rates and machine translation
Thread poster: Richard Bartholomew

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:24
Member (2007)
German to English
Jan 1, 2010

A brief search of the fora turned up a lot of discussion about rates and a lot of discussion about machine translation. But I didn't find much discussion about relationships between rates and MT. If this has been discussed elsewhere, I'd appreciate someone pointing me in the right direction.

In particular, I'm thinking about analogous situations in, say, the automotive industry. There, high wage and benefit demands stimulated automobile manufacturers to invest heavily in robotics. The intent was, and is, to replace expensive, troublesome human labor with relatively cheap, docile robots.

Do you think that negotiating high rates with your customers contributes to the accelerated development of machine translation? Alternatively, do you think that low rates tend to take the wind out of MT's sails? Or do you think that there is no significant causal relationship between the two?


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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:24
English to Dutch
+ ...
the correlation is obvious Jan 1, 2010

To me at least. With the ever ongoing development of machine translation it is no more than natural that uninformed buyers of translations will look for cheaper translations. Please note that I write uninformed, because any translation buyer with a bit of sense will understand that translation is a skill that is not easy to replace. The analogy with automotive industry is logical but, until a real artificial intelligence with self-awareness rears its ugly head, I don't expect to be replaced by machine translation in the near future. I also think that at that point my market position as a translator would be the least of my worries...

I have seen a very interesting thread where concerns are raised about using machine translation and proofreading as a viable form of translation services. This is a trend which I suspect has been going on for some time already and it indicates to me that the line between CAT-tools and machine translation becomes more and more non-existent.

Never the less, a competitive rate is merely one of many tools with which one can obtain new clients and since there are a few freely available machine translation tools which are frighteningly good: maybe we should all pack up, relocate to India and make that the translation country of the world, using Google Translate and our own considerable knowledge of the target languages to take control of these developments instead of being pushed towards continuously lowering our rates in times where everything gets more expensive (just kidding, of course). Like with everything in progress, the ultimate goal of machine translation is to lower costs and increase profit margins, but at the same time and in the earlier made analogy, no matter how many robots one uses to build a standard car, if you are going to use that car in a race you will need human mechanics to maximize the car's performance. I think translation follows the same road.

Does machine translation bring down rates? No doubt and in various ways. Am I worried? Not in the slightest. I have enough to worry about without giving in to fears about machine translation.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everybody and happy translating (or car-building).

Theo
Dutchman in France
Translation - so much more than substituting language A with language B


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:24
French to German
+ ...
To worry or not to worry... Jan 1, 2010

My greatest worry so far is the attitude of some translators who hail MT welcome as if some kind of sanctus sanctorum revelation had been made to mankind. And robots in any industrial plant will never buy the goods they produce.

[Edited at 2010-01-01 15:25 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:24
English to Portuguese
+ ...
CAT tools x MT Jan 1, 2010

Theo Bernards wrote:
This is a trend which I suspect has been going on for some time already and it indicates to me that the line between CAT-tools and machine translation becomes more and more non-existent.


IMHO MT is a CAT tool using a third-party TM in a black box. A plain CAT tool is MT using your TM.

Notice that any MT will not translate a word which is not in their database, regardless if it is not there or was mistyped. Likewise, a CAT tool upon not finding such a word in your TM will ask you for a translation.

So they are actually one and the same thing, the difference being in the MT, i.e. your access to it.

Automatic translation is the cost-cutting solution for rather standardized text. Meanwhile, as long as humans go on creating thoroughly new texts, other humans will be needed to translate these into other languages.

I was kinda expecting a new profession to come up, but it hasn't so far. Call it Trados (or any other specific CAT tool) operator, if you wish. Its practitioners would be recently graduated, i.e. inexperienced, translators, extremely well-trained in all of one specific CAT tool resources.

They would work (directly or indirectly - that's not the issue here) for companies using some relatively long-standing technology, that publish e-reams of information every year. Typical examples are cars, machinery, computers, peripherals. They would run the new material through their CAT tool, and translate only the new segments, as most of the text is suposedly adapted from the previously existing material.

This would be a springboard for a career in professional translation. Such intensive exposure to pretranslated material, and the need to research on their own for the new stuff would quickly develop these people.

