Posted by: patenttranslator | January 2, 2016

Is New Technology Having a Disruptive Influence on the Human Translation Business Model?

Technology has been disrupting traditional business models and obliterating entire professions with brutal efficiency for many centuries. The disruption of well-established business models has picked up speed considerably at the beginning of the 21st century, in particular in connection with the ubiquity of cheap or free Wi-Fi Internet connections.

Technology first replaced the majority of human bank tellers over the last few decades with much cheaper ATM machines. ATM machines are very reliable and unlike some humans, generally quite honest when it comes to manipulating cash. But ATM machines are now serving fewer and fewer customers per hour as they themselves are being replaced by a different technology because more and more people are using their smartphones to deposit checks to save time-consuming trips to the bank.

Five years ago, very few people were using their phones to deposit checks. Five years from now, it’s likely that very few people will be still using ATMs and that the humans left on the other side of the bank counter will be mostly managers specialized in different types of services offered by banks – generally the most lucrative types of services.

To miss the significance of a technological change often means buying yourself and your business model a one way ticket to oblivion. Because the management of Blockbuster Corporation failed to realize quickly enough the importance of a somewhat unreliable technology called streaming for its own business model which was based on video rentals, Blockbuster stores have disappeared from the landscape of American cities, and this had already happened starting quite a few years ago. By the time Blockbuster’s management tried to reluctantly incorporate streaming into its own business model, it was too late to prevent the company’s bankruptcy.

Similarly, the Blackberry brand is no longer king among cell phones because the company’s management insisted for too long that its own type of tactile keyboard coupled with a small display is the best option for all of its customers.

Publishers of maps and dictionaries have been hit particularly hard by GPS technology and multilingual Internet databases and search engines. Why spend money on paper maps and paper dictionaries when you already have a phone that lets you use all kinds of maps and all kinds of dictionaries in many languages?

Examples of traditional types of services that have recently been very seriously disrupted by the Internet also include taxi and hotel services. Since just about anybody can drive a car, and many people who have a spare room in their house might be willing to rent it occasionally to guests in exchange for reasonable remuneration, new startups called Uber and Airbnb have quickly sprang to life, complicating the life of cab drivers and owners and employees of traditional hotel and bed and breakfast establishments and threatening the very existence of their professions.

Cable TV is in big trouble too, because young people no longer watch cable. My son came from the university of Michigan where he is working now to spend a week with his boring parents over the New Year period. I set the TV in his room to a channel that I like to watch but that I knew he would not watch (HGTV with House Hunters and House Hunters International). When I turned the TV in his former room on after he left, it was still on the HGTV channel, which must mean that he never even turned it on.

One could go on and on listing examples of even more pitiful carcasses of formerly unbeatable business models strewn along the highway of technological progress.

It seems only logical that the profession of human translators should soon go the way of human bank tellers, most of who have been replaced by machines. Given that machine translation has been easily available to just about anyone mostly for free for at least a decade now, it’s kind of inexplicable that every year when I prepare my tax return, I still list as source of all of my income “translation”, and human translation in particular.

After all, machine translations of most patent applications have been available on the websites of the Japan Patent Office, European Patent Office and World Intellectual Property Organization for well over a decade now, and one of the first things that I do after I have downloaded the text of a patent application from one of these websites is that I also download a copy of the machine translation. But my customers still pay me a lot of money for some reason for human translations of the same patents, although they too obviously have had access to free machine translation for a long time now.

The problem is of course, that “machine translation is not quite there yet”, although we’re constantly being told that, “it will be just as good as human translation a few years from now”. That is what we’ve been told, mostly by people who don’t know anything about translation and people who are selling machine translation, at least since the 80s or the 90s.

Mad Patent Translator is in a small minority of people who keep saying that machine translation will not be just as good as human translation in a few years from now, be it five years, 50 years, or 500 years from now. It’s natural that most people expect instant miracles from new technology, including machine translation. We’re all in awe of recent technological miracles, technology that is making our lives much easier on the one hand, while on the other hand is also putting us all in danger, as we are mostly unable to protect ourselves from being illegally spied on and exploited by powerful corporations and almost equally powerful government, not to mention the cops, or even our neighbors and people who simply want to rip us off because that is the business model that they use and that is how they make a living.

