Will the Term ‘Translator’ Disappear?

Will the Term ‘Translator’ Disappear

1. Goodbye Translators

Back in October, Ian El-Mokadem offered what became a memorable quote during his keynote speech at SlatorCon Zurich 2023: “Goodbye Translators, Hello Language Specialists.” In the words of the RWS Group CEO, humans continue to play a central role in localization in the era of machine (and AI) translation post-editing, but that role has changed.

We asked weekly newsletter readers if they thought the term “Translator” would disappear over the next five years, and it became the most voted-on topic on a poll in 2023.

Close to half of respondents said “absolutely not” (43.2%) to the notion of no longer having translators. A quarter of respondents (25%) think it’s always been five years, while the rest of voters are split between those who think the term will definitely disappear (16.7%) or will possibly disappear (15.1%).

2. That Beloved Microsoft Language Portal

Back in June Microsoft shut down its online language portal, a major reference for the language industry for 14 years, creating a wave of protests. A few weeks later, the portal was back, to the delight of many.

As a testament to the portal’s popularity, many readers voted when asked if they had ever used it. Nearly half (46.5%) said they use it “often.” A third (33.7%) of respondents do not use it, and about one-fifth of respondents access the portal sometimes (16.8%) or rarely (3.0%). 

3. ChatGPT for Translation

In the long days of summer, we wanted to see if statements made by a few researchers about OpenAI’s ChatGPT’s ability to deliver competitive quality machine translation (MT) rang true, and conducted a few translation tests of our own. Results were inconsistent, with some renditions being quite good, and others being completely inaccurate.

We then asked readers if they were using ChatGPT for translation. The majority of respondents (80.6%) said No. Less than a tenth of respondents said they were using the bot for translation (8.6%), and the rest were split between those who were planning to use it, and those who had used it and stopped using it (5.4% each).

4. Inflation and Rates

Language services rates have remained relatively stable for a number of years, but during Q1 2023, the mood in the industry (and around the world economy) was cautious. Inflation was a main source of worry for many entrepreneurs and investors. Therefore, we asked how translation rates were trending for them in light of the situation. 

Reflecting rate stability, most replied that indeed their rates remain flat (49.5%). For less than a quarter of respondents, rates were increasing slightly (18.7%). The rest of respondents answered that their rates were strongly decreasing (14.3%), slightly decreasing (12.1%), or strongly increasing (5.4%).

5. No Such Thing as Full Post-Editing

October brought with it a flurry of in-person industry events (including SlatorCon Zurich) and no shortage of crowd-stirring moments, such as Jon Finger’s viral video using HeyGen to instantly dub his own voice from English into French and German, neither of which he speaks.   

Slatorpod welcomed Jakub Absolon, CEO of ASAP-translation.com, who shared some insights on machine translation post-editing. He also spoke about his particular view on full post-editing, which he had expressed prior to the pod, explaining that “full post-editing is simply human translation and should be priced and timed as such.” 

We asked readers if they thought we should all stop using the term “full post-editing”. Most (65.3%) agreed with Absolon, saying yes to stopping the use of 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%).