- It's the end of the world for translators. This doomsday approach stems from fear of the unknown and amazement with the quality of the translation that Google has been generating for some language pairs.
- MT is never going to reach perfection. So, no worries. This nonchalant attitude comes from those who only see the defects in the tools and feel safe in their current positions.
I agree with Ben Sargent from Common Sense Advisory, when he says in the Global Watchtower that "...machine translation could remove the cloak of invisibility from translators, giving them greater recognition and status. As 99.99 percent of translation is done by the machine, two things may happen: 1) The volume of human translation could increase; 2) the perceived value of human translation could increase."
Nabil Frej and John Yunker have posted on their blogs the preliminary results from the “Which Engine Translates Best?” challenge organized by Gabble On which asks volunteers to evaluate Google Translate, Microsoft Bing, and Yahoo Babel Fish translations (if you haven't done it yet, I strongly suggest you spend 10 minutes doing it). And it looks as if Google is doing a better job than the other two, but with some exceptions.
From a translation business perspective, I am adopting a pragmatic approach. At Milengo, we are running a few pilot projects with some of our clients to evaluate seven language pairs using the Asia Online technology. We have also used the API for Google Translator Toolkit to connect it with Milengo's Translation Management System and we are currently running some test projects with it. Our goal with these efforts is not to replace human translation, but to increase productivity and to allow our clients to translate content that would otherwise never be translated because of cost and deadlines.
The situation reminds me of a story that my friend João Roque Dias, from Portugal, told me about how government officials in Portugal would fend off requests in the late 70s by saying that outcomes were unpredictable because the country was in a PREC (Processo Revolucionário em Curso or Revolutionary Process In Progress), which eventually became synonymous with "a mess." Language technology for me is in a PREC: Any outcome is possible, so I am hedging my bets!