MT meets Transcreation – not the clash of Titans
By: Wordbank Limited
GALA 2010 in Prague, (10 - 12 May), included a plenary discussion on machine translation. The moderator, Don DePalma, asked four industry leaders to participate with two arguing the 'pro' side and two presenting the 'con' side. This recount by Gordon Husbands (who presented a 'con' perspective) provides an excellent overview of the discussion.
The GALA conference plenary session on May 11 started with an MT bang and ended with a donkey wallop! Entitled “The Risks and Rewards of Machine Translation” the subject matter was always going to delight and irritate to equal measure – strong emotions were stirred. Dion Wiggins of AsiaOnline, taking full advantage of his significant stage presence, launched into an energetic justification of MT as the natural pinnacle of the Darwinian evolution of translation.
Dion suggested, as you might expect, that the MT spinning jenny, rather than putting the skilled weavers of translation out of a job, would create a whole new, expanding industry surrounding the core commodity of MT.
Fear not brave toilers of words you will emerge butterfly like from the cocoon of MT into a bright new world of opportunity!
My thanks to Jiri Stejskal who, on behalf of the ATC, crossed swords with Bob Donaldson to present the other side of the debate. However, I was concerned that far too much respect was being given to the latest manifestation of silicon intelligence. It was time to strike back for Luddites everywhere.
What more resounding clarion call to the people can there be than that of “Beware comrades of the capitalist, recidivist bearing gifts.” No less an oracle than SDL’s blog reported my performance such “His address to the audience as 'Comrades!' encouraged us all to sit up and listen".
Like all great hypothesis mine was simple and was simply put as you can see from the following images.
1. In case you are in any doubt machine translation means translated by a machine for humans to read. In most cases machine means a software application with a huge database and lots and lots of rules.
2. However, once it has been translated it has to be processed by skilled humans before your average human can both read and make sense of it. These processing humans, typically translators, carry out what is called post-editing. Where post-editing is a euphemism for clearing up the mess left by slightly incompetent machines. Not fun, repetitive and boring – a donkey job in other words
3. The result is that content for translation must first be valued before selecting the best or most affordable route for translation. Two forces thus emerge: on one side the corporate hunger for cost efficiency eagerly diverting the maximum content down the cheapest route while on the other the natural aversion of knowledge workers for boring, repetitive tasks creating a new segmentation of translation resource.
Fact or Fiction? Despite my protagnistic approach for the benefit of the early morning crowd in Prague I am not anti-MT. It is clear that after 50 years in the making technology has now evolved to a stage where MT starts to offer serious benefits for high volume, low-value content translation.
As Dion Wiggins of Asiaonline will tell you - caveat emptor - it comes at a cost, a high investment. If anything Google can take much of the recognition for increasing awareness and respectability of MT. But it does also make the case for both the transcreator and faithful translator for high value content, which also continues to expand exponentially across the net.
One final thought regarding web content: "Just because we have the means to post it and translate it does not mean we should or that if we do anyone will ever read it."
But then that's another story...
This entry was originally posted at Gordon Husbands' Global Transcreation blog at http://transcreationblog.net/
For more information about GALA conferences, visit www.gala-global.org/conference.