A to-do list for the translation industry

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DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 08:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Because ... Jul 31, 2016

"If ... hundreds of millions other ‘ordinary’ citizens around the world happily use the MT button on the internet and share their data, why are we, professionals in the industry, then, afraid to do so?"

Because, as professionals, we are concerned with getting it right. Would you like an ordinary citizen do your heart transplant, build your neighborhood nuclear power plant, design your autonomous driving vehicle ... ?


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:32
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
If this is the future then heaven help us all! Jul 31, 2016

“The future does not need translators, at least not in the old way. (…) The future may not even need post-editors, as we see the MT engines getting better on the one hand and the audience becoming more forgiving for lesser quality of fast-moving content on the other hand.”

Really? That’s not my experience at all! Why would the audience become more forgiving for lesser quality? Is this positive? Are we aiming to a more illiterate world?


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 02:32
German to English
+ ...
typical Jul 31, 2016

I've read quite a few articles of this kind, mostly in some forum in LinkedIn (I forget which) - mostly put out by TAUS but also a few other MT proponents.

What is typical, and what bugs me no end, is how they ascribe attitudes and motivations to translators which makes us appear immature and driven by emotion in our decisions - which in turn can hardly be seen as professional. There is "fear", "timidity", "blind stubbornness" - not quotes from the article, but typical types of things. When I am given any translation to to edit, I look at its quality and how difficult it will be to fix as opposed to redoing it from scratch. My "feelings" don't come into it. It is a professional assessment based on knowledge and experience. It's no different from someone driving in a rust bucket to a mechanic who realizes that it will be more expensive to fix than to replace, and it will break down again. If someone sends me a decent translation, whether done by MT or otherwise, then I will edit it.

Similarly, if I run something through MT and see that it makes a mess, then my professional assessment tells me this is not the right tool.

Interestingly, the persuasion for MT seems to assume the same kind of mindless knee-jerk response. Are they addressing anyone with intelligence here? One does not make decisions based on what "everyone" seems to be doing, in order to be with the in crowd. Especially not professional decisions. If tomorrow everyone decides to go on a 6 month watercress-only diet, I imagine that health professionals would be among those who don't join the crowd, because they understand diet and health.

Anyway, this looks like just another sales pitch.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:02
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
But is the truth that... Aug 1, 2016

But it is the truth that globalisation is finally running out of steam, if recent events around the world are any indication. We are all getting boxed into our silos. In such a scenario, there is going to be less need for services like translation. Translation thrived when there was a global business needing its services. With that declining, we can expect a downturn in the fate of the translation profession too in the coming years. However, that would pan out over decades, so we don't need to worry immediately.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:32
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
More a "to discuss" list Aug 1, 2016

You must have your doubts about the intelligence of an author that calls a "to discuss" list a "to do" list.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:32
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Again, the issue of BLAME Aug 1, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

When I am given any translation to to edit, I look at its quality and how difficult it will be to fix as opposed to redoing it from scratch. My "feelings" don't come into it. It is a professional assessment based on knowledge and experience. It's no different from someone driving in a rust bucket to a mechanic who realizes that it will be more expensive to fix than to replace, and it will break down again. If someone sends me a decent translation, whether done by MT or otherwise, then I will edit it.

Similarly, if I run something through MT and see that it makes a mess, then my professional assessment tells me this is not the right tool.


I've said this too many times already, but I'll say it once again.

I expected free online machine translation to replace all incompetent wannabe translators from the marketplace. Why should anyone pay - no matter how miserably - for something that can be obtained for free?

And yet, I still see translation jobs offering US 1~2 cents per word, stating very clearly that the use of machine translation shall disentitle the translator to payment.

It took a while before the answer dawned upon me: BLAME!

If the translation is rejected on quality grounds, the agency cannot blame the free machine translation contrivance. So the translation rates they pay should be better classified as a "scapegoating fee", which empowers the outsourcer to blame a cheap amateur, a flesh and blood individual, instead of insanely stating that some free software using a crowdsourced database is the culprit.


Then there is the matter of compliance. Many documents worldwide are legally required to be provided translated into the official language of the destination country. However no law considers the quality of the translation.

