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Less work in era of Machine Translation
מפרסם התגובה: Daniel Jeory

Daniel Jeory
Local time: 20:46
חבר (2003)
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Jul 14

I've noticed a significant drop-off in conventional translation jobs in the last few years, and even my main direct client has sent less and less over the last year leading me to believe it's not just agencies that are using machine translation tools, but also corporations with large in-house translation volumes.

After checking back on proz, I'm also astonished to see how few jobs are posted these days. I remember 10, 15 years ago, there would usually be many, many jobs posted each
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I've noticed a significant drop-off in conventional translation jobs in the last few years, and even my main direct client has sent less and less over the last year leading me to believe it's not just agencies that are using machine translation tools, but also corporations with large in-house translation volumes.

After checking back on proz, I'm also astonished to see how few jobs are posted these days. I remember 10, 15 years ago, there would usually be many, many jobs posted each day in German into English. These days, it's barely one or two, and not all of those are conventional translation jobs.

Anyone else noticed this trend?
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Sadek_A  Identity Verified
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The same could prove beneficial! Jul 14

Suppliers now are:

- Computer-machines, provided by those who think they don't need to wait any longer, and now is the time to prevail; convinced that unlike self-driving cars technology, translation technology doesn't need well-paid, talented developers nor 100% accuracy.

- Posers, who think translation is an easy money, most likely without language-major or relevant-study, work only on easy content and live off templates and creativity by others who worked on similar
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Suppliers now are:

- Computer-machines, provided by those who think they don't need to wait any longer, and now is the time to prevail; convinced that unlike self-driving cars technology, translation technology doesn't need well-paid, talented developers nor 100% accuracy.

- Posers, who think translation is an easy money, most likely without language-major or relevant-study, work only on easy content and live off templates and creativity by others who worked on similar earlier projects.

- Talents, who know translation is a demanding profession, definitely have language-major or relevant-study, never reject a demanding project and count only on their own creativity.

The first 2 categories will continue doing what they're currently doing, leading the profession further down.

While the last category will either work exclusively on projects unmanageable by said 2 categories, or else will abandon the profession altogether and do something different utilizing their professional skills and financial resources accumulated over the years.

Hopefully, at a near point, things will blow up in the faces of the first 2 categories, and that house-of-cards will collapse, sparing only those real talents.
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Daniel Jeory
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Local time: 20:46
חבר (2014)
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Other stuff going on Jul 14

Daniel Jeory wrote:
...but also corporations with large in-house translation volumes.

I have no direct experience, but I have read anecdotal evidence that this is the case, and it's perfectly logical. If you're a large multinational, you get one of the MT vendors to put together a system that (a) will be contained entirely in-house for use on the corporate intranet, so that your confidential data isn't being submitted to Google Translate and (b) is good enough for gisting.

An in-house translator for a major Japanese brand was saying on one of the mailing lists that they have such a system for internal use. Apparently if they need something more polished there is a button in the system saying "request human translation" and this starts an application to have it translated with more attention to detail. It seems to me to be a reasonable approach.

So the key issue is whether or not a freelancer is providing the kind of translation that people would be uncomfortable delegating to a machine.

Whether the recent slowness in orders that some freelancers have been experiencing is due to this use of MT or not is unclear to me. I think it is more likely that demand for translation is being affected by a combination of cyclical and secular issues. The cyclical issue is that pre-coronavirus the global economy had been in an expansionary phase for at least five years, but was beginning to slow, with the auto industry being particularly affected. The one-off secular issue is of course the huge economic destruction caused by coronavirus lockdowns across the globe.

I would expect most corporates to be doing everything they can to cut costs right now, and it's likely that none but the most critical of translations will be exempt from this. A firm I was working at during the 2008 global financial crisis stopped translating its product for a particular market overnight, because the company couldn't quantify the benefit it had until then assumed to be generated by translation. Just like that it saved many thousands of dollars every month, which was very welcome.

Regards,
Dan


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
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Not every document requires human translation Jul 14

Some multinationals have a policy of sharing virtually all internal communication with its various branches/subsidiaries, resulting in dozens – if not hundreds – of documents to be translated on an ongoing basis. One of my agency clients had a customer that was a relatively small branch office of a major German corporation. For years I regularly translated communications ranging from extensive policy statements regarding foreign travel using company vehicles to notices of special holiday men... See more
Some multinationals have a policy of sharing virtually all internal communication with its various branches/subsidiaries, resulting in dozens – if not hundreds – of documents to be translated on an ongoing basis. One of my agency clients had a customer that was a relatively small branch office of a major German corporation. For years I regularly translated communications ranging from extensive policy statements regarding foreign travel using company vehicles to notices of special holiday menus at the main plant employee cafeteria, few of which were of interest to the end client. Eventually these jobs dried up, presumably because of cost-saving measures – as the agency PM explained, software could translate parking regulations or plant bus schedules more efficiently/cheaply than a human, and the work was done in-house by the client. I suspect that the pandemic will lead to more of this.Collapse


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High price of low barriers: Some 1.24+ miles span Jul 15

Although translation is primarily intended for people, often such internal paperwork is but time-code signals to monitor the workflow. The spice must flow!

