Why so many translators hate translation technology

In general, technology should serve to make our lives better. Software can automate manual steps, reducing the human workload. Translation, like most language-related tasks, is complex. Translation technology has not yet gotten to the point where it can use language the way people can. Translation is, at a minimum, two times more complex than just writing in a language, and it’s several layers deeper too.

So, with such complexity, it would seem that every professional translator on earth would be eager to use technology to streamline their work, speed up the translation process, and make their lives better. This is not always the case.

Here’s why:

Google has changed society’s definition of “translation.” In many ways, Google Translate has been both the best and the worst thing to happen to professional translators in our lifetime. On the one hand, Google’s work in this area has put translation more squarely on the radar of society in general. Suddenly, people know that translation is available and possible. This fuels market growth and demand, because people quickly learn that free, online machine translation quality is insufficient for most purposes, especially for business settings.

On the other hand, while Google Translate has raised awareness of the need for translation at large, it has also made high-quality translation seem easier and more accessible than it actually is. Even though Google Translate is not actually free beyond a limited usage volume, many people now mistakenly think translation is “free and easy.” This makes it that much more difficult for professional translators to help people understand the value of their work.

Translation technology development has largely stagnated. It’s incredibly frustrating for translators that so little development has taken place when it comes to professional tools. I find it incredible that the interface for most translation tools today looks nearly identical to the interface that I used as a translator in 1996. Two decades on, there are hardly any tools available that give translators a “what you see is what you get,” in-context translation view for translating websites and other such translation projects of a web and digital nature.

Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that translators have to work in so many different systems to actually obtain the files to translate, to do the translation, and to deliver them back. Even though translation process automation software exists, adoption in the market is not widespread by any stretch. This means that the chances of, say, attaching the wrong version of a file, or accidentally inserting errors at the time of saving, or other such common human errors, are still quite high.

Translators prioritize quality, whether the customer does or not. Ask a translator what kind of quality is acceptable, and a…

Read more | huffingtonpost.com/nataly-kelly

Photo credit | “Angry Birds” by mark greenwood on Flickr

Posted on June 23, 2014 in Field of translation

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