The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 9 delivered by a good human translator, but sometime in the 2020s it will become impossible for most people to distinguish machine-translated content from documents translated by a human brain. Cloud AI is set to have as big an impact on the translation business as spreadsheets had on the accounting sector some 30 years ago. Working with the machine This does not mean that all or even most human translators will be made redundant. Even today, many translators use AI tools to assist with translation activities, and – as in many other occupations – the creation of human-AI teams is going to be increasingly common in the 2020s. Already, the translation, localisation and e-learning specialist Lionbridge is employing Amazon Translate to great effect. As its Chief Technology Officer, Ken Watson, has reported, "Human translators armed with machine translation help companies localize more content, faster, more affordably and into more languages. Based on our experience, pairing Amazon Translate with a human editor, we believe we can produce cost efficiencies by [sic] up to 20 percent." Almost certainly, the rise of AI will require human translators to redefine their business in order to compete with or capitalise on the new technology. In many instances, the best option will be to integrate human and machine translation, as Lionbridge have signalled, and to operate as a value-added intermediary. For example, a human translator may use cloud AI services to provide real-time translation of a client's web content, but with the added benefit of a guaranteed human check and edit within 24 hours. Other human translators may decide on a niche, non-AI strategy, with their business redefined as a communications skills or cultural understanding service. Just as most accountants now spend little time calculating totals, so in the future many linguists may spend very few hours a week on basic 'language processing' activities. Regardless of which strategy is adopted, the most important thing is to avoid an ostrich approach. Sadly, across all industries, many people appear to be caught in AI denial. Some are clinging to the notion that AI does not exist, or will not exist for some time to come. The creation of general AI does, indeed, lie far in the future, so there is a strong philosophical argument for this. Unfortunately, however, the pragmatic case is very weak, with Amazon et al already selling and developing AI systems able to take on an increasing range of cognitive activities. Other 'AI deniers' have decided that, while AI does exist, it will have no impact on their particular work activity. Some may be correct. I would, however, conclude with the observation that every industry I have ever worked in believes itself to be special, with new technology only presenting a threat – or opportunity – to everybody else. Notes 1 2 and speech and vision recognition modules) in order to create bespoke AI systems. In early 2018, the world's largest cloud computing provider, Amazon, announced a suite of AI tools, which included a new version of Amazon Translate, as well as Amazon Transcribe, Amazon Comprehend (natural language processing) and Amazon Poly (text- to-speech services). Amazon Translate charges US$15 to shift 1 million characters between two languages, with the service intended to provide on-demand translation of user-generated content, including "real- time translation for communications applications". In common with offerings from Google, Microsoft and IBM, Amazon Translate gets smarter over time. It works by processing the meaning of a passage of text, rather than simply recognising and translating single words or short phrases. Some companies, including, already rely on cloud AI services to translate user-generated web content. The results may not yet offer the polish and accuracy People appear to be caught in AI denial… clinging to the notion that AI does not exist

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