Choose bio even for your translations

Choose bio:tell me how you translate, I’ll tell you who you are 

Translation is based on a complex linguistic action which consists in transposing a text from a language to another. Following the boom in digital technologies over the 21st century, the translator is now able to use various tools to produce its translations and moreover, can entrust a machine with the task of doing a part of its work. In this case, two concepts face each other: the neologism “biotranslation” and machine translation or automatic translation (AT). By definition, the biotranslator’s or human translator’s activity is built on the so-called “natural” approach of translation by a human being, who acts as main protagonist and translates “manually” the text. 

On the contrary, automatic translation, used by websites such as DeepL or Google Translate, is based on artificial intelligence and thereby translates in place of humans; therefore, the machine is at the centre of linguistic action. However, it is important to distinguish AT from computer assisted translation softwares (CAT) like SDL Trados Studio or memoQ, which enable content translation on a computer and assist the translator in its tasks, taking into account previous translations, themselves stocked in translation memories. But facing the arrival of ever more performant tools like AT and CAT, is biotranslation really about to disappear?   

AT and CAT, symbols of important technical progress

Most of the times, the use of AT and CAT tends to be rejected by translators, who consider these tools to be a real threat towards the practice of their job. Nonetheless, CAT and AT websites present several advantages for the translator. First of all, time gain remains undeniably considerable given that with the help of CAT softwares, already translated sections, which supply translation memory, are generated and only have to be checked and approved by the translator. Because the use of CAT requires a manual part, in which the translator must check its translation (post-edition) in order to get a suitable result. Here it is, all the subtlety of these tools: they don’t translate alone, the translator’s part is central and fundamental. Furthermore, softwares like SDL Trados are interactive, quite useful to the translator occupation and will allow them to gain in work comfort. 

Websites like DeepL and Google Translate, which keep evolving since 2016, produce a translation called automatic and should be recognised for their technological achievement. Even if they don’t offer completely correct translations, their works enable the comprehension of a text main idea or can be used as bases for human translation. 

It should be noted that a lot of institutions are developing their own AT device, like the European Commission and its tool eTranslation, which allows all the citizens to beneficiate of any official document translation in any European language. Thus, it is important to recognise AT as unquestionable improvement and actual tool for the translator, even though it still remains criticised nowadays for its potential incorrect translations and is still the target of a lot of caricatural examples. 

Choose bio: the requirement of a biotranslator 

Nevertheless, the use of AT and CAT tools is limited. In fact, even if these tools keep evolving, they can’t take on board a lot of elements which are required to obtain a reliable and quality translation (biotranslation). For example, the consideration of target audience, in terms of age or geographic diversity is relatively restricted, although it is available on CAT softwares. For a reliable translation, the translator’s knowledge and mastery of the language remains essential, especially when encountering polysemous terms in a text which are hard to understand for the machine. 

Besides, AT isn’t efficient yet for the adaptation of cultural codes. Indeed, the latter is primordial for youth literature in particular, which has to adapt culturally many elements within the book, whether it is counting rhyme, games or else characters meals to obtain cultural references shared by the target audience. Finally, regarding a translation of content with major creative purpose (in transcreation or marketing translation), the creative approach is unavoidable, to which AT is not able to respond. In all these areas, AT’s artificial intelligence remains insufficient, since the quality level offered cannot be accepted.      

To get a reliable result, translations should be reviewed by a qualified professional translator. In that way, the human translator cannot be replaced easily by the machine and represents indeed a real added value to the occupation. Therefore, the translator still has a bright future, although the time of digital helpless translation is well and truly over. It is important to accept the progressive practicing of translation, through these tools which are becoming true assets at the disposal of the translator. This also encourages us to question ourselves about the eventual need of teaching how to master these tools, which from now on can no more be ignored in our digital era.

Our agency of translation based in Berlin offers a biotranslation service from only 0.08 EUR per word.  

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