply use GT if they see fit.

Of course, many clients will see those routes as being acceptable for internal memos etc but not for their primary business texts or for their marketing texts. For those, they will come directly to the specialists: us! Small teams of dedicated professionals will look after their important translation needs. Those teams could be organised into agencies outsourcing to freelancers, but they won't be the big brokers who employ sales staff and administrators who know nothing about our profession and who see price as the sole criterion of success. What price quality?


 

Álvaro Espantaleón  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:20
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not surprising Oct 21, 2015

I constantly read human-produced texts that seem machine translated, and I usually find "translators" willing to work for $.02, so what the hell? why not just switch to the real thing? $.00 and quality won't be compromised. Maximizing all the way.

 

Patrick Porter
United States
Local time: 14:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
How I learned to stop worrying and love MT Oct 21, 2015

The way I see it, the translation industry has always evolved with technology; there’s nothing new about that...[read more here]

 
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