The Institutional Acceptance of Machine Translation is Growing

Machine Translation in the EU is becoming more accepted

During a June 12, 2023 press briefing, Eric Mamer, the European Commission (EC) spokesman, mentioned in “a little housekeeping announcement” the availability of machine translation (MT) in the EC’s Press Corner. The idea is to rapidly make content available for reporters while a human-reviewed translation becomes available. 

But what’s to stop reporters from quoting verbatim what’s published in the Press Corner, whether they see the content labeled as machine-translated or not? As a recent Slator Weekly newsletter put it “this feels like another fairly big step towards institutional acceptance of raw machine translation.”

We asked readers their opinion about this new service, and the majority (55.2%) consider it “a risky move.” A little over a quarter (26.8%) of respondents consider the move “inevitable,” and the rest are equally divided between those who believe it is great because journalists will get information faster (9.0%) and those who have no strong opinion on the matter (9.0%).

Collective Action by Interpreters is Validated

Interpreters, especially public service interpreters in courts, law enforcement, and healthcare settings have long been organized in associations and a few small collectives in countries like the US and Australia. Protests and strikes have brought attention to recurrent issues like low wages, lack of benefits, and unacceptable work conditions that include health risks. 

Interpreter strikes and walkouts are at times effective on direct and indirect employers, including court systems like the one in Nebraska, US, which finally raised wages for interpreters after 19 years. The Nebraska court system does not employ any salaried interpreters, so the raises are for hourly rates and represent a win for freelance interpreters at large, not just in that state. 

We asked readers what their thoughts were on collective action by interpreters, and most (55.6%) think it is great to grant more power to interpreters. About a third of respondents think interpreters have the right to take action if allowed by law (31.7%). A small percentage believe it depends on the case at hand (6.3%), and the rest are divided between those who believe it is not OK (3.2%) and those who think it is OK under exceptional circumstances (3.2%).

Catching the AI Bullet Train or Constantly Catching Up?

With seemingly hundreds of new AI-enabled companies and thousands of large language models (LLMs) launching every week (with opinions by “experts” pouring in in equal amounts), no one can blame those who are feeling AI fatigue. 

And there are also those ailed by the new FOMO: FOMOAI, or fear of missing out on AI … But where to look? How to even begin to focus to understand where opportunities and risks truly lie for the language services industry? Some have resorted to following the giant steps of the mighty, including Meta and Google, which seem to be on a journey to embody all that’s “multilingually” possible with AI and LLMs. 

We asked readers about their opinion on the current pace of language AI releases, and somewhat predictably, half (50.0%) of respondents are trying to keep up, but it’s difficult. AI release pace is overwhelming and tiring for a little over a third (36.7) of respondents. Two small cohorts stand on what could be deemed opposite ends: a group find it irrelevant to their day-to-day (8.3%) and a minority (5.0%) is excited about it and following closely.

Revisiting Professional Translation Competence  

As technology rapidly and profoundly changes the way translators work, one aspect of their professional profile remains constant: the need to excel in multiple skills and disciplines. But change is also a constant, and many have voiced the need to discern how best to prepare translators as the market evolves at lightning speed.

A project seeking to do just that is set to wrap up in August 2023. The European Framework for Translation (EFFORT) was created in 2020 to develop a framework of key translation competencies, and it consolidates the work of multiple organizations across Europe on the matter. 

Besides the usual competencies everyone largely agrees on, such as source and target linguistic and extralinguistic linguistic skills, technology and resource skilled use and management, the group favors service provision as an important addition to the typical translator profile.

We asked readers what they consider the single most important competence to foster in translator training, and about two-thirds were divided between specialized expertise (35.4%) and language skills (31.3%). Methodological expertise to solve translation problems was the choice of less than a quarter of respondents (20.8%), while some opted for service provision (8.3%). Surprisingly, given how technology is changing the profession, tech expertise got the least amount of votes (4.2%).