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Will translating, as a job, survive ?
Thread poster: kistengeist224

kistengeist224
Germany
German to English
+ ...
Nov 8, 2015

Hello,

I'm very interested in becoming a translator, I'm very interested in lecture and language and I can speak 4 languages almost fluently, I'm doing a lot of research but the biggest question I'm asking myself is:

Will translating, as a job, survive ?

Now this might be a very tough question to answer but what are your opinions on this ?

Machine translating becomes better and better each day, what do you think will happen to translating in 5,10,15 years ?

Not quite sure if this is the right board but I didn't find something better fitting.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:05
German to English
+ ...
answer Nov 8, 2015

There is no reason why it shouldn't.

 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:05
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Good question Nov 8, 2015

Hi,

It's a good question. Translation is certainly changing and a proportion of what we used to do has already been lost to Google Translate. Who needs a 'for information' translation of a relatively simple text any more?

But will a machine ever be able to come up with a catchy advertising slogan that takes into account the cultural sensitivities of its target audience? We're not even close to that yet.

My advice to aspiring translators would be to bear in mind that the translation world will change and prepare yourself to be flexible. This means developing the skills that will be welcome in any job - e.g. networking, sales, marketing - this will both help your translation career and give you other options should you ever need them. You will need to develop a specialism too, an in-depth understanding of another field (e.g. engineering or finance). I don't see machines replacing expert translators any time soon and if they do, well, you will have contacts and knowledge in another field.

But, to answer your question, I don't think machines will replace translators over the next 15 years. On the other hand, things are changing fast and will continue to do so. The translator of the future will need to be flexible, entrepreneurial and a true expert in their field. You will need more than simply 4 languages. But, yes, I think there is still a viable career there.



[Edited at 2015-11-08 09:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-08 09:32 GMT]


 

Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:05
Member (2015)
German to English
Not just translating Nov 8, 2015

The question pertains not just to translating but to many professions out there, especially any profession which has had to adapt to the internet. Will bookstores survive? The music recording industry? The post office?

Machine translation has been improving and, looking at it cynically, it is certainly possible that in the future we translators will all be reduced to proofreading the MT we all to some extent helped to create. But it may also evolve in a direction we have yet to recognize.

I find it is a mistake to shy away from a profession because you can't see its future. If we all did this there would be no performing artists, no authors, no journalists. If you want to work as a translator then do it, and become the best translator you can be. If changes in the industry affect your career adversely, then take those skills and put them toward something else (after all, translation, as a skill, is much more marketable than, say, 18th century French poetry).

I was going to say that if you need the security of a long-lasting job, then you should look for another line of work. But I think it would be wrong to look any line of work in that way these days, with the exception of being a plumber or other kind of Handwerker.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:05
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Good posts Nov 8, 2015

I agree with all that's been said. Just to add that I think you have to be prepared to excel at whatever you do.

There's enough 'general' work around at the moment for you to cut your teeth on but that work may not always be available. Some is going to MT at the moment, even though the quality is often appalling. But the stuff churned out by human translators working for a couple of cents per word is often no better, so why pay anything? Those jobs will go soon, I'm sure, and their agencies will go too.

Hurrah! A smaller but better market for a smaller pool of translators, all qualified and/or experienced and set on providing quality work for a suitable fee. Make sure you're there!

The thing that's hampering me today, at the age of 60, is lack of IT abilities. You do need to keep up with the latest tools and techniques, both for the job itself and also for marketing, accounting etc. I can't, even though I was an analyst/programmer back in the 1980s - 10 years of experience in COBOL for batch runs, from card decks to begin with, then one of those new-fangled screens shared between 20 of us. That's another profession that's changed more than a little, but it certainly hasn't died.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:05
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Come back later? Nov 8, 2015

kistengeist224 wrote:
I'm very interested in becoming a translator, I'm very interested in lecture and language.

Why not go away and do something else where you can use your linguistic skills? In ten years, we'll probably all have a better idea as to whether translation will survive or not.