But Wi-Fi streaming is not a miracle, nor is the General Positioning System (GPS), or high-speed wireless transmission of images of checks a miracle. They’re just a few of the recent technological developments in a few fields of technology spurred by the Internet, logically following the development of hardware and software that controls Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

If you take a closer look at what happened to humans working in the banking industry, you will see that many humans are still there on the other side of the counter, smiling courteously and graciously at customers entering the bank to get them to part with their money. The only human tellers who were replaced were those who weren’t able to figure out much more than how to accept deposits and hand out cash. All of those human tellers have already been replaced by machines. But although we don’t see it, many new humans were also hired by the same banks. You can’t simply leave for example the decision of whether somebody’s signature on a check is genuine to a machine. You need a human to make important decisions, a human who is often assisted by any number of machines, because machines, smart as they are, are also incredibly stupid.

If you gave a highly intelligent, self-recreating machine an instruction to ensure that no humans will be harmed in the future by highly intelligent machines, one possible decision that such a machine could make would be to put something in the water ensuring that no new humans are born. After all, since nobody can harm unborn humans, the instruction would be executed perfectly. By the time humans had realized what was happening, it might be too late for machine-trusting humans to survive.

Some of the most nefarious actors in “the translation industry” love the new tools of what they now call “language technology”. They love the concept of machine translation not as a tool to be used to empower human translators, but rather as a tool empowering the middlemen to exploit human translators. The basic concept of the strategy on which “post-processing of machine translation” is based is to make it possible to control people with technology forcing humans to assist machines instead of using technology to assist human workers.

Many new startups are jumping at the chance to exploit human translators in this manner, and more will do so in the future. As I wrote in another post, a brand new translation agency called last month to offer me a chance at “a copy editing opportunity”.

When I asked how long the company had been in business, the woman who called me said, “We have just bought the website”. In other words, they don’t really know anything about anything, including translation. When I went to the new startup’s website, I saw all kinds of typical agency propaganda about teams of translators working selflessly and tirelessly together to craft the perfect translation in record time. But I also saw that the company intends to basically use available machine translation engines such as GoogleTranslate and Microsoft Translator, and then to throw the machine pseudo-translations at human translators whose job would be to retranslate texts full of MT errors and MT gibberish into something that would resemble a real translation.

That was the exciting “copy editing opportunity” that the company was offering to me, at the rate of one cent a word.

A similar approach to translation is really nothing but a blatant attempt at wage theft. I don’t know whether an attempt to reclassify translators as “copy editors” or “post-processors” in order to pay them a fraction of what they should be paid for their work is even legal, although I do know that it ought to be illegal.

Unfortunately, “the translation industry” apparently has such a stranglehold on some translators’ associations in some countries that that they have been turned into a handy propaganda arm of “the translation industry”. As I wrote in the same post linked above, the ATA (American Translators Association) Chronicle has been publishing articles celebrating the progress of post processing of machine translation and advocating its use for many years now. Not once has it published an article that would question the greedy premise behind the logic and usefulness of this fatally flawed approach to intellectual activities represented in this case by translating and writing.

If human translators fall for this trap and cooperate with “the translation industry”, they will not be eliminated by highly intelligent machines who may decide that the best way to protect human translators is to make sure that no new translators are born. But they may eventually be eliminated by greedy, ignorant and selfish humans who may decide that the best way to make profit from machine translation is to eliminate human translators by turning them into “post-processors”, “post-editors” or “copy editors” of machine translation, because that would be a very good way to force human translators to retranslate the result of regurgitated machine detritus at the rate of one cent a word.

The business model of human translation is not being disrupted by new technology. On the contrary, new technology, including machine translation, is an excellent tool that can be used by many human translators.

But the business model of human translation is now being threatened by greedy operators in “the translation industry” who are trying to capitalize on new technology and use it in order to turn us into slaves.

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Responses

  1. “The problem is of course, that “machine translation is not quite there yet”, although we’re constantly being told that, “it will be just as good as human translation a few years from now”. That is what we’ve been told, mostly by people who don’t know anything about translation and people who are selling machine translation, at least since the 80s or the 90s.” :,-D

    Like

  2. Most translation intermediaries do not know anything about translation, since they are not translators themselves.

    Yet they are mainly the ones who speak about translation to our direct customers.

    As you put it in a previous post, lots of intermediaries, especially non-translating intermediaries, have “peed in our Blue Ocean, making it a Yellow Ocean”…

    I keep calling non-translating intermediaries who ask for free tests (especially long ones), low rates, indecent Trados rebate grids, unacceptable NDAs etc that I only work with “professional agencies”.

    Most recently, I realized how we should also teach junior translators, on top of teaching our customers, whether they are direct clients or (especially non-translating) intermediaries.

