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Are translation services under threat from automation?

Peak Translations Ltd News and PR from Peak Translations Ltd - Published 04 March 2016 The language industry, according to the EU translation service, is growing faster than any other industry in the country thanks to an increase in global trade and communication.
The question of whether automation of the translation industry could turn into a benefit or hindrance is a difficult question to answer because of the nature of technological advances.

The UK’s Automation and packaging industries have achieved autonomy with great success, becoming what is known as ‘future proof industries’ by utilising the concepts of Industry 4.0 to create ‘smart factories’. The theory behind this concept involves the Internet of Things, where raw materials and equipment are interconnected, communicating through IP addresses stored in microchips via Cloud technology. Thus, allowing them to move through the manufacturing process independently.

While this is exciting news for some business owners looking to cut costs, it is not for many workers who are potentially facing redundancy. Whether automation could be achieved in the translation industry is still unclear.

European translation services are worth over £12 billion, the sheer breadth of use is staggering and somewhat overlooked. While the subtitling of films and television programmes is an example most people will have come in contact with at some point in their lives; interpreting in court, translating legal documents and telephone interpreting are amongst those that aren’t ubiquitous in the consciousness of the general public. Translation is paramount in many professions, a single contract, for example, was obtained for £300 million to complete the exact list of services above.

The fees paid for this contract beg the question, what is it about professional translation that government agencies and businesses believe warrants this amount of money?

To fully understand this, we must first look at Machine Translation (MT) and Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) services and how they have progressed since they first became available to the public. Yehosha Bar-Hillel started research for Machine Translation in 1951 at MIT; it wasn’t until 1991 that it became commercially available through Russian University, Kharkov State and a further five years until it was available online with Systran. Even at this early stage, funding was extremely close to being pulled as it was suggested, in a report from ALPAC, that MT could not compete with human translation quality.

Since then, the advancement in this technology has been vast. After 15 years of research, the latest development in automated translation services, Microsoft’s ‘Star Trek’ voice translator, was unveiled at its pre-launch as a new service using Skype. The software can understand spoken words, translate them into another language and speak back to them in real-time.

Modelled on the universal translator, utilised by Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the tool, demonstrated in a three-minute conversation, translated English into Chinese.
The UK’s Automation and packaging industries have achieved autonomy with great success

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