However I haven't seen any of it yet. Usually experienced translators with Trados are requested for these jobs, and then they complain about the very low rates offered.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 03:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Robots? Yes please! Jan 2, 2010

Richard Bartholomew wrote:
...
I'm thinking about analogous situations in, say, the automotive industry. There, high wage and benefit demands stimulated automobile manufacturers to invest heavily in robotics. The intent was, and is, to replace expensive, troublesome human labor with relatively cheap, docile robots.
...


Robots have the nasty and emimiently beneficial habit of eliminating, first, the unskilled workers in an industry and the boring, repetitious - not to say mindless and cost-ineffective tasks - they (are obliged to) do. On the 'plus' side (not to suggest that the foregoing is necessarily a 'negative', on the contrary...) robots create potentially worthwhile job opportunities for those able to design, build and sell them. In the context of today's global economy that's not to be sneezed at... Those people have as much right to a decent standard of living as I have myself.

Any translator who feels threatened by MT is perhaps in need of a career review.

IMHO, MT will, if anything, raise the potential earnings of competent, specialized, market-conscious human translators by highlighting the blantant similiarity between the robotized spray-painting of Chevrolets and the MT-ing of user manuals for bathplugs. That's surely a good thing.

MediaMatrix


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:24
French to German
+ ...
Quite so... Jan 2, 2010

mediamatrix wrote:

IMHO, MT will, if anything, raise the potential earnings of competent, specialized, market-conscious human translators by highlighting the blantant similiarity between the robotized spray-painting of Chevrolets and the MT-ing of user manuals for bathplugs. That's surely a good thing.

MediaMatrix


I would not say "Robots? Yes, please!";) but am definitively convinced of the veracity of your quoted statement.


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René Stranz-Nikitin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 08:24
Czech to German
+ ...
Off: The market treats us like Stalin did - it forces us to relocate to cheaper places! Jan 2, 2010

Theo Bernards wrote:

... maybe we should all pack up, relocate to India and make that the translation country of the world, using Google Translate and our own considerable knowledge of the target languages to take control of these developments instead of being pushed towards continuously lowering our rates in times where everything gets more expensive (just kidding, of course).


The fact that the market really has the power and the unscrupulousness to force professionals, that via the internet technically can act from every place in the world, to relocate to the cheapest place possible on earth, alarms me quite a long time. I already moved to a bit cheaper one of my source language countries, but because I liked the country. Nevertheless it seems I didn't move far enough! (Nothing against India in particular, I always wanted to go and travel there, but didn't manage that until now.)

I cannot help myself, but in the past people were forced to move to worse places by wars, natural disasters and dictators like Stalin. And the market can do this without being accused of being a dictator!

Cannot help myself, the market seems to be a dictator!

Cheers!

René Stranz-Nikitin
www.uersn.de

P.S.: English is none of my working languages.

[Edited at 2010-01-02 18:40 GMT]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 08:24
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
the writing on the wall Jan 2, 2010


...
In particular, I'm thinking about analogous situations in, say, the automotive industry.
...


Me too. I think it's high time translators start to unionize.

Otherwise the history will just rhyme and not repeat.


Regards

Vito


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:24
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Re-check your history Jan 3, 2010

Vito Smolej wrote:
I think it's high time translators start to unionize.


Automotive workers had some of the strongest unions around and look what good that did

If you don't bend over, chances are you won't get spanked. The idea of having to relocate because of "market dictatorship" seems rather daft; there are likely other important issues. I think our Polish colleague and others like her will do fine, even in the Wild, Wild East.

If not, I hear that Bombay... excuse me, Mumbai... is a rather nice place. I hope to visit there if the dictatorial market slows down enough to afford me the time.


Do you think that negotiating high rates with your customers contributes to the accelerated development of machine translation? Alternatively, do you think that low rates tend to take the wind out of MT's sails? Or do you think that there is no significant causal relationship between the two?


What's driving MT is a shortage of qualified translation capacity, not the rates charged by individual translators. Cut your rates to nothing if you like and let everyone else translate for free, and you'll still see MT as a popular topic. So no - I see no causal relationship here at all.

Anyone who feels truly threatened by MT either needs to get a good psychologist or another career. I can imagine very well the difficulty of making a living in a minor language pair with a lot of highly competent people in it and gross disparities in the cost of living where the competent speakers of the relevant languages live, but MT will never play a role in that dynamic.

[Edited at 2010-01-03 10:35 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
No correlation Jan 3, 2010

Richard Bartholomew wrote:
In particular, I'm thinking about analogous situations in, say, the automotive industry. There, high wage and benefit demands stimulated automobile manufacturers to invest heavily in robotics. The intent was, and is, to replace expensive, troublesome human labor with relatively cheap, docile robots.


