Lost in translation

Hi everyone,

It’s a new year! Hopefully, you also started yours with renewed energy and insights gained from a relaxing break. Recent talk about Google’s latest “neural machine translation,” and A.I. (artificial intelligence) had me reading up on some of the advances and issues that may impact my profession.

Doom and gloom talk of translators (written texts) and interpreters (spoken language) being replaced by computers/machines has abounded for decades. Early on in my career, over 25 years ago, some people advised me against taking this path, arguing that in the near future computers would be able to translate. Well, I didn’t believe it back then, and I still don’t.

Granted, we have come a long way with machine translation (MT) and other language-related computerized systems such as voice recognition. These days, many translators and interpreters benefit from using various computer technologies to assist in translation processes. These technologies do help us to translate more quickly and accurately. But in the final analysis, can machine translation really replace human translation? The simple answer is still “no,”  and here is why: Computers cannot truly grasp meaning, because they lack consciousness. Since they are unable to understand or be conscious of themselves and others in the world, they cannot fully grasp the meaning of written or spoken language.

Good! I for one am looking forward to a productive and interesting year!

For more on this, I recommend this Economist Technology Quarterly article: http://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2017-05-01/language

and this December article in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/the-great-ai-awakening.html?_r=0

Happy New Year! Your Traveling Translator

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