Off topic: Translation tool developed in Japan threatens professional translators (or does it?)
Thread poster: Marie Safarovic

Marie Safarovic
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:04
Russian to German
+ ...
Dec 25, 2011

Dear everyone,

this is an article from 2009 but I only just stumbled across it now. I would be interested in your opinions, does this threaten us as professionals? Or will it in future? In 2008 I got an A in an oral exam in Linguistics, in which I discussed why technology will never replace human translators. I still like to think that is the case, but who knows what the future may bring?


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8343941.stm

PS: Sorry if I didn't post it in the right forum, wasn't sure where to put it.

Marie


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sci-Fi Dec 25, 2011

I wouldn't worry about it, even if they do produce a device that "automatically" translates speech to the same level of accuracy as Google translate etc, they will still need humans to filter the machine output, despite what trekkies may claim.

Anyway, I'd take anything like this from the BBC with a largish pinch of salt, as they always push this kind of thing since it makes good news. According to what Tomorrow's World - http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/tomorrowsworld/ - told us in the 60s and 70s, we should all be disease-free and flying about with jetpacks and companion robots today!

The gadget mentioned is also quite expensive, as they say that when it goes on sale, a batch of 30 headsets will cost about 7.5m yen (£50,000). The cost does not include the price of the translation tools and software.

С Рождеством!



[Edited at 2011-12-25 11:22 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:04
English to Portuguese
+ ...
May be efficient, however effectiveness is far away Dec 25, 2011

Machine translation should be a threat already to all low-quality cheap translators, yet this is not working. Though the latter often deliver an output that is actually worse than MT, we still see hundreds of translation jobs being offered at US 5¢/word or less every day, everywhere, when they could be accomplished for free.

Translators using voice recognition software often report how long it took them to tune it to their speech, as well as how long it took them to develop a manner of speaking that could increase that software's efficiency. Now imagine the tool described in this article doing voice recognition on always 'new' speakers' ad-lib delivery.

So, for the foreseeable future, the results shouldn't be any better than the example I've put at the end of this article on my web site, assumed by CN translators to be from a specific machine translation contrivance, due to the way something in their language was translated into the f-word.

As long as bottom-feeder translators are kept busy by greedy or low level outsourcers, professional translators have nothing to fear from such devices.

[Edited at 2011-12-25 19:30 GMT]


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Marie Safarovic
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:04
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting Dec 25, 2011

Yes, I agree- don't think that technology can advance to that extend, or at least not while we are alive

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Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:04
Chinese to English
+ ...
the f word Dec 25, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

So, for the foreseeable future, the results shouldn't be any better than the example I've put at the end of this article on my web site, assumed by CN translators to be from a specific machine translation contrivance, due to the way something in their language was translated into the f-word.


From the context, the f word should mean “dry”. Because of the way the Chinese characters have been “simplified”, the words for “dry”, “to do” (with the f word as a derived meaning) and other things have merged into one.

We don’t even need automatic translation for such mistakes to happen. A lot of traditional Chinese texts both on the web and in print are now littered with similar typos because the originals have been written in simplified Chinese and subsequently machine-converted into traditional.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Photo Translator and Word Lens Dec 26, 2011

Photo Translator (for Nokia phones) and Word Lens (for iPhone) have existed for at least three years now. They were also voiced all over the place as a thread for translators, but... do you see any less translators out there, or see one single person relying on these devices for translation work? Nope.

I do not think that these gadgets and devices, no matter how intelligent and advanced, can replace us professional translators. Advanced knowledge of the human mind, the nuances and subtleties of human language, and the complexity of human society, are things that cannot be put into a machine, or at least not in a 100 years.

I also feel that the increasing number of devices and IP systems in our life is causing a concentration of the human knowledge (i.e. we get dumber) that can do no good in the long run. In case of a big crisis, like energy shortage, global war, nuclear event, epidemics, or threat from space (in the shape of a large asteroid), very few people will be prepared for survival in a low-energy, low-tech world.


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Michael Grant
Japan
Local time: 05:04
Japanese to English
Off-off topic... Dec 27, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

I also feel that the increasing number of devices and IP systems in our life is causing a concentration of the human knowledge (i.e. we get dumber) that can do no good in the long run. In case of a big crisis, like energy shortage, global war, nuclear event, epidemics, or threat from space (in the shape of a large asteroid), very few people will be prepared for survival in a low-energy, low-tech world.


Your comment reminded me of life here in a Tokyo suburb after the earthquake/tsunami of 3/11. Although we had electricity, there were rolling blackouts throughout the metropolis, we were without running water, and the transportation system was minimal for about three weeks afterward...The grocery store shelves were mostly empty, we couldn't get milk for a week or so and then after that it was rationed to 1 quart per person(when you could get it at all)...

It was hard for awhile, but also, strangely, it felt liberating also! We had to rely more on our wits, and plan more strategically for regular, every-day matters to make the most of what little we could get...We relied more on the generosity of neighbors(and even strangers), and we appreciated every little kindness...

There's something to be said for the low-energy, low-tech world...the experience will always stay with me.


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Marie Safarovic
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:04
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
dictionaries and a thought on interpreters Dec 28, 2011

Dear colleagues,

I would like to add that even dictionaries aren't reliable- in the sense that while you are learning a new language, you haven't yet developed a feeling for which of the entries is the closest in meaning. I don't think a computer can ever develop that feeling! For humans it takes years of practice, so how could a computer, which is actually nothing but a huge calculator, ever be able to do this?
I also wondered about the comment made about interpreters in the bbc article; they said that having a tool would take away the issue of confidence - as if you could trust a machine more than a human mediator. What nonsense! I for one would always prefer a human, and even if at one point in future there might be a cheap mediating machine; can that machine be diplomatic, negotiate, help with problems?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
More off-topic (sorry) Dec 28, 2011

Michael Grant wrote:
It was hard for awhile, but also, strangely, it felt liberating also! We had to rely more on our wits, and plan more strategically for regular, every-day matters to make the most of what little we could get...We relied more on the generosity of neighbors(and even strangers), and we appreciated every little kindness...
There's something to be said for the low-energy, low-tech world...the experience will always stay with me.

It is very reassuring to see that we haven't lost our minds completely and that humanity is always able to surface in the worst situations.

Indeed I have thought about this potential situation very many times: a situation in which we cannot rely on our electronic/electric helpers and are forced to rely on non-electrical things we have around the place, even for a few days. Yet very few people have some extra supply of food or water at home, or some money to survive for a week or two without electricity. We just never think about it!


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Translation tool developed in Japan threatens professional translators (or does it?)

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