On 25th June 2016 YTI members old and new gathered for our annual AGM event. It was another sunny day in York, with ample time for networking (read: nattering), sandwiches, and for the sun-worshippers amongst us, catching some rays and talking translation on the lovely terrace at Friends Meeting House.
The day kicked off with registration and coffees, with perhaps a more sombre mood than usual given the previous day’s shocking political result. The planned training session for the morning opened with an introduction to SDL – a familiar name to us all in terms of software – but the talk also touched on the translation agency side and an introduction to the processes and departments found at their offices in Sheffield.
Speakers Rachel Price and Andrew White gave an excellent presentation on post-editing machine translation (PEMT). One of the newer terms in the industry, post-editing in this instance relates specifically to using machine edited translations to produce a segmented Trados file (and yes, other translation software is available). They talked about the whole spectrum of the process, from producing a ‘good enough’ rendering for gist, time-pressured translations (light post-editing) or a publishable document (full post-editing). Perhaps as translators we don’t like to think of producing a ‘good enough’ translation: we like to think our documents are always polished and ready for the real world. But as pointed out in the presentation, for documents such as tenders and surveys, or any document with a ‘needed yesterday’ deadline, it’s definitely better than a client running it through Google translate.
It was an incredibly informative presentation, as always sparking lively debate: the redundant human translator doomsday scenario and other gems, (how reliability of MT is very much dependant on the language combination and many other factors) and how wrong machines can get it – I’ll think of roosters in a factory every time I hear ‘Gallo’ from now on. We discussed the (reassuring?) fallibility of MT, and the reliance it has on sweeping accurate translations in the first place. It was interesting to learn about the training of MT engines – a process with its roots in wartime code breaking.
As to productivity gains, Andrew, who uses PEMT for much of his workload, thought it could lead to a 30-50% increase in productivity. Some on the floor thought the time checking translations generated would outweigh any gain in productivity, a subject that cropped up in questions at the end of the presentation. Whether as translators we choose to offer clients discounted rates for the use of PEMT is of course up to the individual. And whether we chose to embrace the technology now or wait until such a time as the machine has received better training, are all decisions we must make based possibly on our language combinations and subject areas. There are some certainties though: PEMT represents an ever-increasing segment of the translation market, and MT is improving at a rate we perhaps would not have thought possible some years ago. I think many translators there would agree there could be a small amount of space in our ever-burgeoning translator tool kits to stash a bit of MT at some point in the future. But it won’t be a replacement for our capable human brains any time soon.
After the morning’s training session a sandwich, cake and fruit lunch followed, with plenty of time to get to know newer members and talk about the issues that cropped up in the session.
The AGM started promptly at 2pm, ably facilitated by Raquel Madrid in the absence of AGM stalwarts Charlotte and Paul who could not attend. The agenda followed the usual format, with reports from committee members: minutes for the meeting will be available to all members in due course. All news was positive, with the YTI enjoying a healthy balance sheet enabling further CPD events, a possible mentoring scheme, and bursaries for the ITI Conference (finer details to be confirmed at a later date).
Special thanks was given to Caroline Hirst who will be standing down from the committee. A big thank you to the YTI committee for organising another lively and informative event, and to Andrew and Rachel for their presentation. With most of us working as freelancers it’s invaluable to have events where we can meet face-to-face, learn from each other, and talk about our gripes. And it’s always nice to have an excuse to eat cake too.