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The Future of Translation
Thread poster: Isely Mills

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:45
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
I am not so sure Nov 28, 2017

In a 'former life' I was a professional photographer. Then came the switch from analogue to digital. In the beginning the digital product was at its best (old) newspaper photo quality. I still hear all my old colleagues laughing: 'Digital photography will never make it'. Look now!!!!

I wasn't so sure then, and that combined with the huge investment of changing from analogue to digital made me decide to find another career.

I see the same happening today with the 'intro
... See more
In a 'former life' I was a professional photographer. Then came the switch from analogue to digital. In the beginning the digital product was at its best (old) newspaper photo quality. I still hear all my old colleagues laughing: 'Digital photography will never make it'. Look now!!!!

I wasn't so sure then, and that combined with the huge investment of changing from analogue to digital made me decide to find another career.

I see the same happening today with the 'introduction' of MT. How long will it take till the machine produces the same or better translations as translators of flesh and blood? The only difference is that translating contains a human factor, whereas my example with photography only depended on the material = camera's.

Again, I am not so sure. Unfortunately for me it is too late for a career move, so I will sit out the ride, but if you are a starter, I would suggest to find another profession!

PS) This threat was published before on Linkedin.

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:33 GMT]
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Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Apples and oranges Nov 29, 2017

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

In a 'former life' I was a professional photographer. Then came the switch from analogue to digital. In the beginning the digital product was at its best (old) newspaper photo quality. I still hear all my old colleagues laughing: 'Digital photography will never make it'. Look now!!!!

I wasn't so sure then, and that combined with the huge investment of changing from analogue to digital made me decide to find another career.

I see the same happening today with the 'introduction' of MT. How long will it take till the machine produces the same or better translations as translators of flesh and blood? The only difference is that translating contains a human factor, whereas my example with photography only depended on the material = camera's.

Again, I am not so sure. Unfortunately for me it is too late for a career move, so I will sit out the ride, but if you are a starter, I would suggest to find another profession!

PS) This threat was published before on Linkedin.

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:33 GMT]


I'm no photographer, but I assume that the “language” used by and for cameras, whether they're film cameras or digital ones, is mainly composed of images. Yes, I understand the photographer “reads” the scene or the object and shoots pictures. I don't mean to be reductive about photography, though.

However, the comparison above is apples and oranges. As a technical translator, there are no “analog” cameras as in analog sound/digital sound or analog computers/digital computers. I know this contrivance is popular but I'd rather not use it. Hence, comparing photography to translation is quite an inaccurate comparison.

I wonder why so many of us are so obsessed with the future, especially the future of our profession. Technocrats and Silicon Valley types love to futurize everything because, in my view, they live in a cartoon world: everything could be like in The Jetsons! Flying cars! Humanized robots! Everything is on the clouds (pun intended).


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 22:45
English to Italian
+ ...
Non-determinism Nov 29, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

(...) throws some skepticism into computationalism, or the theory that human thoughts and thought processes are “computational.”



Yes, there is definitely something non-deterministic about the human mind that AI just can't grasp, mainly because AI is in turn created by humans, and no machine (including the human brain) can be expected to describe its own processes from the inside. Not even mathematical theories, the purest of systems, can describe themselves in full (see Gödel's incompleteness theorem).

AI has been around forever, and by now it honestly looks like it's going nowhere, despite cyclically recurring publicity stunts. It has reached moderate success in processes that can be coded to a certain extent (e.g., chess), but language is too nuanced.

We are safe for now, at least until Elon Musk finds a way to stick a USB plug in somebody's cranium and download their complete cerebral map.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:45
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
No apples and oranges, just a opinion Nov 29, 2017

Mario Chavez wrote:

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

In a 'former life' I was a professional photographer. Then came the switch from analogue to digital. In the beginning the digital product was at its best (old) newspaper photo quality. I still hear all my old colleagues laughing: 'Digital photography will never make it'. Look now!!!!

I wasn't so sure then, and that combined with the huge investment of changing from analogue to digital made me decide to find another career.

I see the same happening today with the 'introduction' of MT. How long will it take till the machine produces the same or better translations as translators of flesh and blood? The only difference is that translating contains a human factor, whereas my example with photography only depended on the material = camera's.

Again, I am not so sure. Unfortunately for me it is too late for a career move, so I will sit out the ride, but if you are a starter, I would suggest to find another profession!

PS) This threat was published before on Linkedin.

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-28 21:33 GMT]


I'm no photographer, but I assume that the “language” used by and for cameras, whether they're film cameras or digital ones, is mainly composed of images. Yes, I understand the photographer “reads” the scene or the object and shoots pictures. I don't mean to be reductive about photography, though.

