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Why technology will broaden linguistic opportunities, not limit them

With the rapid rise of Google Translate and other online language tools, there has been much speculation about the wider effect this technology will have on the translation industry. Despite the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence leaving many translators fearing for their jobs, there is good reason to be optimistic about tech’s effect on the linguistic sector. In many ways, new technology has the potential to broaden linguistic opportunities, not limit them.

Imperfect machine translations will highlight the need for professionals

Machine translation may have grown in popularity for being far quicker and more convenient than the professional alternative, but with lists of ‘Google translate fails’ frequently cropping up online, it’s clear that users are far from convinced of its accuracy.

These widely publicised, imperfect translations have done nothing to boost faith in machine translation. In fact, they only serve to shine a light on just how far machine translation has to go before it can produce accurate results. Naturally, this will lead many to search for a superior quality of translation, which professional human translators can happily provide.

Complex materials will need more human translators

New technological developments from outside the area of machine translation will also increase the need for translators. The worldwide spread of internet connectivity has led to increased demand for software translation for tech businesses localising their products for international audiences.

Here at London Translations, we’ve handled software translation for everything from the original Tomb Raider video game to cutting edge point-of-sale applications in the present, working with programming environments from DOS to iOS.

Localising software has more to it than simply translating any written or spoken words. Related materials such as user and technical reference manuals also need translations, as do any symbols or images that have different meanings around the world.

Technology is changing language, opening up new translation jobs

The modern world is already home to at least one professional emoji translator. Though the job may sound superfluous, it is in fact an important part of the changing linguistic scene. With emojis, memes and internet slang becoming increasingly important to brands everywhere, translating these phenomena for local audiences is crucial to businesses success. Thanks to changing technology and the trends that follow suit, new, exciting and bizarre translation roles will open up for those with the right skills.

Humans will always be better at translating tone

No matter how complex machine learning algorithms become, AI translation tools will lack the perceptiveness of human translators, especially when it comes to tone and intent. Communication is about more than just words; human translators can tell if speakers are joking, being sarcastic, rude, pleading, scolding, all by listening to how words are said, not just which words are said.

Machine translations can bring people around the world closer together by bridging the language barrier for free. However, the professional and political connections these people make will no doubt require skilled human translation to ensure that high-stakes communication is conveyed accurately and without interruption.

Machine translation could lead to a ‘two-tier’ system

One of the most positive ways to look at the advent of machine translation is this: It will act as a gateway to more businesses using professional translation. Smaller and medium-sized businesses, who may not have considered expanding abroad in the pre-machine translation era, now have the opportunity to test the international waters with free translation tools. If they find that their Google Translated website is bringing in some traffic, they might then decide that foreign territories present serious opportunities, and thus seek out the ‘higher tier’ of translation. This presents a big change for the translation industry as a whole, but it’s a far more welcome scenario than the worrying prospect of mass redundancies.

Far from decrease the workload of professional translators, this two-tier system will bring in new customers who would never have needed, or known they needed, to use translation and localisation services in the first place. In this instance, and the others detailed above, machine translation will truly create more demand for skilled professional translators and localisation experts from all over the globe.

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