Blog de Marco Santos . Traducteur et interprète portugais

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mardi 9 novembre 2010

Machine translation = the end for translators and interpreters?

traduteur tradutor translator Machine translation was already created some time ago and allows internet users to instantly translate any page in the desired language. This technology is quite interesting to understand what a page is about but why do we see at the same time an ever increasing number of translators and conference interpreters?

If you have ever tried this kind of tool to understand the main meaning of a page, a report or maybe just to say something funny in a foreign language, then, you have probably already noticed that the results can be very different. With some texts, you can have average results but with others, you will end up laughing for sure! These results depend on several factors as language pairs, complexity and above all abstraction degree.

Translating a text into Portuguese from Spanish will usually give you better results than translating from German. This happens for syntactic and semantic reasons. A text with a clear structure usually allows an almost reasonable translation and it will be possible to understand the general meaning of the text while a text with a complex structure will be much harder to translate for machine translation.

However, the main problem with translation programs is that they don’t understand abstract content. Actually, they don’t understand anything. They just translate separate words from one language to the other. During my studies, I had the opportunity to study linguistics for a while and realized that it is possible to schematize a speech and even establish rules for automated writing through human speech analysis. However, it is not possible (at least for now) for a machine to understand the sense of a text or its ideas.

Therefore, if you write in French «Thomas a fait un peu d'anglais à l'école », machine translation will give you the following result in English: «Thomas made a little English to school». We can all imagine Thomas creating some kind of englishman toy with a bowler hat but what the French text meant is that “Thomas learned a little bit of English at school”. Translation and interpretation require full understanding of the text, of its ideas and intentions and therefore, while machines aren’t capable of thinking, quality machine translation will not be possible.

Translators and interpreters will still be around for many years!

jeudi 4 novembre 2010

Do you need a translator or an interpreter?

Many people don't know the difference between translators and interpreters. Find out here!

interpretation conference interpreting interpretacao conferencia People often see translators as people who understand a text in a foreign language and put it in their mother tongue. And this, both with oral and written texts. But is it that simple ?

The main difference between them is the communication form that is used. The interpreter uses his voice while the translator uses his quill pen (nowadays, probably his keyboard). Translators and interpreters are therefore found in very different places. The translator usually works at the office or at home and translates many different types of texts (books, websites, reports, users’ manuals, etc.). The interpreter is where the meetings take place and may therefore be found in many different places. Meeting rooms, congress rooms and parliaments are some of the possible examples but interpreters also work very often during visits and therefore, they also work at factories, farms or teaching establishments for instance.

Another difference between interpreting and translation is the “time” factor. The translator is lucky to be able to think for some time about a difficult word or term. Interpreters are not so lucky. They only have half a second to understand the idea and present it to the listeners. Interpreters are usually less dependent on terminology when it is a casual speech and what is most important is the transfer of ideas. The listeners need to be able to understand in a clear way what is being said to them, even if the choice of words isn’t exactly the same. However, when interpreters work with technical speeches, then terminology is even more important and it is not only necessary that they know the technical vocabulary very well, but also that they have it on the tip of the tongue!

It is important to know that in both jobs, it is not only about translating words but getting the ideas and intentions of the speech across. This is probably why a good machine translation program hasn’t been created yet. This kind of programs can easily translate words thanks to a good terminology database, but it can’t translate an idea nor have a text making sense. Translators and interpreters won’t be out of business any time soon!