While I doubt some 0.5mm mask mash could prevent 2nm particles from penetrating (not to mention the eyes), this fancy quintuple ‘quarantine’ does much good to optimize and sanitize the business, sifting out BS and unnecessary jobs. No need to say that again, yes? Meanwhile, now most small-mid businesses owners wisely prefer a
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Although translation is primarily intended for people, often such internal paperwork is but time-code signals to monitor the workflow. The spice must flow!

While I doubt some 0.5mm mask mash could prevent 2nm particles from penetrating (not to mention the eyes), this fancy quintuple ‘quarantine’ does much good to optimize and sanitize the business, sifting out BS and unnecessary jobs. No need to say that again, yes? Meanwhile, now most small-mid businesses owners wisely prefer an average multi-specialty freelancer with decent foreign language skills than a high-class ‘pure’ translator.

Indeed, if a translator can only repeat something in a different language—lacking the adequate proficiency in the real field to solve certain tasks, proven reliability, overflowing creativity, communication and business skills, let alone responsibility—for crying out loud, blast such disposables! Or let them show their best.


Just IMO though
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pascie  Identity Verified
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@ Daniel Jeory Jul 17

I have been (fortunately) in the golden era of technical translations. I have been very successful, published a book, etc. I made a ton of money especially when signing directly with the end client (Department of Defense). Another big enterprise was most of the United Nations training materials. This ($$$$$$) allowed me to "retire" about 3 years ago. I made a (drastic) choice when I saw, as you said, what was coming our way. Was it worthy to continue (what I really loved) or was it time to retir... See more
I have been (fortunately) in the golden era of technical translations. I have been very successful, published a book, etc. I made a ton of money especially when signing directly with the end client (Department of Defense). Another big enterprise was most of the United Nations training materials. This ($$$$$$) allowed me to "retire" about 3 years ago. I made a (drastic) choice when I saw, as you said, what was coming our way. Was it worthy to continue (what I really loved) or was it time to retire? I chose quality of life. I terminated my company for which I filed my final return in 2018. I went back to an early calling, being a SuperHost with Airbnb. I am also very successful, have no stress, am more available, and much happier. I am still translating pieces of information from English into French, as being my forte for a few decades, that I select myself and write articles on a Facebook group. My days are pretty busy between my guests, my creative shop, my writing, my garden (yes I live in Florida), etc...Your post made me think about the good old days on this website early 2000s. I would love to know what all of my fellow translators have become. Did they have the same feeling as I had?Collapse


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
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Very bad here too Jul 29

Here we have also seen significant reductions in volumes, what with machine translation and Covid. And here we have a 'culture of discounts' and if you don't accept hypoinfrasubindian peanuts (Hisip) rates there is always someone who will, so intense is the competition here. Another issue is that, as the profession is not regulated, anyone with passable English (who has probably lost a job in another area) comes into translation.

I want to see how the cookie crumbles, but I am alrea
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Here we have also seen significant reductions in volumes, what with machine translation and Covid. And here we have a 'culture of discounts' and if you don't accept hypoinfrasubindian peanuts (Hisip) rates there is always someone who will, so intense is the competition here. Another issue is that, as the profession is not regulated, anyone with passable English (who has probably lost a job in another area) comes into translation.

I want to see how the cookie crumbles, but I am already looking for a second activity and have even considered a complete career change, although this would be difficult at my age (60 years old). Over one million jobs have been lost in the country in the first half of this year (all markets) and, as mentioned, many of these flood an already saturated translation market.
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Daniel Jeory
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Daniel Jeory
Local time: 20:46
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TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Paul Jul 29

Paul Dixon wrote:

Here we have also seen significant reductions in volumes, what with machine translation and Covid. And here we have a 'culture of discounts' and if you don't accept hypoinfrasubindian peanuts (Hisip) rates there is always someone who will, so intense is the competition here. Another issue is that, as the profession is not regulated, anyone with passable English (who has probably lost a job in another area) comes into translation.

I want to see how the cookie crumbles, but I am already looking for a second activity and have even considered a complete career change, although this would be difficult at my age (60 years old). Over one million jobs have been lost in the country in the first half of this year (all markets) and, as mentioned, many of these flood an already saturated translation market.


Hi Paul and thanks for engaging with this post. It seems we have very similar experiences. I have also started looking for work locally as a secondary income stream in any field, effectively starting again in my late 40s. When I told people I was a translator four or five years ago, many would reply half-jokingly, half-seriously, "Oh, well don't you just put it through Google translate?" How I laughed and explained how useless it was for serious texts. Well I'm not laughing now. Who could have predicted we would reach the stage where companies actually believe that AI output is acceptable enough to warrant mere checking by well-qualified linguists? Ironically enough, a book I was asked to translate by my main client 3 years ago called Digital at Scale, the original German book being Eins oder Null, was all about how automation was on the brink of bringing about such disruption to the workforce across a swathe of industries, even up to middle management level. Sadly, we are already seeing the potential impact to the economy all too clearly, and Covid has certainly been a very convenient accelerator for corporations itching to shed jobs. Interestingly, the people who come on these forums to extol the virtues of MTPE and accuse its detractors of being luddites often appear to be the kind of person you describe in your post. Anyway, good luck mate. See you on the other side.