In legal translations, bad translation quality may have its consequences (like this case, in Portuguese). However when it involves product instruction manuals, unless the purchasing agreement covers it, translation quality is not considered.

Last week I translated a manual for some electronic medical apparatus.

Yes, those who know me are aware that I don't translate technical medical material, however this manual covered mostly the electrical aspects of its operation, safety, and upkeeping. My medical translation specialists would be challenged by most of its contents, except its therapeutic purpose, which was pretty straightforward to translate.

My source text was a translation into English done in South Korea, where the unit is manufactured. Thanks to some consistency issues, I am sure that it was outright human translation, not using machine translation, and not even a CAT tool.

Two snippets to illustrate what was found there:
Discard process is according to discarding procedure.

There is a danger that the inflammable medicine can be accumulated in indented areas like naval in the bottom part of the patient or in the body cavity such as virginal.


The reason making me so sure this is unaided human translation is that the same ideas are expressed differently elsewhere in that very same manual:

Disposal component shall be discarded according to procedure of medical institution after using.

There is a risk of pooling of flammable solutions under the PATIENT or in body depressions such as the umbilicus, and in body cavities such as the vagina.


My point is... How much is this KO > EN translation above better - if any - than free machine translation?


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:32
Russian to English
+ ...
Why don't they retire all cardiologists, Aug 1, 2016

and put defibrillators on each street corner. Same thing, almost the same thing.

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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:32
English to Spanish
... Aug 1, 2016

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

... I still see translation jobs offering US 1~2 cents per word, stating very clearly that the use of machine translation shall disentitle the translator to payment.

It took a while before the answer dawned upon me: BLAME!

If the translation is rejected on quality grounds, the agency cannot blame the free machine translation contrivance. So the translation rates they pay should be better classified as a "scapegoating fee", which empowers the outsourcer to blame a cheap amateur, a flesh and blood individual, instead of insanely stating that some free software using a crowdsourced database is the culprit.


This is enlightening. Dirt-cheap insurance for immoral outsourcers, at the expense of translators.

If only every translator willing to take on those jobs could see the very real danger of potentially being used as a scapegoat with all its horrible consequences, many of them would shy away from such jobs.

Thank you, José Henrique, for such a bright contribution, I am sure many translators who read it will reconsider and rethink their job acceptance policies.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:32
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's not that simple Aug 2, 2016

Miguel Carmona wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

... I still see translation jobs offering US 1~2 cents per word, stating very clearly that the use of machine translation shall disentitle the translator to payment.

It took a while before the answer dawned upon me: BLAME!

If the translation is rejected on quality grounds, the agency cannot blame the free machine translation contrivance. So the translation rates they pay should be better classified as a "scapegoating fee", which empowers the outsourcer to blame a cheap amateur, a flesh and blood individual, instead of insanely stating that some free software using a crowdsourced database is the culprit.


This is enlightening. Dirt-cheap insurance for immoral outsourcers, at the expense of translators.

If only every translator willing to take on those jobs could see the very real danger of potentially being used as a scapegoat with all its horrible consequences, many of them would shy away from such jobs.

Thank you, José Henrique, for such a bright contribution, I am sure many translators who read it will reconsider and rethink their job acceptance policies.


It's more complex than that.

The scapegoating fee is intended for signatories of a deliberately ludicrous phrase I saw once on LinkedIn:
"Last weak I coudn't spel translater, now I am one."

Thanks to high volume, such low rates are offered so pervasively, that translation outsourcers get the impression that yes, those darn CAT tools or whatever have indeed lowered - as one of them so persistently promised - the cost of translation. So they feel justified in their attempt to push rates down.

There is no clear-cut line to divide translators and translation scapegoats, so rates spread over a continuum which includes the range where the cost/benefit ratio of machine translation is better than human translators.

Come to think of it, I have been translating EN - PT professionally for over four decades, the last 3/4 of them as a freelancer. One decision I made at the outset was that I had studied enough of both IT and FR for my personal use, however not sufficiently to translate, so I wouldn't do it professionally.

If that line between translators and scapegoats could be clearly drawn, I could enhance my offer/CV as:

  • EN < > PT translator
  • IT & FR > PT scapegoat!


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