Thousands of linguists around the world are intent on perfecting the ultimate machine translation system. Research into technology and new methods of improving the translation process through the use of new technology are becoming ever popular. This is good news for translators and interpreters. If researchers are able to provide sets of tools that might help us then this can only be a good thing. We have seen an quantum leap in the number of tools that have become available to us since the Second World War – specialised dictionaries, electronic dictionaries, translation memory systems (such as Systran and Trados), corpora and of course we cannot fail to mention the internet. The information that is at the disposal of translators is phenomenal. And this information is all readily accessible, it is – quite literally – only the click of a mouse away.
However, could all this technology be a negative development for translators and the translation process? Obviously, any research that brings something new and innovative to a field cannot be regarded as negative. At the same time, ignorance is bliss. For those translators who loathe technology (and there seems to be a large number), avoiding using these new tools allows them to not have to change the habits that they have grown into. There are, in all probability, more competent translators who use no ‘technological’ tools than translators who do. However, ignorance is not an excuse. If we can make use of online glossaries, translation memories and corpora… why don’t we? Good translators are those who have both years of hands-on experience and, of course, the necessary know-how. How can we hope to move forward as a community of professionals if we do not embrace the tools fellow professionals are developing?
There is a fear that in the future machine translation may take over and relieve us of our work. However, the idea that the machine will push us out the workplace in the same way that robots have relieved blue-collar workers of their jobs in the car industry is probably a little exaggerated. Whatever the future holds, there will always be a need to communicate whether it is with the help of technology, through technology or by the verification of technological systems. Translators have little to worry about… for now.