How technology is changing the Translation industry

From professional translators who now use apps to help with their latest project to programs which can produce good translation without any human involvement, technology is definitely changing the translation industry.

We’ll take a look at some of the innovations and see the impact it has on the industry…

The Translation Industry of the Past

In the pre-Internet days, translators worked in offices, often on typewriters before the modern Personal Computer became commonplace, armed only with their own knowledge, physical reference materials and the skills of their more experienced colleagues to help them complete a translation.

A company or government agency would frequently need a linguist to have a wide range of experience in order to deal with the many and varied projects which might come their way.

The Technology of Change

The computer age and the digi transforming the translation industry from these roots. The way in which translators work, the way they are employed, and the tools which they have available continue to evolve.

For instance, any language professional can now use:

Internet Research

The most obvious change that the industry has seen is a huge departure from the physical research methods of the past.

Once, the challenge of tracking down the correct terminology to use in a particular project was extremely time-consuming. Nowadays, with the resources of the Internet, a couple of key presses can instantly produce reams of data and terminology on any subject.

All that’s need are solid research skills to make sure that the data is reliable and correct.

CAT Tools

Computer Assisted Translation tools are used by almost every modern translation agency. They improve the speed at which translators work at the same time as making a project more consistent in terms of language used, making sure that the format of the source document is maintained, as well as providing several other handy features which few translators these days would be without.

Often tied to CAT tools are Translation Memories, software which automatically leverage from previously translated segment of wordings. This makes the translation more consistent and  available for use by other translators working on a similar project for the same client. Language Service Providers who use Translation Memories typically offer their clients discounts based on the number of words remembered, and thus the time that a TM can save a linguist while working.

There are a large number of different pieces of software like this on the market and most are very simple to use, making them an indispensable translation tool for most professionals.

Digital Dictionaries and Term Bases

Essentially a digital recreation of the huge physical reference materials of the past, digital dictionaries and term bases give linguists a database of terminology which can be both easily updated and instantly consulted.

Digital dictionaries are fairly self-explanatory, while term bases offer further – usually technical – information related to a phrase or word of terminology. They’re both designed to increase the consistency and speed of translations.

No more searching through epic tomes of text for today’s translators!

Machine Translation and Post-editing

This could well be the biggest way in which technology is transforming the translation industry:

Machine Translation, exemplified by tools such as Google Translate, iTranslate and WayGo, relies on computers to perform all the work involved and is rapidly growing in terms of the quality of translation it can provide. Does machine translation work?

In short, yes. But generally only on certain types of project (it’s profoundly unsuitable for creative marketing campaigns, for example) and usually with human “supervision”.

The process of having a human check over and improve the work of a machine-generated translation is called post-editing. This involves a real linguist who will be able to correct the mistakes that a machine can make – usually issues relating to language context, which machines still struggle with – in order to be either:

  1. Simply understandable by a human reader – this is commonly called light post-editing
  2. As fluent and stylish as the original piece – this is most often called full post-editing

There’s also a process known as pre-editing which involves the preparation of a document for machine translation. This has proven to consistently increase the quality of the final piece.

The Future of the Translation Industry

The net effect of this technology is a huge change in the way that translators work and the skills in which they need to succeed in their industry. For example, where once a wide general knowledge of subjects would have been a huge advantage it’s now those who are specialists in a certain field who are in demand.

Technology has also had a dramatic impact in the way in which translators are employed. Many now work as freelancers from their own home, often paid significantly less than equivalently skilled professionals in other industries. There are also a large number of small translation companies all competing to meet the demands of a rapidly globalising world.

Continual strides towards globalisation though are leading to a world in which the ability to communicate in multiple languages is an increasingly vital skill and one that’s in ever-increasing demand – one which the translation industry is still coming to terms with being able to supply.

The same technology which some see as taking over the work that translators used to do in the past is going to see them well positioned to benefit in the future.


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