Is Translation Automation a Good Thing?

onApril 14, 2015

inGeneral

Translation Automation

Translation Automation Translation automation is constantly discussed these days – especially, of course, by those in the translation industry who are always on the lookout for anything that can speed up their work, improve its accuracy or improve consistency without compromising the final quality. But is translation automation really such a good thing and are there limitations on its use?

In reality, what is called translation automation is not a single uniform tool. It comprises a variety of available tools and software packages that can help to automate translation tasks and, like any tool its use much match the required objective. Think of how automation has gradually become an acceptable part of much communication these days. Computerized word-processing and spreadsheets, email and cloud based storage have all had a huge effect on the ability of people to communicate information over distance. Then there are things like spelling and grammar checkers which ensure that word-processing consistency is better and proofreading time is less. Translation automation is simply another step along the automation pathway which the world has been on anyway.

As yet, translation automation is not intended to replace the input of a human translator but is intended to decrease the amount of tedious, repetitive and monotonous work that is often a part of translations. The tasks that are less crucial, but are still time consuming are the ones that are best allocated to automated translation technology, leaving the more crucial and intricate or specialised translation work for the human translator.

Automation may also valuable when there is a long standing relationship between a client and the translator and much of the vocabulary and phraseology can be left to translation software to “remember”. Things like glossaries and style guides are all part of modern translation automation and really do to free up time as far as translators are concerned and improve the consistency of translation.

Much of the time that a translator takes up on a task may not be the actual translation itself but such things as communicating with a client, waiting for responses, delivering files and double checking on work that has been already completed. There may be much in these tasks that can be left to automation, even if it doesn’t involve translation itself. Freeing up time is crucial for translators because time is money and the less time the translator spends on necessary but unproductive tasks means there is less time for translation or at least puts the cost of translation up.

In conclusion, the discussion is not so much about whether translation automation by itself is a good thing, but how it can best be used to improve the quality of a translator’s work. It’s a matter of fitting the tool to the task, not just using the tool for the sake of it.

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