However, the comparison above is apples and oranges. As a technical translator, there are no “analog” cameras as in analog sound/digital sound or analog computers/digital computers. I know this contrivance is popular but I'd rather not use it. Hence, comparing photography to translation is quite an inaccurate comparison.

I wonder why so many of us are so obsessed with the future, especially the future of our profession. Technocrats and Silicon Valley types love to futurize everything because, in my view, they live in a cartoon world: everything could be like in The Jetsons! Flying cars! Humanized robots! Everything is on the clouds (pun intended).


You are missing the point, I am not literally comparing photography with translating, it is just an example of a trend. I was a victim before and see the same happen again. So, I am not so positive about our future.

[Edited at 2017-11-29 18:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-29 18:12 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-29 18:17 GMT]


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Two words: Johnny Mnemonic Nov 29, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Mario Chavez wrote:

(...) throws some skepticism into computationalism, or the theory that human thoughts and thought processes are “computational.”



Yes, there is definitely something non-deterministic about the human mind that AI just can't grasp, mainly because AI is in turn created by humans, and no machine (including the human brain) can be expected to describe its own processes from the inside. Not even mathematical theories, the purest of systems, can describe themselves in full (see Gödel's incompleteness theorem).

AI has been around forever, and by now it honestly looks like it's going nowhere, despite cyclically recurring publicity stunts. It has reached moderate success in processes that can be coded to a certain extent (e.g., chess), but language is too nuanced.

We are safe for now, at least until Elon Musk finds a way to stick a USB plug in somebody's cranium and download their complete cerebral map.


Maybe you're no Keanu Reeves fan, but the movie Johnny Mnemonic is an interesting flick about using the brain as computer storage.



 

Josef Šoltes  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:45
Member (2013)
English to Czech
MT forced on translators Dec 3, 2017

Well, recently I met a company, that is trying to force PEMT on translators through shady practices. My language is very complicated for neural nets due to enormous number of rules applying even for one occasion. Therefore even best tries of MT are still very bad and only partially work on specific field like computer literature (and even there achieving like 75–80 % accuracy).

To the topic – I am not afraid of loosing my job, as when we will get professional MT translation equ
... See more
Well, recently I met a company, that is trying to force PEMT on translators through shady practices. My language is very complicated for neural nets due to enormous number of rules applying even for one occasion. Therefore even best tries of MT are still very bad and only partially work on specific field like computer literature (and even there achieving like 75–80 % accuracy).

To the topic – I am not afraid of loosing my job, as when we will get professional MT translation equal to professional translator, then we will get general AI and then all bets are off, as that AI can replace everyone.
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Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Language complicated Dec 5, 2017

Josef Šoltes wrote:

Well, recently I met a company, that is trying to force PEMT on translators through shady practices. My language is very complicated for neural nets due to enormous number of rules applying even for one occasion. Therefore even best tries of MT are still very bad and only partially work on specific field like computer literature (and even there achieving like 75–80 % accuracy).

To the topic – I am not afraid of loosing my job, as when we will get professional MT translation equal to professional translator, then we will get general AI and then all bets are off, as that AI can replace everyone.


Actually, all languages are that complicated. No language is simpler than another; they all have their rich complexities. The human brain evolved to handle any language. I could have been born in Japan or Iceland for all I know, and my brain, which was born in a body in Latin America, could have easily had adapted to Japanese or Icelandic.

Fortunately for us, no AI or neural network can ever approach that level of plasticity.

PEMT can only be "forced" on someone if that someone is a slave. Nobody is forcing anyone.

Yet I'm saddened at the sloppy thinking that goes around discussing AI, PEMT or neural networks when we don't even bother to understand basic brain biology.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:45
German to English
Not on the front lines Dec 5, 2017

Josef Šoltes wrote:

To the topic – I am not afraid of loosing my job, as when we will get professional MT translation equal to professional translator, then we will get general AI and then all bets are off, as that AI can replace everyone.


This has always been the key principle to me: I don't have much faith in the progress of MT, but if it does somehow become capable of competing with me and shutting me out of my sub-subsegment of the translation market, then AI functioning at that level will be causing so much turmoil throughout society that I will have bigger problems to worry about than the need to search for a new job.



And while I agree that all languages are complicated, some languages are complicated in ways that are more problematic for MT. English's extreme polysemy (multiple meanings assigned to single words) and lack of signals for parts of speech ("yellow" can be a noun, adjective or verb) are examples of things that can make things harder for an MT engine trying to assign a meaning to a set of words.


