In our globalized world, communication between countries is becoming more and more essential and quick and accurate translations are necessary to accommodating this trend. Economic growth and diplomacy also depend on our ability to communicate fluently, and it is the goal of international organizations, from the UN to the EU, to bring together otherwise disparate peoples, cultures, and languages. This presents a set of challenges to translators, but technology is revolutionizing the industry and as such, translations are improving in quality and availability.
Here is a look at five specific technologies that have changed translation.
1) Electronic dictionaries and glossaries
Translation is and always has been an intricate art and translators often struggle to find the balance between retaining textual integrity and conveying meaning. In the days of paper dictionaries, however, translation was a far more laborious process. Looking words up was naturally more time-consuming but it also led to more discrepancies between translations, as translators around the world used different editions of different dictionaries to produce inevitably inconsistent translations. The proliferation of electronic dictionaries and glossaries has helped both unify and expedite the translation process.
2) Computer-assisted translation tools
The translation industry has been computerized and advances in software technologies, namely CAT tools, help translators meet demands for faster and more accurate translations. Examples of CAT tools include terminology management systems (TMSs) and translation memory databases (TMs). A TMS allows translators to create, store, and access a database of words in a specific field that have already been translated. A TM, often working in tandem with a TMS, is a database of segments that have also been translated previously. Translators input a sentence or paragraph into the database to see how they have been translated before. Both of these features ensure consistency and quality, while speeding the translation process up.
3) Statistical machine translation
Another radical development in the translation world was the introduction of statistical machine translation, an example of which is Google Translate. Unlike the human translation resources mentioned above, this technology uses statistical models and algorithms to translate. But as anyone who has used this technology will know, it is not always entirely accurate. Subtleties of meaning, tone, and humor still cannot be digitally translated. The real achievement of services like Google Translate, however, has been providing instant translations to people communicating globally, and these days, anyone with an Internet connection can translate, albeit with varying degrees of success.
4) Speech translation
Developments in speech recognition technology, coupled with the machine translation software mentioned above, are transforming the way we translate. By speaking into a microphone voice recognition software can now recognize the sounds you make by comparing them to speech data in a database. Machine translation technology then translates the recognized sounds into the target language, which is then relayed to the speaker either orally or written. But as with any technology, speech translation is imperfect. Problems arise particularly when dealing with noise, thick accents, and non-phonetic languages (think: aisle, isle, I’ll, or pause, paws, pores, pours).
5) Mobile translation
As smartphone and tablet penetration grows around the world, the need for professional translation services on handheld devices is increasing. Stepes, the world’s fastest human translation platform, provides users with fast and accurate mobile translation, wherever they are. Businesses that require near instantaneous translations but are wary of the inaccuracies of machine translations can use Stepes to connect with translators around the world. This represents the latest trend in translation, as a business it is crucial to adapt to change or risk becoming uncompetitive.
All of these developments reflect a movement towards more advanced and dynamic technology in translation. As our world becomes more connected, it is vital that we communicate in the fastest and most effective ways possible, without language mistakes hindering the progress our societies are so steadily making. At CSOFT, we pride ourselves on being China’s leading provider of localization and globalization services, and remain vigilant to every advance in translation technology.