In today’s ever-changing and fast-paced digital landscape, technology plays an ever-increasing role in our daily lives. From how we listen to music, search for information, and even market and sell products and services, technology has revolutionized the way we live, interact, shop, and so much more. Following the global technological trend, the procurement and production of translation services are no different. While one may assume that translation is simply a matter of typing words on a screen, one may then wonder, why do you need technology in translation?
In the past, translation was a relatively simple affair. Translators often handwrote their translated content, used a typewriter, or even dictated to a transcriptionist who would then type out the translation. When it came to research, translators relied on sets of specialized dictionaries to look up difficult terms. Of course, this was often a painstakingly slow process.
However, with the advent of personal computers, email, and the Internet, the translation process changed dramatically. Translators were able to increase their productivity and efficiency dramatically. This came just in time to meet the coming challenges of the information age where the amount of online content that necessitated translation to meet a much more global audience began to explode.
The technological revolution in the translation services industry didn’t end there. As the amount of online content continued to grow exponentially, along with the advent of an increasingly borderless global marketplace and spikes in immigration that saw a surge in the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities in the United States, translation took on even greater importance.
The next great leap in translation technology came in the form of Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) and Translation Memory (TM) tools, such as SDL Trados, WordFast, MemoQ, and many others. These software tools work by breaking down the content into segments, and as a translator works through the document, the software saves the translated content into a database which can then be re-used later on in the same document or future related translation projects.
CAT tools can use the leveraged, repetitive content to decrease client costs and also improved translator efficiency, consistency, quality, and offers additional features such as terminology management.
Another key revolution in the translation services industry has come in the form of process improvement and project management. Translation workflow and project management platforms — both off-the-shelf solutions like Plunet or customized proprietary systems developed to fit the unique needs of individual language service providers – have also helped to change the technology landscape in the translation and localization industry.
These systems focus on managing the translation and localization process and workflow with a high degree of automation. They provide dashboard management functionality for key processes, such as document analysis for providing quotes, translator assignment, cloud-based secure file transfer, financial and business management, quality control, integration with CAT tools, and even content management. Many platforms also provide online portals for clients to submit and receive their files, receive quotes, check the status of their projects in real-time, and communicate with their translation project managers.
Finally, one of the most popular topics when it comes to translation technology in the 21st century is machine translation (MT). When most people think of MT, they envision the ubiquitous Google Translate, which often provides some amusing translations, although it has steadily improved over the past several years with the introduction of Neural Machine Translation (NMT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, research & development teams have developed other more specialized MT engines that are trained to translate certain types of documents (e.g., chemical patents) between certain languages.
MT has undoubtedly added a new dimension to the translation services industry, and a number of translation providers now offer MT services which can have the advantage of greatly reducing translation costs, particularly on larger projects where quality may not be the greatest concern. Hybrid MT solutions have also entered the market, with a trained MT engine performing the initial translation and a human editor reviewing and cleaning up the MT output. This is known as “Human-Assisted Machine Translation” (HAMT).
However, while MT technology offers a great deal of promise for the future, it still faces significant obstacles and several distinct disadvantages when compared with human translation, including quality and accuracy issues, and the high cost of research and development for customized MT engines. Additionally, a 2019 survey of language service providers by the Association of Language Companies (ALC) shows that despite recent hype regarding MT, the adoption of this technology in the industry remained low, with MT being leveraged in only 20% of the total translation business, with one European company responsible for half of that volume.
In conclusion, there is no question that technology has continually revolutionized the translation industry, and new trends continue to emerge. Each of these technology solutions has focused on the key areas of translation quality control, efficiency, and process improvement, which allows translators and language services providers to provide better services more quickly and meet the continually growing demand of translating and localization foreign language content as well as help to drive costs down for customers. Therefore, if you are asking yourself, why do you need translation technology, whether you are a client or translator, the answer is quite clear that it can benefit you in any number of ways.