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Will technology replace the Job of a translator?
Thread poster: Annasuno

Annasuno
Germany
Local time: 22:00
Spanish to German
Jul 8, 2015

Hello everyone!

I am thinking about starting to study translation spanish-german.
Now I was talking to a friend about my plans and he said that he is very sure that in not very long time ahead the job as a translater will be dying out more and more because technology is taking over this part.

What do you think?
Will be translaters less needed within 10, 20 or 30 years? and very few people will be needed to work as a translater?


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translaters will be out of a job, but Jul 8, 2015

there will still be plenty of work for translators.

Who do you think will program the computer?

The computer doesn't translate. It finds matches of documents translated by humans. Without human translation, the current generation of machine translation doesn't exist. And at this point, even humans don't agree on some translations. (In theory, because it is based on statistics, it will eventually implode and get worse over time - see this article:

Google admits 'garbage in, garbage out' translation problem: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/06/google_translate_issue/ ).

People often make the mistake of believing that because X technology is really good now, that means that in Y years, it will be even better. Read the book Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change by Bob Seidensticker ( http://amzn.to/1HOhZly ) According to the book, people ran in fear when they saw the first video and predicted lots of crazy things would result. In fact, most of the things people predict about the future, turn out not to be true. It's only in hindsight that inventions seem obvious. It's one of my favorite books of all time.

If a machine is ever built that can properly translate (in other words, it can think), then just about everyone on Earth is out of a job. If we also perfect some form of human-like robotics, then EVERYONE is out of a job.

Even if that were to happen, I would still want to learn languages because I enjoy learning about the different ways that people think and perceive the world.

The real problem is finding a way to educate the public about the value and difficulty of translation and why it should not be done for $5. Why are their strict licensing requirements for some professions (lawyers, accountants, plumbers, teachers, etc.) but not others?

[Update: What's Lost (And Found) In Machine Translation 9:19am

This guy makes a lot of sense (I've advanced the video to where he makes a good point). This is the kind of stuff that should be produced by translation organizations and translation portals to help educate the public without all the rhetoric:

https://youtu.be/_Ic_gph-2hU?t=2m2s

Remaining problems in machine translation:

https://youtu.be/6UVgFjJeFGY?t=12m0s


Annasuno wrote:

Hello everyone!

I am thinking about starting to study translation spanish-german.
Now I was talking to a friend about my plans and he said that he is very sure that in not very long time ahead the job as a translater will be dying out more and more because technology is taking over this part.

What do you think?
Will be translaters less needed within 10, 20 or 30 years? and very few people will be needed to work as a translater?



[Edited at 2015-07-09 00:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-07-09 18:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-07-09 18:17 GMT]


 

Kalyanasundar subramaniam
India
Local time: 01:30
Tamil to English
+ ...
Will technology replace the Job of a translator? Jul 9, 2015

I don't think Translators would be out of jobs in the years to come. Machine Translations might make a Translators job easier.But still a proficient Translator would be required to make all translations meaningful. MT are based on pre-translated content. It is only trying to recreate the source content to a target language. As long as there are contronyms (words with different meanings for different contexts ) and polysemy exist need for a human translator who can understand the context will exist. An automated translation is most likely to select a meaning that is used in most common contexts. This is true for every language .This becomes complex in developed and very ancient languages.

 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:30
English to Hindi
+ ...
Not for 50 years Jul 9, 2015

I don't think machines will be able to learn to translate for the next 50 years at least, so don't worry about the translation profession disappearing from the face of the world by the time you complete your education.

For last 30 years, these arguments have been making the rounds that machines will drive out translators in the next five years or so, but those machines have not yet arrived, and translators are merrily peddling their business.

Even in the worst case scenario, if machines take over much of the translation work, many new avenues will open up for human linguists, such as in programming these machines, or in pre and post editing their inputs and outputs.

So don't worry too much about what your friend says. May be, just for fun, you could scare him by saying that you have heard somewhere that his profession is going to be taken over by machines soon, and he should start preparing himself for an alternative career.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Friends Jul 9, 2015

It's even worse than you think: in about 10 years' time we won't even have real friends. They will be replaced by electronic "friends" who don't really exist, with whom we only have contact on our smartphones. Nor will we exist for them.

Everything will happen completely automatically. Computers will talk to one another and will think they are one anothers' friends. There will be no need for actual people. Everything that needs to be done will be done automatically. We will all die, because there will be no reason for living.

icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2015-07-09 07:14 GMT]


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:00
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Dad's Army Jul 9, 2015

German naval officer, prisoner of Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard, speaking through translation machine: “You vill be on ze list too! Vot is your name?”

Captain Mainwaring: “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

Private Fraser: “Ye’re doomed, Pike, ye’re doomed!”

Lance-Corporal Jones: “Don’t panic! ‘Is machine’s blown a fuse, it can’t tell if ‘e’s a fish or a spear!”


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:00
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The meaning, not just the words.... Jul 9, 2015

That is my slogan.

I work in two closely related languages, with fairly similar cultures.
Even then, the results of machine translation are often absolute rubbish. The idea is so 'obvious' - find the expressions used in a given situation in one language and replace them with the expressions used in another language.
Right down at a very basic level, it may work, but even then it may not.

Try comparing the way UK English is different from US English, or any other branch of English. That shows how different communities simply think differently.

Law is a minefield that nobody would entrust to computers...

I sometimes translate marketing texts, which sound quite convincing in Danish. If you run them through Google Translate, you might - or might not - get a version in grammatically correct, understandable English. But it will almost certainly not come across as the Danish writer intended.

