Automation: Yes or no? How can technology contribute to the translation industry nowadays?

When considering the impact of technology on the translation industry, it is not uncommon to find professionals that see it as a threat to their work. While it is true that automated translation services are increasing and improving by the hour, human translation is far from being left out of the process. On the contrary: technology can be the door to more and better work. Staying up to date is the key.

In the world 3.0, where everything and everyone is connected, organizations have the need to reach an hyper-segmented audience that comes from all sort of cultural backgrounds. This has ensured the steady growth of global demand for language services over the years. In light of these increasing business opportunities both for translators and translation companies, the question of how to deliver high volume at a low cost, while preserving high quality standards becomes urgent. The answer seems obvious: technology.

The connection between translation and technology is stablished mainly through two kind of systems: machine translation engines (such as Google), which produce a finished translation that a human linguist can edit afterwards, and computer assisted translation software, also known as CAT tools. “Assisting” the translation implies that the work is still going to be performed by humans, but made easier by a specialized software. The core of this system relies on the concept of translation memories (TM), a type of file in which the software stores every translation done so that, in the future, it can detect similar sentences and structures and bring up old translation results. This saves time for the linguist, which impacts directly on the volume they can take and the overall cost of each translation project.

The use of translation memories improves efficiency, since it prevents professionals from performing the same translation twice. At the same time, it ensures quality, since technology allows you to check for consistency and terminological accuracy, two essential requirements for any client. Those are just the basics really. In the present, CAT tools offer many other additional features to support both linguists and project managers while they work on new and challenging projects.

Flexible settings constitute their main asset. Working with a variety of clients, translators need to keep track of each of their specific requirements. Thanks to this specialized software, translators can create their own term-lists and QA checks, among other settings that they can customize on a template specific to each client. This allows them to quickly launch each new project without having to re-read never-ending glossaries and guidelines.

Another asset is their compatibility with multiple file extensions. Over time, the number of formats that customers require to have translated has done nothing but increase. Nowadays, translators are required to work with anything, from traditional Microsoft Office files, to specific graphic design formats or even subtitles. It is simply not possible for the linguist to be proficient in each and every software currently in use. Technology constitutes an invaluable ally in this field, helping to process various formats without requiring new technical skills. Once the translation is done, the CAT tool converts the file back into its original format.

Technology facilitates online collaboration and management for challenging projects. During large projects, when different translators work at the same time, real-time online management becomes essential. By incorporating specific tools, project managers are allowed to check the status and progress of their projects at any given time. This helps them to get ahead of problems and greatly reduces the number of last-minute surprises. Online management also encourages communication among the project team. It allows participants to leave comments regarding the ongoing translation and exchange valuable research and points of view with both colleagues and project managers.

Finally, the inevitable cost reduction. When the CAT licenses are acquired by the LSPs (Language service provider), their use is totally free for those translators that have been granted access to the software by the company. This constitutes an invaluable benefit for the linguist, who probably has to pay for different software already.

In the world of knowledge-based economy, technology breakthroughs on the translation market constitute an opportunity to boost innovative projects, based on actual know-how. Unlike other industries, where repetitive work is at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence, on the linguistic industry, introducing technology is a synonym of sophistication, better results and high-end quality. What is more, these innovative resources are improving and renewing themselves by the day.

The key to finding the solution that best fits our needs is to remain up-to-date and avoid becoming sluggish; keeping our eyes open to this field where new alternatives are being developed all the time. This is not about some human versus machine or translator versus technology dilemma. This is about combining the best of both worlds and having technology at the service of experts.

If you liked my article and want to know more about how technology can contribute to your translation service, you can attend my memoQ demo, which will take place on Saturday 14 at 1:30 p.m. at CLINT (Translation Industry Conference in Latin America) or approach us at our stand there at the conference center. We look forward to hearing from you!

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