My bet is this: things will not have changed dramatically in 10 years.There will still be many translators doing okay, a small number of translators doing poorly and a small number of translators doing very well. Machine translation will have changed and progressed in some areas but in other areas people will have realised that its role will be limited.

Overall, the hype regarding MT will have exceeded the reality, as it has done for the past five decades. In the meantime, demand for translation will have continued to grow. In the same way that - despite the hype of the 1980s - expert systems didn't put millions of people out of work, neither will MT. Just my opinion.

However, putting aside the isse of MT, remember that freelance translation is a lonely profession. I worked in large companies for a long time and frankly I miss the human contact that comes from being surrounded by dozens of colleagues. You really have to work at your social life outside translation if you're a freelancer. It is easier for me now because I have my family, but if I were 25 I doubt that I could do this job.

Think also about what you can offer to prospective clients. Successful businesses, large or small, need to be able to distinguish themselves from their competition in some way. How will you stand out as a translator?

You'll find it easier if you have an area of specialization. I have far less freelancer experience than most people on this forum, but because I had solid expertise in a few areas I was able to make a good living within months of starting out. A more established example is Rachel, who commented earlier - she has a strong and clearly defined identity as a translator. Check out her web site.

So if you like (say) museums and art, why not work in that sector for 5 or 10 years, accumulating valuable experience, then come to translation as a specialist with something that will make clients sit up and take notice? I am not claiming that this is the only way to succeed, but it's one proven route.

Regards
Dan


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:05
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Answers Nov 8, 2015

kistengeist224 wrote:
Will translating, as a job, survive?


Yes, I have no doubt about that. Translators will, however, continuously find that the world changes and that they tend to change with it (and if they don't, their client pool dries up).

Machine translating becomes better and better each day, what do you think will happen to translating in 5, 10, 15 years?


Do you have any URL that shows that machine translation has improved dramatically and consistently over the course of the past two decades? I get the impression that although there was a sudden boost in quality with the introduction and implementation of corpus driven statistical MT, it was mostly a lone improvement and did not lead to a consistent improvements in subsequent years.


 

Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:05
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well put Nov 8, 2015

Rachel Waddington wrote:

Hi,

It's a good question. Translation is certainly changing and a proportion of what we used to do has already been lost to Google Translate. Who needs a 'for information' translation of a relatively simple text any more?

But will a machine ever be able to come up with a catchy advertising slogan that takes into account the cultural sensitivities of its target audience? We're not even close to that yet.

My advice to aspiring translators would be to bear in mind that the translation world will change and prepare yourself to be flexible. This means developing the skills that will be welcome in any job - e.g. networking, sales, marketing - this will both help your translation career and give you other options should you ever need them. You will need to develop a specialism too, an in-depth understanding of another field (e.g. engineering or finance). I don't see machines replacing expert translators any time soon and if they do, well, you will have contacts and knowledge in another field.

But, to answer your question, I don't think machines will replace translators over the next 15 years. On the other hand, things are changing fast and will continue to do so. The translator of the future will need to be flexible, entrepreneurial and a true expert in their field. You will need more than simply 4 languages. But, yes, I think there is still a viable career there.



[Edited at 2015-11-08 09:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-08 09:32 GMT]



That is the key here. As Rachel said:

'...and prepare yourself to be flexible.' In many factories around the world there has been replacements, but most cases are related to simple tasks and when it comes to specialization, humans are the ones able to do it. We can't deny google translator translates many things, but this is a general and not specific fields. Our main issue right now is another one related to pricing around the globe.

Good luck!


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:05
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
if I still see lists of Nov 8, 2015

months,
days,
countries
etc
to be translated for different clients , I think the answer is "yes" and will be for a long time...

will the translation world change - yes
will there be a job in it - yes, translators are amongst the lowest paid, highly educated professionals in the wold, so for investments in machine translations to give any kind of ROI...they will need to be pretty good...

I see some of the machine translation memories have already been sabotaged (a large Dutch one accidentally got filled with a lot of Spanish sentences.. hehehehe))...

