Will Translation Jobs Be Automated?
We live in the age of automation. Many jobs are now being automated, whether it is by algorithms or machinery. In this time of rapid technological development, you may be thinking to yourself, will translation jobs be automated in the near future? The short answer is a resounding no.
Will Translation Jobs Disappear? No.
Technological advancement has reached the point where it is no longer only labour-intensive positions that are becoming automated, but also service positions. So, it is no surprise if you find yourself wondering: will translation jobs disappear next? But despite the extent of progress made in technology since just the beginning of this millennium, translation jobs seem to be here to stay.
Three years ago, one translation company CEO proposed that translation jobs would be replaced by machines within one to three years, and yet there are more translation jobs available now than ever before!
This isn’t because technology is too far behind. Progress in translation technology is being made every day. What is keeping translation jobs secure is the fact that language is far too complicated, and human translators are far too useful.
What’s in a Word?
As anyone who has embarked on learning another language can tell you: nuance is difficult. You can learn the equivalents of different words and phrases in a language, only to discover that simply barking phrases like ‘j’aime le fromage’ can only get you so far.
The meaning of a sentence is more complex. It requires an understanding of not just the words and phrases, but the context. Which is one of the key obstacles in the way of AI translation. Machine learning can do a lot, but how good is it at drawing the meaning from a native speaker’s idioms? How well can it handle regional variations? Grammatical foibles? Or perhaps the simple flair of advertisements?
It’s worth noting that these are roadblocks associated with the satisfactory translation of relatively similar languages. It’s well known that English has borrowed much from other languages over the years. But how effective are translations going to be in crucial business environments such as East Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, where the languages have developed almost entirely independent of those around Europe and the Mediterranean? The answer is – unless the translations come from a human brain, one capable of understanding nuance – not very.
This is one of the reasons why we use translators who work into their mother tongue. Ensuring the context is understood and mistakes are easily spotted.
The Perks of Using a Translator
The complexity in every word and the context in which it is used, leads a demanding translation process. One which artificial intelligence cannot replicate.
Even with increasing efficiency in machine translation methods, the other major hurdle is creativity. An over-looked component of the translator’s role is to infuse a certain humanity to a translation. Beyond making sure that grammar and context are considered, translators must ensure the original intent of the document is considered. This is especially true when looking at marketing documents and those concerning personal matters. The newly translated document must have an efficacy beyond simple legibility.
To make matters worse, a poor translation can entirely change the meaning. Just one wrong word can make a massive difference and convey a completely different meaning to the one intended. While this would be obvious to a native speaker, an algorithm lacks the ever-changing context of a living language.
The Future of Translations
It is true that many of the devices we depend on today could not have been imagined in years past. It’s also true that many jobs that we thought timeless a few years ago have all but disappeared. So, what then of translation?
As another sign of the times, will translation jobs become automated? Will careers in translation begin to disappear? No, with the complexity of a living language and the need for context and creativity, translation jobs should be safe for a while yet.