If you’ve ever used Google to translate something quickly (and cheaply) then you have had a run-in with machine translation. Machine translation (frequently abbreviated as MT) is a part of computational linguistics that involves the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another. And the industry is expected to grow exponentially over the coming years. The technology, also known as cognitive computing, derives from data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing. These applications are used to automate otherwise manual or more basic computing processes. There is no doubt that as machines are able to continuously learn, they will also continue to have a disruptive impact in the worlds of translation and interpretation.
As noted in the title, the global machine translation market size is expected to reach USD 983.3 million by 2022. That means that in just four years, we’ll see the market share increase by roughly 15%, not an amount to be scoffed at. Not only will machine translation be having an impact, but translation memory will also prove to be an increasing trend. Until not, translation memory has been a useful tool for the acceleration of translation projects at a significantly reduced cost. The combined power of translation memory together with machine learning and machine translation mean that this technology will be constantly improving, as machines are able to remember words and teach themselves new sequences of words.
The growing volume of big data couple with the need for cost effective translation and the increasing importance of online content are the main factors that have been driving the growth of spending in the machine translation market. Some of the companies spearheading this growth include AppTek, IBM, Lionbridge Technologies, Moravia IT, and Systran International, among others.
In some cases, the technology is becoming so advanced that industry-specific machine translations are being developed organically within the applications themselves. Dublin’ based KantanMT offers ¨a SaaS-based Machine Translation platform that enables users to develop and manage custom machine translation engines in the cloud. ¨ Kantan claims that its platform can be customized to offer machine translation services in specific sectors such as e-commerce, government, and travel, among others. Other examples of machine translation companies with industry-specific software include Canopy Innovations in the healthcare industry, or SDL Government’s platform that is used primarily by the United States government for intelligence purposes.
What does all of this machine translation mean for human translators? Well, our jobs are about to get easier and more complex at the same time! While some worry that machine learning will lead to the obsolescence of human translators and interpreters, the reality is that we will need more, and more highly qualified linguistic experts to oversee the management and operation of software translation. Qualified translators will need to not only know how to program new technological tools, but also how to identify and fix bugs.
Just recently, for example, Google translate had a serious bug. Users were able to type gibberish into the tool and it was actually translating the nonsense into biblical verses, and other sacred texts claiming that it was the end of days! While a programmer was needed to fix that bug in particular, professional translators are needed to monitor machine translation output, assist with machine learning, and ensure that the quality of the translations being produced is acceptable. Without professional linguists, we could lose the quality of language altogether (which we have mentioned in other articles – especially with reference to emojis!).
To conclude, although the market share of machine translation is growing and will certainly disrupt the industry as a whole, translators and interpreters are well poised to assist in the transition. Translation tools allow the work to be done more quickly, but quality control is a human job at the end of the day, as anyone who has been affected by autocorrect can attest. Our translators and interpreters are all held to the highest linguistic standards, and while we certainly take advantage of the available technologies, we still rely on traditional methods to be sure our clients receive the highest quality work. You should certainly invest in machine translation tools for your business, but be sure you have a native speaker of whatever language you are working in on call to give your professional documents one last look!