If you ask a class of first-time students to translate them without warning them to THINK about what they are doing, you will get twenty straight translations which can go straight in the bin as far as marketing is concerned, and maybe one or two that actually look like marketing in English.

Danes have an unspoken law: 'Don't think you are better than anyone else'. They fight it and contradict it at times, but it is totally ingrained in their culture. Their adverts are full of quiet self confidence and underplayed comments. 'We do our best/utmost/we reckon it's as good as it's going to be' is literally what they tell you.

Translated literally, it often comes over in English as nerdy and over-technical, as if they don't really care about the product or are not sure it will actually work. In fact the quality may well be world class - many big names are originally Danish.

Even in B2B marketing, you have to change to change the whole way of saying things to put the same message across. That is what human translators do that computers can't.

That was just one tiny example.
There are 6000 languages or more in the world. There are 24 official languages in the EU alone, and that is without the regional languages of ancient cultures - Catalan, Basque, Gaelic, Welsh... which are still spoken and definitely in use.

There are many professions where humans are not going to be replaced by computers in our lifetimes, and probably never.

Computers have their uses, but they simply cannot cope with all the subtleties of human language, because it is not logical in a way computers can understand. They cannot read between the lines and fill in the context of the words as humans can. They cannot take account of tone of voice, body language, irony and allusions as humans can.

There will never be computer programmers who can keep up with the way language changes and develops... it is not like mathematics - Pythagoras' laws are still valid, even though a lot has happened since his time. But nobody speaks the same language as he did, although scholars can read and interpret it.

Study language, behind the words to the way it actually works. The more you learn, the more you realise how little you understand at some levels.
Language is about intuition, and about tapping into other people's intuition. It cannot all be captured in algorithms and computer codes.

If you still want to be a translator in three or five years, best of luck!



[Edited at 2015-07-09 09:49 GMT]


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
24-25 years from now... Jul 9, 2015

The “Machine” needs to go to school and that’s 10-12 years, depending on the country it was assembled in.

Then it has to choose translation studies at a university. That’s about 4-5 years, depending on the assembly country.

To stay competitive, it will need to go for a subject matter degree, say, law studies. Another 5 years.

Well, now it needs a postgraduate degree in translation. 2 years it is.

Then it will have to do ProZ mentorship programme. Another year will pass.

In total it’s 24-25 years from now. 25 years that we can keep our jobs. Most of us will be retired by that time.

Folks, we're safe.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:00
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Inexhaustible power supply Jul 9, 2015

All this theorising about "technology" taking over the world (and translation in particular) presupposes the constant availability of an inexhaustible supply of electricity.
The way the world is going, with its relentlessly rising population and steadily declining sources of energy, it looks likely that we'll be facing increasingly frequent power cuts (outages) and shortages of all kinds, so perhaps "technology" isn't such a threat as we think and isn't what we should be fearing.
There were translators and interpreters all over the world long before electricity was the answer to everything. Get out the candles and quill pens. Start manufacturing your own ink.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:00
Chinese to English
When translators go, we all go Jul 9, 2015

It's simple. Computers can process words, but that's not what translators do. Translators read a text, see what it means, then write it in another language. In order to do that job, a computer will have to know what a text means.

It will happen, but on the day that a computer knows what a piece of text means, it's not just us that's out of a job. It's pretty much everyone. I look forward to the day!


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:00
Member (2008)
French to English
Greater demand for higher skilled translators Jul 9, 2015

Looking at how other technologies have developed, I believe there will be an increased demand for translators with higher skills. Technology will increase productivity and do some of the less important work (such as translating the constant on-line chatter of forums and social media), but there will be more work for human translators in more specialized fields. The demand for dual-skilled translators, those who have another specialism such as engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc., will become ever greater.

[Edited at 2015-07-09 11:29 GMT]


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What's Lost (And Found) In Machine Translation Jul 9, 2015

This guy makes a lot of sense (I've advanced the video to where he makes a good point). This is the kind of stuff that should be produced by translation organizations and translation portals to help educate the public without all the rhetoric:

https://youtu.be/_Ic_gph-2hU?t=2m2s

[Edited at 2015-07-09 13:24 GMT]


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Well said Jul 9, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

This guy makes a lot of sense (I've advanced the video to where he makes a good point). This is the kind of stuff that should be produced by translation organizations and translation portals to help educate the public without all the rhetoric:

https://youtu.be/_Ic_gph-2hU?t=2m2s

[Edited at 2015-07-09 13:24 GMT]


Well said: “language is a human behaviour. Machines simply simulate it”.

If you make an exact replica of Pavarotti’s vocal apparatus and pump air through it, I guess the end result will not be great operatic performance dramatically and even vocally speaking. Perhaps because Pavarotti did something he was not really conscious of. Perhaps he just “imagined” things or “felt” them, something that poor machines cannot attain.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Except that he didn't consider human greed... Jul 9, 2015

...and the willingness of some to deceive in order to earn money.

Merab Dekano wrote:

Well said: “language is a human behaviour. Machines simply simulate it”.




[Edited at 2015-07-09 14:23 GMT]


 

George Hopkins
Local time: 22:00
Swedish to English
No Jul 9, 2015

Translators will not be replaced by technology, but they will gradually become fewer as prices continue to fall and finally they will become extinct.
The result will be a sort of modern 'Tower of Babel'.
Early signs are apparent in some 'translated' instruction manuals.


 
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