Let’s Talk About It: Machine Translations & Language Services Wrap-Up

We had an amazing event last week as we invited industry professionals to join us in the discussion about the future of Machine Translations and their effect on language services.

Joining us, we had over twenty translators and industry professionals, speaking over 17 different languages, all talented, dedicated, and experienced professionals within the industry. Everyone was eager to get an understanding of what the capabilities and limitations were of this new and growing technology, and how it would inevitably affect not only the future of language service providers, but also the jobs and lives of translators as well.

We were joined by six speakers, to give their unique perspective and expertise on the subject.

Highlights from the Discussion

Paul Elwood

Our founder, Paul, opened the discussion by addressing the inevitable trepidation of people wanting to learn more about what the future holds. He highlighted that so many of the things we’ve been taught over the years are being shown in stark relief to the realities we are facing nowadays; especially with technology. This can undoubtedly be disconcerting for most people, but there are also incredible advantages to these developments as well. So the question is: Do we continue to stay apprehensive, or do we embrace this inevitable change? And should we choose the latter, how should we move forward collaboratively?

Katrin Nell

Katrin, who has seen many changes in the industry in her 12 years as a translator, brought up some fascinating data about where the future of translating was headed. She pointed out that just five years ago, translating agencies didn’t genuinely believe in the efficacy of MT, but now, within the space of a few short years, everything is changing. Nearly 70 percent of translation agencies are preparing to use this emerging technology, and translators need to prepare, too. Flexibility and adaptability will be the key to navigating this new landscape.

Aroa Mateos

Aroa, a language professional with more than ten years of translation experience, provided a better understanding of what this new technology of Human-Assisted Machine Translation was, and cautioned language professionals not to be afraid of this new world, but instead, be proactive about learning about the changes so that they were better positioned to adapt to them.

Gianluca Galetti

A researcher in the field, Gianluca asserted that the future of translation is Post-Editing and Specialization. MT and technology like it, is, at its heart, mathematical. Even at its best, it will never possess the intuition and experience that a human can provide so many ambiguous translation conundrums. Without humans, he explained, these machines can’t be programmed, they can’t learn. Moreover human intuition, experience, and expertise is crucial to the success of this technology, and to the success of accurate translation.  “There’s no machine that we can train to think like one of us,” he asserts. The most important thing is for us to collaborate.

Adrià Martín

Language Technologies professor Adrià Martín highlighted how important that it was for humans to work collaboratively with the emergent machine technology. He asserted that, as there are so many ambiguities in language in and of itself, there will always be a need for humans to think through some of those complexities. Machines, no matter their level of functional accuracy, have not yet shown the capacity to emulate the nuanced connections that humans make with language.

Gabriel Puig

Closing out the discussion, strategist Gabriel Puig addressed some of the hard questions posed by the translators about changes brought on by this new technology.  “How can we do more, with less?” The key, he says, is respect for people, and continued improvement, on both sides. He noted that there is a general fear of machines, and really, of the unknown. But the reality is that there are so many opportunities as well. Most importantly, translators have the opportunity to use the speed of the machines to take on more clients and ensure even faster turnaround times. At the heart of it, language services needs to adapt to the change, and he posited that translators might come to rely on the MT as well.  

Translators raised their questions as to whether MT would change their jobs fundamentally, and voiced varying degrees of cautious optimism. The biggest concern seemed to be whether they would have to sacrifice the quality of their work, or even if the fundamental nature of their work would have to change.  Everyone was curious to know how the long term implications of MT would affect them in the long run, which of course, is cause for further study. And of course, the biggest concern was whether or not in the future there will be a need to have human translators at all.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion

The biggest takeaway is that these new developments in the industry, whether viewed from a lens of caution or of hope, absolutely cannot exist without the collaboration of humans. The machines behind this emergent technology need to be programmed, trained, and most importantly they need to keep learning. But it can’t be done alone. Machine Translation needs human involvement to keep evolving into a smarter technology.

And what about the hardworking, dedicated humans behind language services? Well, human translators, for their part, will inevitably need to adapt their vast skill-set to encompass Post-Editing. Almost like learning another new language.

Want to know more? Be sure to check out our previous post about Machine Translations! And as always, if you are interested in learning more about what our translators can do for you, no matter what your language service needs, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us to get a free quote on language services.

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