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8 January, 2021
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Is translation a dying career?

In short: no. But if I left it at that, then this wouldn’t be worthy of a blog post.

With machine translation getting more and more sophisticated as the years go by, the future of translation as a career has come into question. However, anybody who has worked as a translator will know that machine translation has a long way to go before it could be considered as good as (or better than) humans.

Why? Because it’s in the name: machine translation is done by machines. And, unlike humans, machines cannot grasp the infinitesimal nuances of languages. One word can have any number of meanings and connotations given different contexts, dialects, and tones of voice. If you copied and pasted this text into an online translation service such as DeepL, translated it into French and then translated it back into English, you would have a completely different article. One that probably doesn’t read well or make much sense.

Furthermore, translation is no science. It is an art that often requires a lot of thought, collaboration, and skill. Because translation isn’t just word for word, it also has to maintain rhythm, metre, rhyme, sound, length and shape – depending on the medium being translated. As a result of this intricacy, clients often like to take an active part in the translation process of their works. This simply cannot occur when the work in question is translated by a machine because they lack this collaborative capacity.

That’s not to say that translators don’t use machines. When set tight deadlines, machine translations can help shorten the first leg of the race. But a translation performed by a machine cannot and should never be sent off without being thoroughly checked and reviewed by a professional. Otherwise, it could lead to some unfortunate – and potentially critical – mistakes.

So, if you are interested in a career in translation, do not fear. Your job is safe from being taken over by machines. In fact, employment of translators and interpreters is projected to grow 20% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations which means that a career in translation could be very worthwhile. In an increasingly globalised world with more than 7,000 languages, the skills of a translator will always be relevant and necessary.

The bottom line? No, translation is not a dying career – and it probably won’t ever be.



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