Art challenges technology and technology challenges art. Some personal thoughts about machine translation and the future of the translation industry in development.

When a new technology is implemented for the purpose of improvement of the art, artists generally feel dared by the new challenges that are posed to their old methods. In a world that changes trends constantly, being adapted to these changes is not an easy task. It requires constant update and tremendous efforts to keep up with the inevitable pace of change.

With the textual art of translation is not different. The discussion about changes in the form that translations are made is a very subjective matter that has been present for a long time around translators and depends on drastic social changes imposed by technology to be fully assimilated.

Recently, every last generation was born in a world where things were done in a different technological way. In the case of translations paper and ink, typewriter, fax, word processor, and CAT tool; Technologies that conquered their times mostly because new professionals were inserted into the market with their fresh and new standards, and motivations that forced the whole translations community to change their old technologies. The changes were inspired by the demand, art pushing and challenging technology to fulfill its needs.

Demand is one of the keys for the inevitable revolution that the translations market will suffer the next years. The demand for information and content is growing every day. Companies such as Google are working non-stop to index more content as possible and to present it to its users. One of the barriers to this indexation is that the web is multilingual and depends on the capacity of the user to understand other languages to obtain relevant data. Google is obsessed for the indexation of information and facilitation of knowledge to boost our creative capabilities (and their profit, off course). We all consult their index, the modern Library of Alexandria was built over the Tower of Babel and interpreters are in high demand.

In order to break this barrier, Google is investing a lot to enable machine translation to improve their indexation capability in a multilingual environment such as the web. I’ve got no doubt that in a couple of years we’ll have, through pure crowdsourcing, good enough translations in at least 21 languages. This sounds exciting also for translators that generally are motivated to learn languages exactly because the language is the tool used to obtain distinct knowledge. The machine translation revolution is a product of mass demand and not of internal changes in the translation industry and therefore, it’s out of our control. It will happen and when it hits, the only way to fight it is to be ready for it.

At the edge of a Machine Translation revolution, there are still translators that refuse to use CAT tools. This is a phenomenon that really bugs my mind and I don’t believe this will be possible anymore. General translators will not be required as they once used to be, since some clients are already using Google (MT) translation tools for this purpose and they will only grow with time.

The demand will change to even more specialized professionals, with serious training in other areas of knowledge and constant update in their fields. One thing is sure: good, qualified translators will always have plenty of jobs and charge appropriately for the specific knowledge and style that only they carry and that no machine could ever reproduce.

Copyright, 1999-2006. All rights reserved. -
The revolution of machine translation
Author: Gabriel Guzovsky
English to Portuguese translator
Platinum since Sep 26, 2006 
By Gabriel Guzovsky
Published on 06/20/2010
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