Lost in Delusion

A well-known multilingual website has recently advertised for a vacancy: Machine Translation Manager. Looking at the job description, they required the person to have a degree in one or two languages, in linguistics, or something in that area; be fluent in at least one foreign language; and have extensive experience of CAT tools (which have nothing to do with machine translation (MT), by the way). These criteria clearly tell us that MT is not up to the task yet.

In my experience, fixing an MT, i.e. trying to make sense of it (even with the source text under your elbow) and not to get stuck with the wrong words in your head, is more time-consuming than simply getting in the flow of translating things from scratch. It is much easier and quicker for the translator – and therefore cheaper for the client – to do the work directly than to waste hours trying to put right some “googledegook” regurgitated by a machine. This may explain why the job description stated that the lucky candidate should increase the MT output.

CAT tools (Computer-Aided Translation software) are a standard tool for professional translator, although not all translators use them largely because of the prohibitive licence cost. If the company uses such tools, it implies that it does use human translation, too. (Again, MT software is not enough, then). But do they hire professional translators for the purpose or is the MT manager expected to do that also? It’s one thing to be fluent in two or more languages, but it’s quite another to be a knowledgeable and capable translator. The job description didn’t ask for a degree (let alone a master’s) in translation.

I am sure someone has done the math, but I wonder: how many languages is the MT manager expected to handle? How much will they pay that person with such valuable skills? How much can they realistically expect him/her to increase the output by?  How much do they spend on MT software development and CAT tool licences?

I don’t have the answers but, looking at their website in the languages that I know, the result is not convincing. Hiring professional translators to get it right first time may be a better investment.

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