I think robots used in building cars is the automotive equivalent of CAT tools, not of MT. Why? Because robots don't design cars -- they only build them, after very strict and very precise instructions from humans. Robots automate the building of cars in the same way as CAT tools automate the building of sentences.

1. Do you think that negotiating high rates with your customers contributes to the accelerated development of machine translation? 2. Alternatively, do you think that low rates tend to take the wind out of MT's sails?


1. No, because individual customers don't control and don't contribute to the development of machine translation. Clients who want to pay lower rates will seek out cheaper translators. Commercial MT systems are quite expensive, and can only be operated by trained staff.

2. No, because MT post-checking rates are even lower than human translation rates (per translated unit, though not per total cost). Besides, the main benefit of MT is not that it makes translation cheaper, but that it makes translation faster.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Horses for courses Jan 3, 2010

As non-native speakers might not understand my title, let me explain - it basically means that different people are suitable for different things. Here, we can substitute "translations" for people and "purposes" for things.

If I had doubts about the quality of translations I provide, I might worry about the possibility of being undercut by machine translations. As it is, I am confident that, in my lifetime at least, there is nothing for me to fear from them.

If someone wants a translation done very cheaply and doesn't care about the quality, I really don't mind whether they get it done by a person or a machine - it certainly won't be me doing it as I'm busy working with people who demand quality at a reasonable price.

Of course, I'm 53 so nearing the end of my working life. My son's just starting out and is doing some translation work (although IT is his real area) and, yes, I fear for his future, whatever it is. But that's just normal - I imagine my parents feared for mine in the post-60s liberated era.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The question Jan 3, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:
If I had doubts about the quality of translations I provide, I might worry about the possibility of being undercut by machine translations. As it is, I am confident that, in my lifetime at least, there is nothing for me to fear from them.


The question is not whether MT leads to lower rates, but whether lower rates lead to MT.


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:24
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Some insightful comments Jan 4, 2010

Kevin Lossner wrote:

What's driving MT is a shortage of qualified translation capacity, not the rates charged by individual translators.


It took a little thought to get my head around this one. It might be consistent with a bipartite model of the translation market featuring large volume, high throughput, low quality, and small volume, low throughput, high quality parts. Correct me if I'm wrong.

In this model, MT would progressively decimate the first part of the market, more or less asymptotically approaching the lower boundry of the second part. Since translation service consumers would recognize the second part's invulnerability to MT, providers' demanding high rates there would not tend to stimulate MT development.

Given the assumptions, this seems like a plausible model.

Samuel Murray wrote:

I think robots used in building cars is the automotive equivalent of CAT tools, not of MT.


The analogy of robots to CAT tools might actually be a better than that to MT. I wonder what makes car designers worry the way MT makes translators worry.

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

A plain CAT tool is MT using your TM.


Or is it "you are MT using your CAT tool's TM."? Either way, it kind of make you think.


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:24
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
If we all move... Jan 11, 2010

1) If we all move to China, there will be no reason for translations to exist (because we will all speak one language - Chinese).

2) Eventually machines will take over translations. By then I'll be doing something else, less boring (hopefully). Translation agencies will have no reason to exist in such a scenario (the end clients will be translating their documents with the MT - no reason to hire an agency for just editing work).

3) A lot of people are still working in the automotive industry.


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:24
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Learning by moving Jan 11, 2010

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:
1) If we all move to China, there will be no reason for translations to exist (because we will all speak one language - Chinese).


Wow, I never imagined that moving to China was all you had to do to learn Chinese. Cool!

2) Eventually machines will take over translations. By then I'll be doing something else, less boring (hopefully). Translation agencies will have no reason to exist in such a scenario (the end clients will be translating their documents with the MT - no reason to hire an agency for just editing work).


Just out of curiosity, Mr. Kritikakis, what would you find less boring than translation? You're not thinking of joining the MT folks are you? After all, someone has to do the R&D to create MT systems.

Also, I suspect that agencies would still find clients for post-editing work. The question is whether you would want to switch from translator to post editor. Something tells me that would be more, not less, boring than translation.

3) A lot of people are still working in the automotive industry.


Indeed, but a lot fewer of them live in the United States. My fondest hope is that a lot more of them are living in Germany.


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