    I was struck by the fact that the community of translators worldwide have mostly rejected Post-Editing of Machine Translation (PEMT), to the point that even SDL is changing tactics, it seems.

    So why is it that the worldwide community of translators did not react on time against CAT tools?…

    Is it that we were not on Internet social networks at the time?…

    And so predators like SDL could take advantage of our division to impose their extortion tool to the translation community – first attacking other agencies by pretending that if they did not buy their f…… tool, they would go under because everyone else (their competitors) was buying it?…

    Translators’ revenues have considerably decreased since those extortion tools have been invented and imposed upon us – and translators have never been rich before that!

    The worse thing is that those non-translating intermediaries have made our direct clients strongly believe that they are morally (and legally) entitled to huge rebates because of – down to 50% – analogies in source segments, because non-translating intermediaries do not realize how much TIME it takes to produce a perfect translation… and to deal with their f…… extortion tools in the first place…

    The good news is that now, with our blogs, forums, social networks, tweets and the like, we can fight against those non-translating intermediaries and extortion tool sellers in a more efficient way… 🙂

    I suggest to replace the ill-named “CAT tool” (computer-aided translation tool : it does not aid…) by “extortion tool”…

    Also, SDL seems to have added the Autocorrect macros in their 2015 Studio version, but I very much doubt that it works like in MS Word – in particular the formatted entries, which can be very long (no size limit) : I cannot see how these could fit in a small Trados Studio screen.

    Does anyone have feedback on this latest “technological progress”?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, Autocorrect in Studio 2015 does work like in MS Word. What I really like is the new language-specific OCR tool. It works really well for converting scanned images. I have tried it with German, and if the scan is reasonably clean and straight, it reads everything, the accents, etc. almost perfectly. This is great for the piles of scanned PDFs that you often get from legal clients.

      I guess I am in the minority here, but I like Trados a lot. It has not decreased my revenue. I have probably actually almost doubled my output, and therefore income, since I systematically started using Trados. My termbases are invaluable to me. Apart from saving me time by popping up terms automatically, I put my sources and screenshots of passages I have researched from books in them. I also put easy but frequent words in them, like the countries of the world, months of the year, “human resources”, etc. so I don’t have to type those out like, a billion times over my lifetime.

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    • You tell them, fellow translator. I have been saying this myself and advocating for it for a while now. I am against translation tools but I am forced to use them. Europeans always makes excuses for efficiency and the like. They invented these tools and are always the ones on youtube showing you how to use them. They never checked with their paychecks. And, everything else is rising due to inflation, yet translations rates have gone down! Just the opposite of the natural stream of things. And yes, I am sick and tired of the intermediaries’ bullshit. They slithered their way into the scene, insidiously and now we are paying dearly for it.

      Like

  3. “I suggest to replace the ill-named “CAT tool” (computer-aided translation tool : it does not aid…) by “extortion tool”…”

    Good idea, Isabelle, I will use your term in my posts if you don’t mind, with the proper authorship attribution the first time I use it.

    As you may know, I have never used a CAT extortion instrument myself and probably never will.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 🙂 No problem, please, do so, as many times as you wish : we have to teach junior translators also !! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Machine translation is DANGEROUS because the words and expressions it spits out can be anything from perfect to so-so to completely wrong, and there is no way to know the difference, so translators have to check all the words and expressions they are not sure of anyway, then rearrange the word order – which all takes a LONGER TIME than producing one’s own translation.

    Machine translation is DANGEROUS because, under the pressure of time and/or tiredness, sooner or later translators accept some of the machine’s suggestions even when these are completely wrong…

    I remember of a very important banking/financial translation from Dutch to French where I left the machine’s translation of “fiscale constructie” as “construction fiscale”, whereas it was “ingénierie fiscale” – which I would have checked if I had produced my own translation from a blank page… Never would I have written “construction financière” because it sounds weird in French, and I would have checked the different translations of “constructie” in the general Van Dale Dutch-French dictionary, which also gives “ingénierie” for “constructie”. But this is the kind of mistake you might miss/forget to correct. “constructie” was a “false friend” in this case, so all the more dangerous, but you tend to overlook “false friends” when you just correct MT…

    Like

    • I would like to “Like” your post, but can’t: for some reason, WordPress seems to need a different login from me from the one I use to post on this site, which is the one with which I registered on WP!

