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Poll: Do you feel threatened by machine translation?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Nov 22, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you feel threatened by machine translation?".

This poll was originally submitted by Laura Ibáñez. View the poll results »



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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not really Nov 22, 2014

A worker shouldn't feel threatened by his/her tools. When wielding a chainsaw I tend to be more wary than when, say, raking up leaves, but that doesn't mean I'm threatened by it. Nevertheless, I am slightly concerned about the spreading abuse/misuse of MT, where any old Tom, Dick or Harriet thinks they can make a mint "translating" with it, but I don't feel threatened personally. I think the threat is more to the shape of the profession in the near future. The MT currently available still generally leaves a lot to be desired AFAIK, although I've seen some impressive results, which had probably been post-edited to cover up the deficiencies.

Anyway, as I have more work these days than you could shake a stick at, I'm not all that worried. Ask me again in 5 or 10 years time....


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 11:12
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, not really! Nov 22, 2014

But just like Neil has just said: "Ask me again in 5 or 10 years time..."!

PS This is probably one of the very few poll questions that should be asked again...


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Andrea Munhoz  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:12
Portuguese to English
+ ...
No, definitely not (yet) Nov 22, 2014

Unless there will come a time when AI is so advanced that language nuances are perceived by machines. Until then, I don't think there will be such an issue in my field.

[Edited at 2014-11-22 09:39 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:12
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
No, not really Nov 22, 2014

There might be a possible up-coming "threat" for some of my fields 10 years down the road. Then I just focus more on literature and poetry... unless I retire first.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:12
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Slightly, because ... Nov 22, 2014

I don't feel threatened by MT itself because, as others have said, it usually produces poor results at present, but I do feel slightly threatened by the perception commonly held by non-linguists that "it's all done by computers these days, isn't it?".
I quite often find this attitude. People who vaguely suppose that translating consists of looking up words in dictionaries and writing them down.
For example, during a discussion with a financial adviser at my bank when he asked me what I did for a living and I said I was a translator. I responded with "Well, in that case I don't really need your financial advice, do I? I mean, it's all done by computers and available on line these days, isn't it?". I think he saw my point.


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:12
Member (2006)
German to English
No, not really Nov 22, 2014

As I cannot imagine that a machine would have the creative "touch" that we do, even when dealing with Operating Instructions, etc.

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Patti Maselli  Identity Verified
Martinique
Local time: 06:12
Member (2013)
French to English
I do not take the fly! Nov 22, 2014

I am under no bad blood. Do not break your head, even if machines have long teeth and break our feet. We take away the thorn from the customer with our "human" quality.

(Oops, sorry, I tried out a little French>English Google Translate and things didn't work out the way I had hoped.....)


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:12
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I actually suggest people try it! Nov 22, 2014

Whenever a prospect approaches me using expressions like 'limited or very low budget', 'best possible rates' or other El Cheapo vocabulary, I actually suggest they give Google Translate a try.

If they think this will cost them time, effort, or some kilobytes on their cheap dial-up connection, I've got it ready for them at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/comparison.html .

If what they get from MT is good enough for them, let them use it, for cryin' out loud!

I advise them that it's online, free, and immediate. No risk or cost in trying. If they don't like what they get, there will be more money left in that budget to have it done by a pro.

I also tell them that every time I'm hired to fix/salvage/redo human translations done at half my rates or less, albeit the nature of the flaws is different, the overall quality is about the same as GT's.

My expectation is that free machine translation will gradually wipe out cheap, low quality translation vendors (both freelancers and the agencies who hire them at despicable rates) from the marketplace. This will enable translation prospects to see the actual cost of professional translation.

For the time being, prospects often unfamiliar with either source/target (more often the latter) language see what looks like the same service being offered on a scale that ranges from 1 to 10. When they realize that the quality offered in the 1 through 5 range can be obtained for free, the whole picture will become more obvious.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:42
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
MT is a long way in coming to Hindi translation Nov 22, 2014

I work in the English to Hindi pair, and in Hindi we don't even have decent online dictionaries or grammar and spelling tools yet. So MT is a long way off when it comes to Hindi.

Even in languages like English in which huge investments have been made in MT research it is far from a perfect tool and easily another decade will pass before it even manages to get simple sentences right.

By the time it becomes a real threat to Hindi translators, I would be long since gone, or at least my translation career would have ended.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 19:12
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Can't imagine Nov 22, 2014

it would ever impact the J>E market

Because Japanese leaves out the subject in a lot of places, objects have to be inferred as well and in the absence of counters you have to guess whether a subject or object is singular or plural. There are also heaps of vague and ambiguous phrases and expressions in what is a language that is lacking in structure and heavily contextual and where you have to read between the lines and become a clairvoyant.

So, heavy pre- and post-editing is required to even begin to make something close on legible in MT. IMHO

Can't imagine an 'MT taking over the world' scenario happening over here. And, I can't hear anyone crying out 'Wolf!' over here, either.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Threatened? No, never. Nov 22, 2014

The MT threat is overblown.

A basic understanding on how the human brain works vis á vis how a piece of software works should be enough to dispel any fears. Those who spend time comparing human translation (which is a redundant expression, by the way) to machine translation are, sadly, wasting their time.

I don't think we professional translators need to spend time trying to convince people about the futility of spending money in MT as a substitute for translation proper. Good translations speak for themselves.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:12
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It is already affecting us Nov 22, 2014

I'm sorry some people don't notice it, but despite the poor quality of the MTs, many people are already using them officially. The Chinese, for example, have no problems translating an operation manual using MT and enclosing it with their product to the entire world.

As the MTs become more sophisticated, more people tend to do that.

Another obvious trend is that instead of hiring translators, people are machine translating and hiring proofreaders for half the price.

Of course experienced professionals do not accept these "jobs", but lots of translators do. Many agencies are offering $ 0.04 per source word regularly. Do you think they find translators for that price? Of course they do... many to choose from.

Unfortunately, quality is not as important as money for most companies in the capitalist world. And machine translators are very cheap.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:12
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Why not? Nov 22, 2014

Mario Chavez wrote:

I don't think we professional translators need to spend time trying to convince people about the futility of spending money in MT as a substitute for translation proper. Good translations speak for themselves.


I tell them to give machine translation a try, since it's free. Takes me no time to give them the URL. If they like the results they get, that's what they deserve. No point in having them impose despicable rates upon a fledgling amateur translator, just for the benefit of having a human being they can blame.

[Edited at 2014-11-22 14:49 GMT]


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JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 12:12
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Poor translations aren't all MT Nov 22, 2014

Mario Freitas wrote:

I'm sorry some people don't notice it, but despite the poor quality of the MTs, many people are already using them officially. The Chinese, for example, have no problems translating an operation manual using MT and enclosing it with their product to the entire world.


I'm sure you're right, Mario, but poor translations have been used for much longer than MT has been in existence.

I distinctly remember having a set of instructions in the early 1990s for some oil paints which were made in China, and among one of the things it said was that the pigments had been specially chosen "to preserve from yellowish". This phrase has passed into legend in my family as being a perfect example of Chinglish (and very far from the first), and I'm absolutely sure that they didn't use MT for that translation!


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