 

Roy OConnor (X)
Local time: 22:45
German to English
Inevitable progress Dec 5, 2017

About 25 years ago I was at an international engineers’ convention in Germany where a couple of post-grad students from the Benelux region had been invited to present their project which was based on the Internet, more specifically on something called the World Wide Web. None of us in the room had heard of that. The speakers had apparently already compiled a stock of several thousand documents. They would have us believe that this system would soon become a massive library holding vast numbers... See more
About 25 years ago I was at an international engineers’ convention in Germany where a couple of post-grad students from the Benelux region had been invited to present their project which was based on the Internet, more specifically on something called the World Wide Web. None of us in the room had heard of that. The speakers had apparently already compiled a stock of several thousand documents. They would have us believe that this system would soon become a massive library holding vast numbers of papers, available for reference by anyone.

I looked around the room. The mood in the audience was a mixture of yawning disinterest and clear disbelief. Personally, I just thought that they were over-enthusiastic students, who quite naturally wanted to promote their project. It was only a couple of years later that I realised that those young speakers had heralded the coming of a new age.

You may think that 25 years is a long time, but just extrapolate the curve a few more years into the future. We shouldn’t underestimate the pace of technology.


[Edited at 2017-12-05 11:25 GMT]
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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:45
German to English
I'm not betting on it. Dec 5, 2017

Roy OConnor wrote:

About 25 years ago I was at an international engineers’ convention in Germany where a couple of post-grad students from the Benelux region had been invited to present their project which was based on the Internet, more specifically on something called the World Wide Web. None of us in the room had heard of that. The speakers had apparently already compiled a stock of several thousand documents. They would have us believe that this system would soon become a massive library holding vast numbers of papers, available for reference by anyone.

I looked around the room. The mood in the audience was a mixture of yawning disinterest and clear disbelief. Personally, I just thought that they were over-enthusiastic students, who quite naturally wanted to promote their project. It was only a couple of years later that I realised that those young speakers had heralded the coming of a new age.

You may think that 25 years is a long time, but just extrapolate the curve a few more years into the future. We shouldn’t underestimate the pace of technology.


[Edited at 2017-12-05 11:25 GMT]


Yes, but IBM was projecting effective MT as being just a few years off over 60 years ago. Google Translate has already been insisting that they aren't producing crap for over 10 years.
I'm genuinely agnostic about AI, ncMT (non-crap machine translation) & Co.: I think it could go either way in terms of becoming relevant for my business.
However, history shows that the vast majority of supposed visionaries have just been a bunch of charlatans or suffering from pathological optimism or delusions. Unless those engineers presented some amazingly convincing arguments, you were correct to assume they were being silly - that assumption just didn't turn out to be factually correct.

Technology has made more or less inconceivable advances during my life so far. But who cares? What should I do differently if I decide that the market for skilled, specialized freelance translators is about to disappear? If computerized processes become advanced enough to effectively deal with the mess of human language, then they will be creating gigantic turmoil in every area of life.

And to put things in perspective: Imagine a translator who is 70 years old today and started working around 1960. Think of all the earth-shattering developments that have taken place in that time - how fundamentally different the process and the business and the economic context of translation have become.
For that entire time, there have always been some quacks in the background going on and on about machine translation. So far, that translator has been right to ignore them and deal with more pressing issues.


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:45
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
I see a watershed Dec 7, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:

And to put things in perspective: Imagine a translator who is 70 years old today and started working around 1960. Think of all the earth-shattering developments that have taken place in that time - how fundamentally different the process and the business and the economic context of translation have become.
For that entire time, there have always been some quacks in the background going on and on about machine translation. So far, that translator has been right to ignore them and deal with more pressing issues.


I've earned a living as a translator for two decades, now, and I've witnessed the Chomsky believers at university, the gurus of IBM Translation Manager and the demise of Lernout & Hauspie. You can't fool me easily when it comes to MT.

Things have changed this year. NMT is so much better than anything we had before that I'm not even restricting this opinion to my working languages. The technology is better, the method is better, and the outcomes are better. Old translators can go on ignoring NMT, middle aged translators should start worrying, young translators should rethink their future.

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Hans Lenting  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Member (2006)
German to Dutch
Not using any kind of MT is no longer an option if you want to stay in business Dec 8, 2017

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Things have changed this year. NMT is so much better than anything we had before that I'm not even restricting this opinion to my working languages. The technology is better, the method is better, and the outcomes are better. Old translators can go on ignoring NMT, middle aged translators should start worrying, young translators should rethink their future.


I completely agree with Gerard. You can replace 'this year' with last September, when DeepL was introduced. The waiting is for DeepL adding more languages and for Google's response and Amazon's implementation of their MT system, etc.

The perception of the translation process and of our profession will change dramatically over the next few years. We will have to raise our prices per word to compensate for the decrease in volume that is to be expected and for us filling in the gaps between parts (sentences, paragraphs) that already have been translated in an acceptable of even elegant form by MT. And for the process of making our human translations (the gaps) and the MT's output consistent.

