Given the size of the language services industry -US$37.19 billion in 2014 which is expected to grow to US$47 billion by 2018- it is perhaps not that surprising the diverse interests and agendas that have been attracted, all eager for a slice of the pie. The result is an industry swamped with misinformation, which has the potential to create an environment ripe for abuse…if we’re not there already.
Much of this misinformation is propagated by so-called tech (illiterate?) journalists. For example this article Is real-time translation the future of global communication? lacks critical analysis demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying technology by the author. Time is a great agent of the truth, though: Fast forward 3 years to the present day with a field test of this exact same technology -real time translation apps- by the BBC As you can see, hardly the glowing report one would expect from such a bold headline!
While shoddy reporting -even on the Internet- is never acceptable, given the absence of checks & balances involved in traditional reporting one can understand how this material makes its way onto the Web. Outrageous statements and claims abound. Then, there’s a whole category all by itself that simply defies the imagination…propagated by industry leaders.
A case in point is the claim that machine translation is perfectly suited for (internal) business documents, the implication being that internal business documents are somehow not important enough to warrant thorough translation by professional translators! The problem with this claim becomes readily apparent when one considers that in many businesses, and especially global enterprises operating in multi-culture multi-lingual environments, internal departments operate as customers & suppliers to other departments within the same organization or group of organizations. These internal supplier-customer processes are subject to the same competitive forces as the external market, with internal customers being just as likely to source their requirements from internal suppliers as from external suppliers with respect to the cost-quality equation. That an internal customer would go with an external supplier when presented with machine translated materials of products or services from an internal supplier is hardly the stuff of rocket science.
Is it then appropriate for industry leaders to claim that machine translation with a dismal accuracy rate of 30~35% is suited for business documents? No, clearly not! Of all entities that use translation, businesses have the most to lose economically from poor translation quality. Regardless of whether business documents are for external or internal use, translation quality directly impacts business opportunities, cost of litigation, penalties and fees for regulatory violations, etc. “Oops, my bad” simply doesn’t cut it when the cost of translation quality is measured in millions, or even tens of millions of dollars.
Claims of this nature have no place in the translation industry! The interests of the industry would be better served without all the misinformation that is, unfortunately, all too prevalent of late. The translation industry has delivered spectacular growth over the last couple of decades. Is it not then in stakeholders’ -customers, providers, employees and investors- interests to ensure that growth continues though 2018 and beyond by ensuring a transparent environment free of personal agendas and interests?
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, owner of Translation Service Japan, Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.