If you’ve read the title and are in the translation trade, I hate to break it to you. Translation news are not just an optional part of the game. Any professional — or even prospective client! — has to stay abreast of the news in the field. Sure, translation may have seemed like it’s a stable, unchanging field from the outside. But, as with everything else in our world, we are experiencing rapid change.
So, in this article, I’ll let you in on some of the news about the translation trade. What are the lastest tools that translators are using? What about all this machine learning brouhaha that’s going to put everyone out of business? Is automatic translation to be trusted?
Let’s take a look into some of the basic questions before taking a deeper dive into these subjects.
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This post has been updated in October 2021.
If you’re here, you probably know what this is about. But if you want a refresher course, I’m nothing if not willing to indulge! Our Translation as a Part of Content Pluralization article goes into this matter in-depth:
Translation refers to accurately conveying information from one language into another. It seems simple, right? While appearances can be deceiving, here are the broad strokes of translation:
- The translator reads and internalizes the content of a text in the original language. This will hitherto be referred to as the source language.
- They convey the meaning of the original text into the target, or destination, language.
Again, this may make it seem like a straight-ahead, automatic process. But, in reality, translators have to interpret the meaning of a text and try to accurately convey its content, rather than just the words. Translators are not just thinking about a simple input/output process, as 1/1 translation is not generally possible, not desirable. Not all languages have perfect word analogs that can be used in lieu of one another. There are also idioms, pre-made phrases, colloquialisms, and phrase structures that can make a translator’s life harder.
If you want more information on the processes that make translation possible, I also recommend you check out our Translation Process article.
So, now we’ve taken care of the broad strokes, what’s new in translation news?
Translation News: Covering New Ground
An important aspect of this field is staying up-to-date with current developments. Now, that’s easier said than done! There are translation news covering the latest advances in machine learning technology, Google Translate leapfrogging some hurdle, dire warnings about automatic translation, etc. There’s also a significant amount of coverage centered around CAT tools, and the best to use.
Why don’t we start with this (actually useful) information, and move up from there?
You see, it takes more than you think to be a translator in the 2020s. One would think that a notepad, a few online dictionaries, and some good old coffee would suffice. But no, translators are actually having to turn to more contemporary tools to be able to do their job efficiently. Is the romantic, old-school scenario off the cards? Not entirely, but you can bet any professional worth their salt is using these tools of the trade to stay competitive!
PRO TIP: If you want to assess a translator you’re thinking about hiring, look at their previous work, and ask them about the tools they use to get the job done. It’s a good way to not only take a gander at their skillset but whether they’re working within an up-to-date framework.
So, what types of tools do informative translation news talk about? I would put my money on CAT, or Computer Assisted Translation tools. This has nothing to do with your little Siamese furry companion.
1. Translation Memory Software
Part of a translator’s bread n’ butter. As per Cultures Connection TMS, “divides the texts to be translated into units called segments. As the translator advances in the translation of the document, the software stores the text in a database of already translated segments. When the software recognizes that a new segment is similar to a segment already translated, it suggests that the translator reuse it.”
2. Terminology Databases
These are language databases consisting of specific language related to the subject of the translation. Medical, legal, technological; all of these and more databases are available for purchase and use.
3. Language search engines (LSE)
They are search engines for terminology databases. They’re mostly used as time-saving devices. They can also be used to look for fragments of previously translated text to see how they match up.
4. Terminology Management Software (TM
Similar to the previous point. In our in-depth article about translation tools, we say: “TM software enables a translator to automatically search through the term database to find a matching term to the one in the new document. Some of these systems also allow the translator to add new term pairs to an existing database.”
5. Interactive machine translation (IMT)
Ready for the future to rock your world? This is part auto-translation, part spell-checker on your cellphone. It basically attempts to give you an estimated idea of what your translation is going to be while you write it. It’s comprised of its translation database to assist with translations that are going the same way. If one is translating long legal, medical, or technical texts, a little help with very similar terminology and paragraphs goes an incredibly long way. If the translator accepts the suggestions from the IMT system, the resulting translations get input into the translation memory.
6. Translation alignment software (TA)
As per our same article (linked to above): “Translation alignment software (TA) – This software makes it possible for a translator to divide the source and destination texts into segments and software then ‘attempts to determine which segments agree with each other.’ They are then imported into TM for future translations.”
What else do translation news cover?
Lately, the name of the game has been machine translation. Now, let’s not confuse CAT tools with machine translation. While both leverage the immense computational powers at our disposal, they’re not one and the same. Allow me to illustrate.
- CAT tools, as we’ve seen above, are all about using the benefits provided by terminology databases to make translation swifter. The key point to take away is that there’s a human overseeing and completing the translation process. Computers help them go faster, but they don’t replace them altogether.
- Machine translation systems — if they ever end up doing what they’re aiming for — aim to remove humans altogether. These are the ones making the rounds in most translation news outlets around.
Now, we’ve got a wealth of articles about machine/automatic/online translation. In most, we tend to lambast the hype cycles around these gadgets and make important distinctions to inform readers and possible buyers. Simply put: they’re not quite there yet. And “not quite there yet” is about as generous a comparison as saying a cake-maker that makes rollerskates is “not quite there yet.”
Check out these gems for more information on the subject:
Does it sound like a lot? Well, let’s just say that we’re used to working with quality translators. As such, we take their work, and their responsibility very seriously. It’s hard to see a generalized editorial line in translation circles to take the hype-centric marketing approach to automatic translators. While they have their uses (and I assure you each of our articles fairly assesses that), they simply are not ready for the professional prime-time.
Knowledge is power. And just check out the translation news byline on two very well-known, respectable outlets dedicated to both entrepreneurial pursuits and technology.
We’re talking about two very, very high-traffic websites. They even pop un in the first few “translation news” search results! Simply put, mainstream readers are being misinformed about the readiness and reliability of these devices. The headlines and articles are well-written and usually thoughtful, but they tend to miss the mark when it comes to accurate criticism or analysis of these products.
Let me toot my own horn a bit and quote one of the articles I’ve written on the matter:
So, what does this mean if you want to purchase a translation device or software? That it’s not going to help you if you need professional translation services. If you need to translate a menu abroad or ask for directions, it’s all well and good. Translation devices are actually quite remarkable in how they can help you carry small conversations abroad. No doubt they will get much better at distinguishing what conversation participants are saying in real-time.
But they won’t help much if you need an interpreter for a mission-critical work conference or training session. Nor will machine translation software when you’ve got important brand content to localize.
I think that’s clear enough, right?
The world of translation news covers a wide-ranging array of fast-moving topics. It’s hard to stay on top of things because the sands shift rapidly and there’s always a new gadget or thingamajig on the horizon. The good thing is that even in this fast-paced environment, there are still some general truisms that keep translators gainfully employed.
- One is that a translator is only as good as their tools. That’s doubly-so now that translation tools are such a huge supplement to any respectable translation effort.
- Two, is that while rapid-fire advances in deep learning and neural networks continue to astonish, we’re still not quite at the level of having to worry about strangely-accented cybernetic organisms.
And, while translation news are not devoid of their own brand of sensationalism and hype-mongering, they generally cover what a translator actually needs: to stay informed of the current events and new developments that affect, change, and evolve their trade.
And you can bet that what works for them, ends up working for you and your business!
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