For this activity we will have to find a compensation that is acceptable for us translators and for our clients. One thing is for sure: we won't be able to make a living anymore when we are getting paid our current word prices for filling in the gaps that the MT system cannot fill itself. And rest assured that it'll quickly learn to fill in the gaps in it's output by harvesting our translations of these gaps.

Unknown


 

Caroline Eira (X)
English to Portuguese
Technology... Let's keep a wide eye on it! Dec 8, 2017

I agree with you!

Michael Wetzel wrote:

You may think that 25 years is a long time, but just extrapolate the curve a few more years into the future. We shouldn’t underestimate the pace of technology.


[Edited at 2017-12-05 11:25 GMT]


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:45
German to English
Get your head out of the sand! Dec 8, 2017

I took the first sentence from the first article listed on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitzung's online presence. It's actually a simply phrased summary of the article's main thrust:

"Die SPD will auf ihrem Parteitag der privaten Krankenversicherung den Weg in den Tod bereiten. Das könnte teuer werden – selbst für die gesetzlichen Kassen. Die nennen jetzt Bedingungen."

"The SPD wants to pave the way for private health insurance at its party congress. This could bec
... See more
I took the first sentence from the first article listed on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitzung's online presence. It's actually a simply phrased summary of the article's main thrust:

"Die SPD will auf ihrem Parteitag der privaten Krankenversicherung den Weg in den Tod bereiten. Das könnte teuer werden – selbst für die gesetzlichen Kassen. Die nennen jetzt Bedingungen."

"The SPD wants to pave the way for private health insurance at its party congress. This could become expensive - even for the statutory health insurance funds. They're calling conditions now."

The first sentence states more or less the exact opposite of the original: The Social Democrats don't want to "pave the way for" private health insurance, they want to "pave the way" for its "death"! This is dangerously plausible nonsense. And what is "They're calling conditions now" even supposed to mean?


Let's look at a random paragraph from later in the article:
"Der große gesundheitspolitische Umbau hätte viele Konsequenzen – bei Einnahmen und Ausgaben. Am Ende würden, so das Modell, alle Bürger mit einem Beitrag auf ihr gesamtes Einkommen in die Kasse einzahlen. Allerdings kann das jenen, die heute privat versichert sind, aus verfassungsrechtlichen Gründen kaum abgezwungen werden. Man könnte den Neuzugang erschweren, heutigen Privatversicherten den Wechsel in die gesetzliche Kasse ermöglichen. Genau die Option sehen Konzepte von SPD, Grünen und Linken auch vor. Und genau hier sehen viele Kassen den Haken."

"The major changes in health care policy would have many consequences - in terms of income and expenditure. In the end, according to the model, all citizens would pay into the fund with a contribution on their total income. However, this can hardly be forced against those who are privately insured today for constitutional reasons. One could make it more difficult for new entrants to join the company, and today's privately insured persons to switch to the statutory health insurance scheme. Exactly this option also includes concepts from SPD, Greens and the Left. And this is exactly where many cash registers see the catch."

It starts off more or less convincing: "changes" kind of obscures the point being made, "income and expenditures" doesn't sit quite right, maybe the intended sense of the word "model" should be made more clear, "forced against" isn't right, but its meaning is more or less clear, "for constitutional reasons" should be moved somewhere else in the sentence, there's no need for the use of a "one"-construction here ... But then things fall apart: I don't know what "company" the people getting their first health insurance policies are entering and the idea is to make it possible for "today's privately insured persons" to switch to the public health care program, not make it harder for them to switch. "Exactly this option also includes concepts from" is gobbledygook. "SPD, Greens and the Left" is not right and is misleading for readers who don't know there is a German party called "die Linke". And the icing on the cake: We have "Kassen" (= Krankenkassen = insurers) translated as "cash registers" just like in the good old days of Google Translate 1.0.

MT is nowhere near being able to translate relatively simple natural language (this is an article from a newspaper, not an academic journal, and it's not slang or poetry or advertising-speak or dialogue).
I accept that there are a lot of other things DeepL probably can translate much better, and there are a lot of more or less incompetent translators out there who can't translate natural language either, so I'm not saying MT doesn't have a place, but I am saying that it continues to be irrelevant for my work and my business.

On the other hand, your conclusion was that most translators should raise their rates, so I guess maybe I should't look so critically at the argument it was based on ...
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Deep what? Dec 8, 2017

Hans Lenting wrote:

....last September, when DeepL was introduced....


Did the church bells ring? Was a national holiday declared?

Personally I find Deepl next to useless.


 
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