Readers interested in science fiction are surely familiar with Star Trek’s Universal Translator (UT), conceived by the famed TV series creators as a hand-held device and much discussed online by rabid fans and detractors alike. With the advent of AI voice translation, the possibility of an almost universal translator is closer than ever, and the functionality is being integrated into devices and online platforms.
One such platform is Spotify. The digital audio content provider is piloting a new service for podcasters called “Spotify Voice Translations.” According to founder and CEO Daniel Ek, “using AI, [it] translates podcasts episodes into alternate languages, all in the podcaster’s voice.”
Quite a few AI-enabled voice translators that claim to do the same have entered the market since late 2022, some, like HeyGen making headlines across the world. Spotify made people take notice with their version of AI voice translation by sharing a video on X of famous podcasters Lex Fridman and Steven Bartlett switching seamlessly from English to Spanish.
We asked readers if they think Spotify’s Voice Translations feature will get traction within two years, and half of respondents (50%) said they doubt it. Over a third (35.7%) answered that it will probably get traction, and the rest were split between “yes, definitely” (8.9%) and “definitely not” (5.4%).
“Goodbye Translators, Hello Language Specialists”
That’s what Ian El-Mokadem, CEO of RWS Group, said in his keynote speech at SlatorCon Zurich 2023 when addressing the central role humans play as AI grabs more attention. In the era of machine (and AI) translation post-editing, translators “must expertly localize communications across media formats, cultural contexts, and regulatory frameworks,” he remarked.
We asked readers if they think the term “Translator” will disappear over the next five years, and close to half of respondents don’t believe (absolutely not) that to be the case (43.2%). A quarter of respondents (25%) think it’s always been five years, while a small percentage (16.7%) think it will definitely disappear and the rest of respondents (15.1%) think it is a possibility (maybe).
No Such Thing as Full Post-Editing
Jakub Absolon, CEO of ASAP-translation.com, shared some insights on machine translation post-editing with SlatorPod listeners. His company has offered and researched the service for a few years, and in his view, which he has expressed on several occasions, there are three types of translation: raw machine translation; post-edited machine translation, and human translation.
Absolon told podcast viewers that “full post-editing is simply human translation and should be priced and timed as such.” A strong position, no doubt, and we were curious to know how many readers agreed or disagreed with Absolon’s view of post-editing, so we asked if we (language industry folk) should stop using the term “full post-editing.”
The majority of respondents (65.3%) agree with Absolon, and said Yes to stop using the term “full post-editing.” The rest of the respondents chose to continue using the term (No, 18.7%) or to do whatever the client prefers (16.0%).
To Go or Not to Go: That is the Question
Admittedly, in 2022 people in the language industry were still shying away from in-person events after the long-drawn pandemic abstention. 2023 has been different. All major events that gathered industry movers and shakers are back in 3D.
SlatorCon Zurich 2023 highlighted a positive outlook for the language industry on October 4, 2023, and gave everyone in attendance a glance at the immediate future, one that foretells rapid transformation, driven not only by technology, but also by a new market direction that highlights opportunities as enormous amounts of content continue to be produced and translated.
GALA, LocWorld, and many more live events were also enthusiastically documented and discussed on LinkedIn in 2023 by attendees, so we wondered if this momentum will carry through until next year.
We asked readers how many language industry conferences they were planning to attend in 2024, and a third of respondents said none (31.3%). One-quarter of respondents (25%) said they’d attend 2-4 events, and another quarter (25%) said they’d attend 5-9 events. The rest (18.7%) said they planned on attending one conference. Not one person chose more than 10 events (OK, maybe that’s a lot).