Computer Tools for Translators
From Machine Translation to Tools for Translators
For a long time, computer specialists and translators saw each other as competitors or even enemies. It was widely believed that computer programs would eventually be cheaper, faster, and better than human translators so that training human translators would be superfluous. This belief was widespread among computer scientists as well as among translators. After more than half a century of research in machine translation we can confidently say that this belief was wrong. It was based on mutual misunderstanding. Computer scientists underestimated the complexity of the translation task and translators overestimated the capacities of ‘intelligent’ computer programs.
It is only since the early 1990s that a reorientation of the efforts at the interface of computing and translation can be observed. Computational linguists started asking what translators would like that computer programs would do for them. This was the starting point for a new generation of computer tools for translators.
Real-Life Scenario 1: Terms in Dentistry
You are a free-lance translator working for an agency. As you have just started, you cannot be too selective about the texts you get and you are happy to take on a job in the domain of dentistry, even though you have no special expertise in this domain. You discover quickly that the text is full of specific terms that you do not understand very well and cannot readily translate. You spend a lot of time finding out what they mean and how they should be translated. You are paid per word, so you earn very little for this job. The next time your agency gets a job in dentistry, they ask you to do it again. You are of course happy to take it on because you think you can do this second job more efficiently. How does that work?
Real-Life Scenario 2: Translating Car Manuals
You get a job as an in-house translator for a major car manufacturer. Every model they produce comes with a user manual. These manuals have to be translated into all the main languages of the countries the car is exported to. The different versions of the manual are highly similar and they should be consistent in their formulations so that faithful customers find their way more easily. How do you go about translating these manuals?
Termbases and translation memories are the core of computational support tools for translators. Around them, different software packages organize a variety of further tools and options that facilitate the work of a translator. They require some special training to get used to, but they are designed for use by translators, not by computer specialists. They increase the productivity of the translator as well as the quality of the translation by supporting the components of the job that translators like the least: repetitive formulations and technical terms. Fortunately, these are the components computers are best able to handle.
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