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Dragomir Kovacevic  Identity Verified
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"linguistic expert" Jul 30

Being "linguistic experts" widens the concept of the role: from a successful secretary, trade manager, till drafts editor (MTPE), interpreter... Never say to anybody that you are a translator.

Daniel Jeory wrote:

When I told people I was a translator four or five years ago, many would reply half-jokingly, half-seriously, "Oh, well don't you just put it through Google translate?" How I laughed and explained how useless it was for serious texts. Well I'm not laughing now.


[Edited at 2020-07-30 15:44 GMT]


 

conejo  Identity Verified
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I think you were lucky you got out when you did Aug 11

Getting out was definitely the right choice

pascie wrote:

I have been (fortunately) in the golden era of technical translations. I have been very successful, published a book, etc. I made a ton of money especially when signing directly with the end client (Department of Defense). Another big enterprise was most of the United Nations training materials. This ($$$$$$) allowed me to "retire" about 3 years ago. I made a (drastic) choice when I saw, as you said, what was coming our way. Was it worthy to continue (what I really loved) or was it time to retire? I chose quality of life. I terminated my company for which I filed my final return in 2018. I went back to an early calling, being a SuperHost with Airbnb. I am also very successful, have no stress, am more available, and much happier. I am still translating pieces of information from English into French, as being my forte for a few decades, that I select myself and write articles on a Facebook group. My days are pretty busy between my guests, my creative shop, my writing, my garden (yes I live in Florida), etc...Your post made me think about the good old days on this website early 2000s. I would love to know what all of my fellow translators have become. Did they have the same feeling as I had?


 

conejo  Identity Verified
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Yes I have noticed this trend Aug 11



[Edited at 2020-08-12 14:04 GMT]


 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
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Haven't noticed it Aug 13

I've never been busier.

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Caution! AI translation might be the future Sep 21

I used to laugh at documents translated by machine - not anymore. Last week, just for fun, I copied some sentences from a finance website and pasted into a translation site (like Google translate). The result surprised me a lot. In my memory, machine translation is only for super simple daily language, but in the test I did, I would say it was 90% accurate.
There will certainly be many occupations replaced by AI, translators/interpreters need to watch out.


 

Vytautas Kacerauskis
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Definitely a trend in legal translation Sep 25

I agree. There's been definitely less work, and the rates have been lower, for the last 3 or 4 years. Though it may be due to a combination of factors, including Covid, general "depreciation" of the translation profession as a result of cheap translations and the occupation being available to virtually everyone, resulting in fierce price competition. But I think MT pays a very important part too. I am drawing on my 20-year experience in legal and EU translation. I remember some 5-6 years ago we ... See more
I agree. There's been definitely less work, and the rates have been lower, for the last 3 or 4 years. Though it may be due to a combination of factors, including Covid, general "depreciation" of the translation profession as a result of cheap translations and the occupation being available to virtually everyone, resulting in fierce price competition. But I think MT pays a very important part too. I am drawing on my 20-year experience in legal and EU translation. I remember some 5-6 years ago we would paste something into Google translate or some other MT engine, and laugh out loud about the result. (though even then we would be sometimes unpleasantly surprised with an "ok" result that just required minor correction). No more laughing now. It seems that increasingly we will be reduced to the role of post-editing (I do not know why it's "post", instead of just 'editing' or "revision"), at least in my niche. The work that such engines as Google Translate or MyMemory produce, even in minor combinations, such as mine, LT_EN , is really satisfactory. It still requires some proofreading/revision for now, but it is improving with every day. While, the so called post-editing means that human translators are still "needed", it also means that the actual volume of work will decrease, I think, at least 3 or 4-fold. So will the number of translators, or their incomes.Collapse


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
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Large corporations indeed Sep 25

Dan Lucas wrote:

Daniel Jeory wrote:
...but also corporations with large in-house translation volumes.

I have no direct experience, but I have read anecdotal evidence that this is the case, and it's perfectly logical. If you're a large multinational, you get one of the MT vendors to put together a system that (a) will be contained entirely in-house for use on the corporate intranet, so that your confidential data isn't being submitted to Google Translate and (b) is good enough for gisting.


This is totally reasonable, but it's indeed the domain of large corporations. My educated guess is that it takes on the order of 1,000,000 words properly translated, edited and thoroughly verified to train an MT system to produce reasonable output in a narrow subject field (e.g. documentation for a specific operating system, as opposed to general IT documentation). And that's per language. We know the prices of top-quality translations, now think of how much one needs to invest to MT the documentation into 5-20-50 languages properly.


Dan Lucas
 
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