      Like

  5. Machine pseudo-translation is so dangerous, for the reasons that you listed, that while some translation agencies are trying to make a buck from MT post-editing by human human slaves who live to serve machines, other translation agencies are prohibiting translators from using edited machine translation in the contracts that they make them sign.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s another “Like” from me.

      Like

      • So sorry, Alison.

        Let me apologize on behalf of WP.

        (You could also send me some money by mail instead of liking my post).

        Just kidding!

        Best regards,

        Steve

        Like

  6. Sorry to post a lot, but I also liked your sentence, in your parallel with the banking business :

    ” ***You need a human to make important decisions***, a human who is often assisted by any number of machines, because machines, smart as they are, are also incredibly stupid.”

    Yes, translating is deciding… Only a human translator can make those kinds of decisions…

    Machine translation is fine to have an idea of the content, but always without any guarantee that it is completely correct…

    Liked by 2 people

    • MT is great for picking people up (when I was in the dating scene, guys would use it all the time and it came in handy for them) but it is way too simplistic and unintelligible for formal scientific translations.

      All I know is that once this was a respected, highly regarded profession with which you can make a living and now it is not because the bastards have ruined it.

      Like

      • It is not completely ruined. I am doing OK, thank you very much.

        Like

      • I know you are okay. You have no reason to complain. And I am sorry I am; it is just getting a bit too ridiculous.

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  7. Stop crying over the spilt milk and look into the root.

    You can neither teach nor fight the army of invisible pseudo-translators scattered all over the globe, hidden in sort of mouse holes. Those short-lived, cheap expendables fill the translators’ databases and do the job aided by CAT-tools (extortion tools).

    Qualified translators only lend their names to aid clueless agencies get certified by clueless certifiers.

    Clients don’t understand what quality they get, if any. They are made to sign a statement that if they aren’t happy with the translation, they have to complain within a week. Later is too late. When, after 2 weeks or 4 or 10, an angry client wants their money back, they’re shown the statement and kicked out. The amount is not worth taking any legal action; moreover, there’s a great choice of translation agencies, all of them the best, so the client doesn’t make a fuss.

    Happy New Year, Steve and all!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I will stop crying over spilt milk when you stop crying over spilt Rakia.

    Happy New Year!

    Like

  9. It’s not about you in person, Steve. It’s about a dying profession turned into a business of the worst kind thanks to the translator’s invisibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am actually quite visible. Some might even call me a shrill critic.

      Like

    • Yup, we should be at the center and now we are ghosts while others are at the forefront and they do not even know about translation of in my case science.

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      • But whose fault is it, Zoe! I think it’s our fault!

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      • I agree the translators are at fault. They know not what they do, unfortunately. However, I do not follow them and I stick to my guns when it comes to pricing and do not accept the 1 cent a word translations that come my way. I reject them and they find another slave/guinea pig to leech off of. I know this profession is dwindling and translators are fed up and there will come a day when the pricing will really be 1 cent per word, and at that point I will need to stop and exit.

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  10. We can find the potential cure for almost any medical symptom on the internet and the pharmacy has a drug for almost any ailment, yet doctors continue to do(very) nicely. We can buy and use accounting software, yet accountants continue to prosper despite the technology.

    It is hard to escape the suspicion that the fault lies with us rather than the ‘industry’ that has flourished.

    Of course, doctors, solicitors, accountants, etc. have always made sure they were united in professional associations/institutes that protected and advanced their interests. Please note that membership has always been restricted to professionally qualified persons only.

    We, and our collective ignorance about politics, strategic planning and the value of professional solidarity, appear to have been a substantial part of the problem. It’s not as if there is a shortage of historical lessons that can be learned.

    Those (obviously non-professionals) advocating/selling MT assume that all we do is translate words. We know that we translate the meaning and cultural context of text, but we have not been able or willing to ensure that this is a matter of general knowledge among the public.

    If we do not bite the bullet; separate the chaff from the grain; and stop making our professional services available to non-qualified intermediaries, the problem will only get worse, for both the translators and the clients.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with everything you say, Louis, but I think that it may be too late to start erecting barriers the way other professions have done it. Too much damage has been done, at least in this country. The market hidden in the red ocean, full of hungry sharks, is overflowing with blood, and the yellow ocean, full of piss, is stinking to high heaven.

    I don’t see much help coming from our associations, especially those that are not really ours at all since anybody willing to pay can join the.

    But we can still accomplish important things. I believe that we must try to separate ourselves as individual translators from “the translation industry”.

