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By Andre Lisboa | Published  11/25/2018 | Technology | Recommendation:
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Andre Lisboa
պորտուգալերենից անգլերեն translator

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Will technology advances in machine learning and AI pose a major threat to translators` jobs?

Are human translators going to be fully replaced by computers?

How can translators adapt to these changes?

Will computer translations achieve 100% accuracy within the next 10 years?

These are questions that probably come to the minds of millions of translators nowadays. Actually, not only translators, but hundreds of other professionals that are about to lose their jobs if they don´t find ways to adapt to this new reality. One of the many examples of technology taking over human jobs are the self-driving cars that have been tested secretly for a year by Google and will be seen on the streets in 2019 by an astonished audience as if they were in a Sci-Fi movie from Holywood.

"Art imitates life or life imitates art?"

Oscar Wilde, in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, said that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life". In the movie "I Robot", in 2035, highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the world, operating under three rules to keep humans safe. Despite his dark history with robotics, Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates the alleged suicide of U.S. Robotics founder Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) and believes that a human-like robot (Alan Tudyk) murdered him. With the help of a robot expert (Bridget Moynahan), Spooner discovers a conspiracy that may enslave the human race. Sounds amazing, but rather impossible, right? Well, not quite! Remember the movie Star Trek? The world seen in Star Trek movies is meant to take place hundreds of years in the future. And while we're still waiting on warp drives and transporters, some of the technology portrayed in the shows as wildly futuristic is available now. Here are some examples of technology that have taken the fiction out of science fiction in the 50 years that Star Trek has been around.

Cell phones: At the time, when phones were still tethered to walls with wires, it was a cool, futuristic idea.

Tablets: Their version of tablets were PADD's, tablet-like devices that were used to read reports, books and a variety of other information, including floor plans and diagnostics.

Virtual Assistants: The crew of the Enterprise being able to simply talk to the air, ask the computer a question and swiftly get an answer was remarkable. Today, many people have that capability on their phones with Google Assistant and Apple's Siri.

Video Calls: By using video calls, Star Trek was building on a technology that had been dreamed about for years. From Skype to Facetime, it's no longer unusual to get video messages or have video calls in real time.

Pretty amazing, isn´t it?
Now let´s get back to the translators`issue.

Will technology advances in machine learning and AI pose a major threat to translators` jobs?

I wouldn´t say it´s a threat, but it certainly has already changed the way that we, professional translators work. Many companies require the use of highly modern cat tools, like Trados, for instance, and most translators nowadays use them to provide faster, more consistent and accurate translations, including a QA checker to ensure maximum quality. The downside is that context matches, PerfectMatch and other aspects can reduce dramatically the total of words that would be normally translated without a cat tool, which implies in lower rates for the translator, considering the "computer" did part of the work by itself. But it´s undeniable that these tools are immensely useful for both translators and agencies.

Are human translators going to be fully replaced by computers?

Let´s start by talking about what computers are "trying" to emulate: human brain! "The human brain is the most complex structure in the universe." It is no exaggeration to say that the human brain is an impressive organ. No other brain in the animal kingdom is capable of generating the kind of higher consciousness associated with human ingenuity, with our ability to make plans and write poetry. Yet the most complex structure in the known universe – as it is often described – is more mysterious than the least- explored regions of the deepest ocean. One Hour Translation CEO Ofer Shoshan said that within one to three years, neural machine technology (NMT) translators will carry out more than 50% of the work handled by the $40 billion market. His words stand in stark contrast to the often-repeated maxim that, in the near future at least, artificial intelligence will primarily augment, rather than replace human professionals. The thing is, languages are extremely complex. Even a professional translator with many years of experience will struggle to actually know how to translate certain isolated words. Why? Because context is extremely important. Rather than being replaced by computers, I believe translators will be more like copy editors, finishing most of the work done by computers and using their human judgment to find the right words within certain contexts, giving the text a touch of soul.

How can translators adapt to these changes?

First of all, let´s face the truth! Translators who do not accept that these changes are here to stay will be left behind and become endangered species, dinosaurs, and nobody wants to be a dinosaur, right?! Some specialists believe that half a million human translators and 21,000 agencies could soon find themselves out of work. Then, what should we do to keep our jobs safe?

Go with the flow! You and technology can be good friends.

That´s it, don´t struggle! Technology is created to our own benefit, to make things easier for us. If you don´t know how to use cat tools, create term bases, run a QA and other technologies, hurry up! There is always time to learn. These incredible machines are here to help us. They will always need an experienced translator to add that final human-quality and spice. There are plenty of videos on Youtube teaching how to use them, some of which are free. Don´t get outdated! Keep looking for new technologies, tools, softwares... read articles about innovations, promote your brand constantly, take online courses in any subject that may be suitable for you. If you want to specialize in marketing translations, for example, take a Google Adwords course. Remember that each new translation is a new learning. Some experienced translators start believing they know everything and it´s an absolutely wrong and presumptuous thought. There is a vast and unexplored universe of information waiting to be discovered out there.

It´s time for the last question now!

Will computer translations achieve 100% accuracy within the next 10 years?

Considering the human brain´s extreme complexity, do you believe computers will achieve that same level? I wouldn´t doubt it! Remember Star Trek? I, Robot? The Jetsons? Or suppose you lived in the medieval era, would you believe if someone told you that in the future men would be able to travel to the moon? Think about it!

This article was written by André Lisboa, Brazilian Translator at SDL Trados | Lisboa Translations

(If you liked it, feel free to share or give your own thoughts about this fascinating and controversial topic.)

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