Q3 – Will MT kill the need for a human translator?

Absolutely not. Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools did not kill the need for human translators; in fact, they created and made the market grow, as translation was made more affordable. Most of us with some years in the industry still remember the initial resistance by some established linguists to adopt the early TM-based tools. Many considered them a gimmick, a trick to pay translators less, when the truth was that translators were being paid a lot even for repetitions as there was no way to count them… but manually. Good old 90’s….

The digital era has also transformed the role of the translator and, for quite a lot of time, translators have had to deal with formatting problems they were not trained for in CAT tools. XLIFF and Dita standards are one way of helping the translator do what he/she does best (language transfer) rather than fight with tags and colors inside Computer-Assisted Translation tools. In this sense, MT is a massive productivity tool.

Machine Translation is going to be one of the best aids a translator can have. It improves the speed at which a translator works (by not having to “think” translations and word connections that have been translated thousands of times before). Even if it only saved time on typing, that alone would be an improvement. If you are dealing with a particular domain (mechanical engineering), it will help the translator become more familiar with the terminology and concentrate in the added-value tasks that only humans can do.

Curiously, the truth is that machines already translate more words per day (i.e. people click the “Translate” button on a web or on a desktop or server translation program like BabelFish or GoogleTranslate to get general, gisting translation) than humans (there are some 300,000 registered translators in the world, with an average output of around 2,200-2,800 words per day).