Once again, Microsoft changes the world we live in.
This time, change comes in the shape of the Microsoft Translator Hub. Released last March, this new translation tool, an extension if you will, of the popular Google Translate (used by more than 200 million monthly users), is capable of deploying customised and specialised automatic translation services.
One of the main differences between Google translate and other major translation providers is that the Microsoft Translator Hub supports (and in fact, encourages) the translation of many native languages of the world, for free.
Users will build a translation system within a private website, initially setting up a project, uploading the corresponding source file and consequently training the system to translate from one language to the other. Guided by a number of video tutorials and online instructions, users will effectively teach Microsoft about the style and terminology they expect to be used in their project, producing a set of documents called, ‘parallel documents’ which will be used by Microsoft to learn the specific translation request and the usage of certain terms in a specific context. Human reviewers will suggest possible ways to improve the translation and once a satisfactory quality level has been achieved, the translation will be deployed.
Why does the Microsoft Hub make a difference?
Linguistic experts predict that nearly half of the 6,800 languages still in existence today will become extinct by the turn of the next century. So, the work conducted by the team of researchers who developed the Translator Hub, might help that trend.
However, a word of caution. Or perhaps even more than one. Once the training phase begins, you will be asked to upload the corresponding aligned segments of source and target languages. And once you click that button, you relinquish your ownership of those texts while Microsoft expands its database of texts in rare languages, something pretty difficult to achieve automatically given the limited availability of these texts on the net. So, if you are keen to contribute towards ensuring that minority and rare languages don’t come to an end, this could definitely be a very welcome addition to your toolbox. But if you are concerned about sharing corpuses that you’ve worked hard to compile, you may want to keep your distance.
How does (and other similar developments) affect the future of our profession?
As much as I do get excited about the giant technological steps we read about, adapt to and have no choice to thrive with everyday, I also wonder how much further can translators and interpreters go?
Do we need to do more than just adapt to these changes and reinvent ourselves and our profession?
Can we go without specialising? Without stretching the meaning of translation to its maximum? Without incorporating a whole new gamut of qualities and requirements to what we do?
Can we keep on struggling for fees are not worth struggling for?
Will the role of the translator and the translation agency become completely redundant in the very near future just to be replaced by multilingual experts capable of controlling the full range of translation technologies needed to achieve what 10 other professionals did before?
These are exciting times to play the translation game but the rules change very fast and we need to move a lot faster than the opponent, be it human or machine.