At the 1st Conference of Professional Translators and Interpreters, which took place on 30/09-01-10 in Athens, with the title STEP FORWARD – Translation & Interpretation in Greece and the International Market, we had the chance to attend a lot interesting speeches and presentations from professional translators and interpreters, regarding current issues and challenges in our line of work.
What was really interesting in this particular meeting was that a) it was the first to bring multiple professional associations together, in order to explore common issues and (try to) find common ground for joint actions and collaboration and b) that it was the first conference to tackle practical issues for LS professionals and not just purely academic concerns (as was the Translation Theory Conference I attended in Thessaloniki earlier this year).
All presentations from the conference are now available online but I’ll also give you my take on and a short description of some I found particularly interesting.
It has been a great honor to meet the keynote speaker, Dr Henry Liu, 13th President & Lifetime Honorary Advisor of FIT and attend his thought provoking presentation: “Step up or step out – will there be no translators in 2025?”
Dr Liu brought to our attention the buzzing conversation about machine translation and its potential danger for human translators. With communication between nations in business and politics a sine qua non in the contemporary world, the importance of translation is now more evident than ever.
Communication barriers affect enterprises, individuals and even heads of state and it is translators and interpreters that have to bridge language and –equally important- culture gaps.
Also, digital media is attracting even more global audiences; the marketing and publishing sectors also need language service providers in order to help their products/ideas reach their desired audience. And it is not only business or politics that needs communication mediators to become possible – it is everyday life, medicine as well as world changing events, such as the huge migration wave of our times.
With the rise of LS demand, the need for faster, easier, cheaper translation has also emerged. And machine translation is willing to supply it. However, as many studies, unfortunate incidents (and practical jokes you have definitely seen online) show, MT has not yet reached the desired quality level for it to be able to threaten human professionals. So should we just lay back in relief? Not really. Technology is an ever developing field, and it won’t be long before MT quality gets better. Also, social and marketing skills for translators are increasingly important as technology evolves and technological savviness is a very useful skill for professional xl8rs and 1nts.
Therefore, it is very important that we evolve, too, as translators, of course, with CPD and lifelong training, but also as professionals. It is imperative that we acquire broader education as well as rapid response abilities regarding developments in language and technology. Becoming better in using technology to increase our productivity and services quality, is an opportunity we have to make the most of. The better our tools the better our craft will be and as technology becomes more reliable, we can learn to use it in the best way possible. Technology –and machine translation- is a tool we have to learn how to use to step up our game.
So what do you think? Is MT a danger for language professionals or can (and should) it be used as a tool?