What’s Changing in the World of Translation?

As a translator who started work at the end of the 1980’s, I have seen countless changes in the world of translation. I was lucky enough to begin my career with computers and not a typewriter!

With computers came word processors, which made our lives a little easier, since translating is a task that is prone to continuous modifications. At the end of the 1990’s I started to hear about Translation Memory (TM) software and Translation Management Servers as well, allowing more than one translator to work in a high-volume document and share a TM. As we approached the new century, we heard and read more and more about Machine Translation (MT), but thought it would be something that would take a long time to arrive.

However, technology keeps advancing in regards to MT, and we have Statistical MT, which has been around for quite a long time now, and Neural MT, whose systems learn how to translate from already translated texts. The way it works is pretty complex, but industry professionals should all try to learn a bit more about this technology. Apparently, NMT handles morphology, the selection of terminology and word order better than SMT, but it takes much longer to train and more computing resources.

This brings us to the present day, where many companies are offering various kinds of translation services: a basic/low-cost, low-quality and fast-delivery service based mainly in MT, a slightly higher priced service based in MT checked by a human editor, a “professional” service handled entirely by a human translator, and finally, a high-quality service, handled by a human translator and an editor. I would say that until not so long ago this last service was the “standard.” Customers can decide what they need and how much they want to spend. As MT continues to improve, we will see how post-editing tasks will have a greater share in the translation service provided by many companies, who will need to find trained post-editors, and translators will need to train in post-editing if they don’t want to be left behind, and offer this additional service. Nevertheless, there is also room for more creative translation, which will never be replaced by MT.

The way the translation world has evolved in relation to the process used to commission work has changed enormously! Ages ago, the translator would be contacted by phone or fax, and documents were received by fax or courier. Then, e-mail came into our lives, and the “human” contact (phone conversations) was gradually lost. Nowadays, we are heading towards getting an automatic e-mail to alert you about a possible job available and a link to a translation platform/portal, web-based or cloud-based, where the work files and instructions can be downloaded; you can even sometimes do the job on-line within the system with a TM. No need for companies to wait for a reply or agree on a deadline, they work on a first come first served basis, so if you are not quick enough, someone else will get the job! Nowadays, work is essentially 1-click away!

Being afraid of technology and what is starting to be called the “uberization” of translation is a disservice for individuals in this industry. Technology is here to stay and helps us carry out our work better and faster, although differently. New technologies within the translation world will continue to emerge and others will disappear. Only those that adapt and change will survive in this rapidly growing information technology (big data) world.

Written By: Alicia Vaquero Allende

*Alicia is an ATA Certified full-time Spanish freelance translator specializing in the Medical/Life Sciences sector and a guest blogger for Paragon Language Services*

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