The End of the Translation Profession?

by Oxana
(Lviv, Ukraine)

- We need an interpreter.
- We had one. He was German. He got drunk as a lord when he had to translate. So we cooked him in boiled water.
- It's not the way to treat interpreters.

A dialogue from the film "Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future"

Interpreting and translation have historically been performed by bilinguals who typically made their living from the other activity and performed oral and written translation in addition to their main job. Thus, writers translated literature, physicians translated medical texts, and so forth. Those people knew two or more languages, but they did not have any specialized professional training in translation or interpreting.

It was only in the 20th century (with the advent of globalization) that the world realized the importance of translation/interpreting. The translation profession was recognized and its international standards were developed. Translators and interpreters started to receive formal training within educational institutions.

However, the Information Revolution has brought new tools to the translation industry (machine translation engines, translation memory tools). These new translation tools gradually displace professional translators de-factor confining translators to the role of mere post-editors of machine translation output and limiting creativity of translators by imposing translation memories and pre-translated texts on them.

Now about crowdsourcing... This business model will finish translation profession off. Crowdsourcing brings back the pre-professional era when translators were professionals in other fields (lawyers, theologists, physicians, etc.) with knowledge of two or more languages and inclination to translate/ interpret between these languages.

If crowdsourcing in translation becomes a common practice, professional translators will find it harder to survive. Less-than-rosy prospects indeed!

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