Technological advances like cat tools and machine translation, especially MT paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning (machines learning how to translate from collected human translation examples), are not only changing the customers’ and the general users’ perception of translation, but also completely revolutionizing the translation industry altogether.
Users can now access automated translation programs and apps online or even on their phones—which were nothing less than terrible in the past but are now able to offer surprisingly satisfactory translations. For a non-human translation, that is.
Yves Gambier discusses how the role of the translator has shifted during the last few decades and even anticipates that, in a near future, the role of human translators may sum up to post-editing and ensuring the quality of machine-translated content.
He also states that such a shift doesn’t come without consequence for the translation industry in general, since:
“shared resources accessible in real time are now dynamic; costs are reduced (nothing is bought, as price setting is based and calculated on-demand or according to use, i.e. by the hour, year, volume of words, etc.); management is shortened (both in terms of time and transparency); work is shared. (…) On the other hand, it also creates a certain dependence on Internet connections and poses problems concerning security and confidentiality breaches.”
New labels or new services?
Another major change in the translation sector, also due to the deep changes from a social and commercial perspective brought about by technological progress, are the many labels recently created for “translation” services.
Unlike old Saint Jerome—the very first known translator—contemporary translators work not only with new tools, but also with creativity, voice, interpretation, image, video, audiences, culture, etc.
In the past, we had well-defined traditional categories of translation such as literary translation or technical translation, but today there’s an array of “new” services, like localization, adaptation, post-editing, versioning, transcreation, etc.
The border between literary and non-literary translators is now becoming a bit blurred. Non-literary translation has also expanded rapidly from being mostly technical, legal, and medical to include a much wider range of content, such as marketing and publicity, business, scientific, pharmaceutical, digital content, video games, subtitling, etc.
When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a translator, they immediately associate my work with literary translation, while younger people sometimes bring up subtitling. But, interestingly enough, literary translation represents only 5% of the average work of a translator!
With the blurring of previously well-defined categories and such a wide variety of content came the focus on the specificities of different audiences and in their geographic and cultural environment—that’s where adaptation and transcreation come in.
This new categorization has yet to reach all language markets, but it’s spreading relatively fast.
Of course, these new terms can create a lot of confusion since it’s not yet clear if they represent a service that is not translation, or if they’re merely focusing on translation from a specific perspective.
While many translators, companies, and agencies are welcoming these new terms, eager to provide more or differentiated services, such terms are faced with skepticism by specialists in translation studies.
Daniel Pedersen, in his paper Transcreation in Marketing and Advertising – An Ethnographic Study, mentions the term “paratranslation,” hypothesizing that new terms, such as transcreation, are simply an attempt to “reinvent the wheel.”
Novelties and change are often met with some resistance, even by scholars and theorists.
It all comes down to the fact that these new terms (and new services) mirror the evolution we’ve been discussing. They’re simply intended to describe services that are potentially translation but are also more than just translation or have certain precepts that are different from those of translation.
We need to accompany evolution and adapt to it simply because it’s inevitable. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?
Our best bet is to keep up and to keep on learning and specializing in new services that come along in order to remain relevant in the market.
At Verbarium boutique, we don’t lag behind innovation, and we have the skills to offer you some of these innovative services. 😊
If you would like to dig deeper, check out our reading suggestions below: