It is no news that revolution leads to changes in various spheres of our lives, so the Digital revolution that has happened just recently is having some consequences as well. There are many jobs in our technologically advanced world that have already been replaced by artificial intelligence or just robots, and this process is only gathering pace. If you google, you can find different articles about “Top 10 (or 20, or… whatever) disappearing jobs” in the modern labour market, for example, by Forbes. Among these jobs, you can sometimes see “translator”, and I partially agree, as much as it pains me to admit it.
I study linguistics. And “translation” is one of the options that I
am was really interested in as my future occupation, at least as a freelancer. However, technological progress disagrees. After only about 67 years of development (since the Georgetown–IBM experiment in the USA in 1954 – the first demonstration of computer translation) automatic translation has become surprisingly widespread. The introduction of personal computers has contributed a lot to this sphere. Since the 1980s there has been a large increase in the development of machine translation. Many countries have done a lot of research in spite of being quite pessimistic about the results, and now the vocabulary becomes wider every day and grammar rules are more complicated.
What is better?
I completely understand that any of today’s automatic translators (Google, Bing, etc.) has many obvious and convincing advantages comparing to humans. Time and money – possibly the two most crucial resources on our planet – are not on my side. Machine translations are much faster and much cheaper, so no wonder that many people opt for them when they need to translate something in their everyday lives or for work, for example. Luckily for them, progress has come a long way already and everything should be fine, right? Wrong.
Just recently I came across a funny website with so much proof. It confirmed that many factors may affect the word translation, so a simple lack of context can turn a phrase into a silly one if we are lucky, or an offensive one if not. This can be of extreme importance in some cases. Just imagine that you own a restaurant and you have potential international business partners on a meal. The meeting is going great but when they want to ask for a dessert, they start laughing, and you have no idea why. You begin feeling uncomfortable, your potential partners hurry to leave, the deal is failed, so you start anxiously looking through the menu when you finally notice the fatal mistake: “different kinds of ice-cream” or “the assortment of ice-cream” in Russian is translated to English as “ice-cream in the ass”. “So this is it!” – You think – “The end of my career…” And then your business becomes unprofitable, and you go bankrupt, and your spouse leaves you with your children and your dog, you lose your apartment because you cannot pay the rent anymore, and you start living in the street, now you have to eat leftovers instead of luxurious “Foie Gras with Berry Sause”, and your spouse decides to sue you, and… I think you get the idea.
Of course, I am exaggerating! But this is an example of what only a machine translator can do. Humans would never make such a mistake. I agree that in some situations it is indeed better and more convenient to use “Google translator”, I myself do it regularly, but you should still have an experienced person who can check the translation, especially when it comes to some important circumstances. And I refuse to admit that the profession of a translator is going to disappear in the near future. It can probably be modified because it is also foolish to spend weeks or months trying to translate a document when it is possible to only correct and enhance some inaccuracies in the machine translation just in a few days or maybe even hours.
So, I believe technological progress is not “stealing” personally my job. However, it is definitely changing it but humans are very adaptive and I am sure it should be fine in the end. Fortunately, the world does not change in the snap of a finger, and things do not fade away instantly.
The source of my inspiration and more funny pictures: https://thelanguagenerds.com/2019/40-hilarious-and-funny-translations-fails-fro-different-languages/