Will translation be one of the professions to disappear in the future? The expert’s opinion

In recent years, we have seen technology gradually increase its presence in fields such as translation. The most obvious example is automatic translators, most notably Google Translate, along with other websites, apps and devices whose main purpose is to translate texts or audio recordings into other languages.
Faced with the appearance of technological solutions such as these, is it possible that in the future there may be no more professional translators? Will these “machines”, using artificial intelligence technologies, be capable of replacing the human brain? There are certainly a lot of reasons to think otherwise.
Barbara Beatrice Lavitola, manager of BBLTranslation, tells us a little more about what makes translation an essential profession in many fields. This is what she said:

1. Much more than just a literal translation

A text translated using programs such as Google Translate, Babylon or Reverso can be characterised by its more literal tone, without the possibility of any alternative interpretations. In translation it is important to take the objective of the client into account, for example the register or purpose of the message, or the intention to persuade or sell. Clearly, a literal translation is far from what the vast majority of clients requesting professional translations are looking for.
In advertising terms, brands need a process called transcreation to transform a message from one language into another, with a translation that interprets the context and can even involve adapting an image or design.
Additionally, legal documents are also far from literal translations as often the translator is an expert in these matters who is familiar with the legal systems in the countries whose languages they are working with. For example, it is essential for the sworn translator to know the similarities and differences between continental law and the Anglo-Saxon Common Law system. For many terms and concepts there isn’t an exact translation, so the translator needs to know exactly how to express the meaning in the other language.

2. Translation is also localisation

Without a doubt, translating a text into another language requires the translator to have a perfect understanding of the cultural context. A translation process that doesn’t take cultural or social localisation factors into account can contain serious mistakes. A popular example is in the television series Game of Thrones, with the translation of one of the show’s most memorable phrases said by Hodor—hold the door.
Whether in informative, advertising, legal or specifically-themed texts (for example in medicine or economics), socio-economic and cultural aspects are great added values in a translation and ones that only a professional can deliver.

3. The value of design in translation

In addition to a professional quality translation, the client also often requires adaptation of a design, so that it fits in with the new text, using professional publishing software such as InDesign. This is the case, for example, for brochures, manuals, magazines, catalogues, newsletters, posters, presentations, cards, books, eBooks or other promotional materials!
To not jeopardise designs, we recommend that clients ask for translation of their texts in Adobe InDesign to preserve the original layout.

4. The responsibility of a sworn translator

In regard to sworn translations, the service itself requires the translator to take on the responsibility of handling sensitive documents for the client, whether that is a private individual, public body or private company. Undoubtedly, a poorly-executed sworn translation can result in significant damage. If the translation of this kind of document were to be left to a machine, would the manufacturers of the technology assume liability for any errors? Certainly, technology is a tool that is more or less capable of translating a legal document, but we have yet to see a technological company that dares to take responsibility for the translation obtained. Therefore, the role of the sworn translator continues to be an essential element in this process.

5. Correction of the original text

When a translation agency or a professional translator receives a text from the client, the first step is to carry out a thorough analysis to get a feel for the content and to detect any possible errors that need to be flagged up. In many cases, the work of the translator permits correction of those errors resulting in improvement of both the original text and the translation. Detecting errors in the original text is a highly complex process and one that is largely beyond the capabilities of technology, meaning that these inaccuracies will remain and be transferred over to the translated text.
Barbara Beatrice Lavitola emphasises that there are clear advantages to the technological advances in the field of translation and that technology has provided professional translators with various tools such as programs to create translation memories in order to maintain terminological consistency in client documents, online dictionaries that facilitate the search for words, forums in which translators can discuss issues, etc. However aspects such as intentionality, context, transcreation, interpretation of the message or the correction of errors are not within the range of any kind of technology, guaranteeing a stable future for translation and interpretation professionals.