    That is my modest goal, hopefully a realistic goal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I believe that we must try to separate ourselves as individual translators from “the translation industry”.”

      It’s hardly a MODEST goal; it’s the core strategy for survival of the profession.

      The first step is identifying who the ‘we’ are. Without differentiation, i.e. ‘Certified Professional Translators’ as distinguished from para-professionals, non-professionals and the ‘industry’, the ‘we’ remains an amorphous multitude in need by ‘organising’ and ’employment’ by the ‘industry’. It’s simply the vacuum that the ‘industry’ has filled.

      For obvious reasons, the industry will resist any attempt at differentiation, which is why they have (successfully) infiltrated professional institutes/associations in many countries. Whilst we do not have corporate members, we do have a large number of members who are para-professionals. Their needs are almost diametrically opposed to the needs of the professional members (unionisation to fix a minimum wage, as opposed to professional differentiation and the freedom to set fees at a professional level). Same fundamental problem, with different players, but the effect is the same: the institute is pulled in opposite directions and is unable to protect or advance the interests of either side.

      We need a global, professional institute based on strict entry requirements and an enforceable code of practice and conduct. This will allow the development of a ‘brand’ (CPT), which identifies and differentiates a ‘Certified Professional Translator’ from those who are not qualified or who purchase their credentials from the myriad pseudo associations/institutes that are at best confused about the role.

      I know, and I suspect that you also know, that such a project has a lot in common with herding cats. Most of our efforts have been met with sparse support from mostly well-qualified but timid professionals, and a great deal of irrelevant debate, ignorance, obfuscation and confusion on the part of non-professionals who fear that they may not make the cut.

      It is the lack of progress caused by such ill-informed debate that makes it essential that we limit involvement in the development and the membership of a professional institute to those who are appropriately qualified.

      Like

      • “such a project has a lot in common with herding cats”

        Yes! Yes! Yes!

        Qualified translators have lots in common with cats. Introvert and independent by nature, they would hate to be herded, examined, rated, closely supervised or otherwise tormented.

        That’s why the global market has been taken over by the translation industry and its numerous mouse-like pseudo-translators producing en-masse imitation products beautified by massive advertising. False of course, is there any true? 🙂

        Who cares that translation is an intellectual activity?
        Buyers?
        NO!
        Sellers?
        NO!
        Losers? 🙂
        …. (Say what you think, please)

        Like

      • Funny, I never follow the crowd. I stopped attending my local translation chapter because they are all idiots and their company sucked. They brought in speakers who owned agencies who told us to continue out education and the like and who were all for keeping prices down, meanwhile they do not even know a second language! Not for my ears to hear, that is for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. “That is my modest goal, hopefully a realistic goal.”

    The very realistic goal, indeed, Steve. I can imagine your team of anonymous translators sweating theirs brains across red and yellow oceans while you’re beating around the bush here.

    But it’s time to be happy with the New Year. Here’s a greeting song, allegedly made for kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WeTX_fCSjQ

    Like

  13. QED

    Like

  14. The problem is not the technology, but the way it is being used

    As I’ve said before, a lot of people will probably die or get seriously injured before the public wakes up.

    The problem with some of these cheap MT editors is that (like some editors of human translation) they just read along until they find something that doesn’t make sense and then they change it. If it makes sense, they do not even bother to read the source text (they are not paid enough to care).

    Anyone who has closely examined MT output will know that sometimes the translation can be something completely different or even 100% opposite of what the source text says.

    When there is a major accident and the MT translated manual, document or interoffice memorandum is found to be the culprit, do you honestly think the lawyers won’t at least attempt to go after the translation agency who sold them on the idea of using post-editing? It will unfortunately take this kind of media attention for people to wake up and realize the potential hazards of this system – not its existence, but the way it is being used.

    Post-editing MT should cost at least the same as regular human translation. Customers and agencies think that these people are carefully reading the source text and checking the translation, but they are not because they are not being paid enough or given enough time. Customers think they are getting a human revised translation at a fraction of the price, but all they are getting is garbage with a red ribbon wrapped around it.

    Even governments fall for it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2014/01/13/spanish-version-of-healthcare-gov-apparently-used-computer-translation/?hpid=z3

    Liked by 1 person

    • “When there is a major accident …”

      … they will make some noise, then everything will go on as before. People die and get injured every day. “They don’t really care about us”, as Michael Jackson put it in a popular song.

      Like

    • “Post-editing MT should cost at least the same as regular human translation”

      should read:

      Translators should charge at least………….

      Like

  15. Even the BBC is using machine translation (with slight human editing) combined with automated voice creation to dub news broadcast (see video here: https://thestack.com/world/2015/12/21/bbc-launches-machine-translated-synthetic-voiceovers/

    Like

    • I’m guessing here that the BBC director who approved this new feature is a monolingual Brit with a beautiful upper class English accent.

      Like

  16. Image: https://twitter.com/LanguageCrawler/status/683022994185293824
    Machine translation: good nose for good without tea

    Like

    • Note: When read aloud, it sounds like “Have a Happy and Healthy New Year”.

      Like

  17. “Bonne” means “a maid” in this case, not “good” in French.

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    • Yes, but when read aloud, it sounds like “Have a Happy and Healthy New Year”.

      Like

  18. I see. It’s like Feliz ano in Spanish without the accent.

    Like

    • This is a strictly monolingual joke in French (called homophones, similar in sound):
      “Bonne année et bonne santé”
      “Bonne à nez et bonne sans thé”
      the duality is in “bonne” meaning both good and maid

      This is rather an interpret’s joke than a translator’s one by the way.

      When someday machine translation starts craking jokes instead of being laughable, we will start worrrying; in the meantime there will be doctors although every symptom is described on the Internet, lawyers although every law and code is accessible, and translators although machine translation may be sometimes amazingly accurate (in subtitling for example).

      Like

      • Yeah, I know, this foreigner did not get the joke at first reading.

        Like

  19. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-drug-label-idUSTRE63853K20100409

    Like

  20. […] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwuy4hHO3YQ Technology has been disrupting traditional business models and obliterating entire professions with brutal efficiency for many centuries. The disruption of well-established business models has picked up speed considerably at the beginning of the 21st century, in particular in connection with the ubiquity of cheap or free Wi-Fi Internet connections. Technology first replaced the majority…  […]

    Like

  21. It is funny how the rest of the populace is impressed with what we do. I have never gone to an interview where they did not want me to elaborate on my translation skills, which is a plus. Little do they know the dark side of this profession, which has become a joke and called an industry or whatever you want to call it now. It is too bad and sad. Respect has been lost by the very people who eat off our work and build corporations based on what we do for them. It is such a pity. How do we regain the respect needed and not just be a cog churning their wheel?

    Like

  22. I see only one solution, Zoe.

    We have to put much more effort into connecting with direct clients, which will render “the translation industry” irrelevant. That is what I have been writing about in my posts for the last five years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you are absolutely right about this, since we are the ones doing the actual work. I know consciousness is rising and I will keep my cool despite the severity of the situation, but many translators do not know how to go about this. I know we have covered this topic before and it is worth it for me to look further into it and pursue it. You have established your clients very nicely and wisely. I hope you never retire, as there is no need for you to do so!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. By and large I would agree that today machine translation is not acting as a “disruptive technology” in the stricter sense (considering the efforts poured into it). As things stand, in technical and linguistic terms MT roughly compares to what astronomy or chemistry used to be in the Middle Ages (i.e., astrology, alchemy). If you don’t agree with this, please read the New Yorker article “Is Translation an Art or a Math Problem?”, found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/is-translation-an-art-or-a-math-problem.html?_r=3
    Gives you quite a funny insight into the mindset of the geniuses developing this kind of “linguistic” software, and the abyss between the latter and the real thing.

    What is rather disruptive though is how MT influences our understanding of language and translation, i.e. for the sake of business and other interests, certain people are trying to revert us back to a highly mechanistic notion of language and translation, brushing aside the sheer crudeness of the technology and the obvious lack of a more or less unified linguistic theory on which a successful translation software would have to be based. One of the results is that instead of adapting technology to language, language (and the humans behind it) is now being adapted to technology. You can see this e.g. in certain technical manuals which have been “standardized”, stripped down, and compartmentalized to such a degree that you don’t understand what they are actually talking about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, exactly. I always think of the computer HAL from the movie I saw on tv “2001” from I was a little girl. Wasn’t “he” shut down in the end? It did not work out. You may argue that has nothing to do with this, but the crux is the same.

      Like

      • Yes, zoe — actually, the association with HAL is made (sort of) in the article that I have linked to.

        (Obviously, it should have been “NY Times” instead of “The New Yorker” in my post above …)

        Like

  24. […] which happens to be an opinion that most translators share. As I commented on my silly blog here, here and here, all the other articles published in the ATA Chronicle were written by cheerleaders with […]

    Like


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