June 15, 2021
Maria Joaquina Marques

Requests for AI and MT are becoming increasingly common.

So, what are AI and MT?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that aims to create hardware and software to produce results similar to human intelligence.

Machine Translation (MT) is text that is automatically produced from one language to another through a computer.

What these two things have in common in the translation industry, is that they are both advertised as tools that help human translators. The big question for clients and translators is whether they help or hinder the translation process.

Can a machine really substitute a translator? The answer is “No”, because a human’s capacity for emotion, reasoning and understanding are fundamental for the successful outcome of a project. Translators - and this is even more evident with subtitling where text needs to be condensed to follow parameters - have to understand the message to translate it into another language. They will invariably find nuances, puns and jokes in the source text, something that a machine will never be able to do. However practical and innovative automatic tools may be, they do not undermine the role of the translator and this is an advantage for the client. Why? Because, even though they aren’t a substitute for a translator, AI and MT help the translation process, namely in the predefined translation options they offer that only need some revision. We see a greater influence of MT in the process of technical translation, an area where post-editing is in increasing demand among clients. And whilst this is a valid request, the client must remember that this cannot be low paid work, precisely because it requires a highly demanding editing and revision process. AI is more often used in the case of subtitling, where the translator’s job is to assess the suggested options and revise them thoroughly.

Generally speaking, we can affirm that such innovation will not undermine the translator’s profession, precisely because it lacks the human factor. Translators can and must adapt with technological advances, capitalising on their editing and revision work. Clients need to understand that when using automatic tools, the deadline for editing or revision should be more generous and the remuneration should also be in line with its level of difficulty. The belief that it makes the translator’s job easier is unfounded, as the opposite is very often true. The fact that AI and MT results are understandable lead the client to believe that they can use them, but without dispensing of or undervaluing the work of the translator.