So it will be ajob for humans for some time still, - -will you be able to make decent living?
..actually most transaltors do not...

Ed


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:05
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Will we survive? Nov 8, 2015

I predict that human beings will become redundant and everything will be done by computers, controlling machines.

 

Roni_S  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 21:05
Slovak to English
Yo, Tom Nov 8, 2015

I agree. However, I do believe that it will take a while and so I hope, nay pray, that this will happen AFTER I have gone from this earth. If not, then I think the engrish.com site will no longer provide us with humour but with realityicon_smile.gif

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:05
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Definitely for some languages Nov 8, 2015

Language is far, far more complex than computers.

The idea that everything that can be said probably has been said,
and can be stored in the world's 6000 languages in a great database in the sky, sorry, cloud, waiting for machines to tap it and come up with it...
... is a little bit like the renaissance geniuses who were believed to know everything there was to know.

Languages develop, cultures differ, and I would bet there will still be human translators around for many centuries yet.

I can't envisage us all spending our lives constructing, programming, repairing and maintaining the machines to do ALL the work. There are simply some fields where it is more fun to do it ourselves, and the results are better. Or at least more acceptable!

In principle there is no need whatsoever for chefs and waiters and kitchen staff to slave over hot stoves and work antisocial hours, just to feed people in restaurants and canteens. Machines could make perfectly adequate, nutritious food, comply with the hygiene regulations, serve, wash up and even provide a choice of things that taste good.

In Denmark there is an outcry because food like that is provided for elderly people who cannot cook for themselves. Packaged food is delivered once a fortnight. They can pop it in the microwave as required... and dinner is served.
Technically, it is much better than the meals many private housewives dish up. Nevertheless, people weep, rage and write to the newspapers and local councils about the reduced quality of life for the elderly. My father was cooking meals and baking his own bread at 90 - the human touch DOES make a difference. He actually enjoyed the process too.
_____________________________

You do not mention which four languages you are nearly fluent at, but you may find it best to concentrate on one pair, possibly two. This has certainly been my experience. Alternatively a relatively narrow specialist area, if you want to keep all your languages. You will find it easier to compete if you have a clear niche of some kind.

As soon as there is any need for a really idiomatic text, the machines struggle. There is more to translation than writing a strictly correct sentence - if the syntax is not natural, the text is very hard to read. It may be ambiguous, or readers may simply give up because it is too tedious.

Where there are cultural differences - and even in Northern Europe, there are plenty - machines are going to be way out of their depth for a long time.

Cultural factors or events become almost proverbial in one country, but are unheard-of in others. Similes and metaphors that are perfectly clear in one language can be almost untranslatable. Humans can research and find equivalents, but machines cannot begin to guess.

Translators will have to specialise and be flexible, but they are going to be around for the lifetime of anyone alive today.


 

Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:05
Member (2015)
German to English
"the engrish.com site will no longer provide us with humour but with reality" Nov 8, 2015

Perhaps in 100 years' time universities will offer Modern English as an ancient classical language. By then everyone will be speaking some evolved form of LOLcat.

kistengeist, with 4 languages under your belt, have you thought about becoming an interpreter?

[Edited at 2015-11-08 15:50 GMT]


 

George Hopkins
Local time: 21:05
Swedish to English
Survival Nov 8, 2015

Translating will survive, but will translators?
One cannot live on peanuts alone.


 

Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 15:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Nov 8, 2015

kistengeist224 asked:

Will translating, as a job, survive ?



No, of course not. Indeed, there are very few 'jobs' in the modern world that will survive more than a few decades longer.

But what most certainly WILL survive - and will PROSPER, to boot - will be the market for top-notch culturally-sensitive and technically-accurate translations delivered by people with a proven track-record (not a 'mere' academic qualification in translation) in the art and science of professional translation; those of us who don't apply for, or accept mere 'jobs'; those of us who offer nothing less than 'professional services' worthy of the attention of the world's business, social, and political interests.


 
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