Translation in the age of AI

Navigating choppy waters in the wake of Google Translate and battening down the hatches in the face of ChatGPT

As a profession, translation has existed for thousands of years, and while it certainly evolved during that period, it has been majorly “disrupted” by the introduction of AI-based techniques such as machine learning. Disruptive technologies are understood to be innovations that significantly alter the way that consumers, industries or businesses operate. In the world of translation, several major disruptions have occurred:

  • end users can produce translations directly without going through a language service provider,
  • translators are increasingly post-editing draft translations that have been produced by automatic tools,
  • and clients can choose from a range of services from cheaper “good enough” translations that have been lightly edited to the more expensive and more heavily edited “publication quality” translations.

On the surface, these disruptions to the industry appear to usher in positive changes – translators can increase their productivity and earn more money, while end users can cut out the middleman or choose a product that is fit for purpose and competitively priced. But there is also a darker side to the issue.

For instance, end users without a background in translation may not be fully able to distinguish appropriate machine translation use cases from riskier ones. In addition, machine translation is increasingly being used in the background, meaning that people could become passive consumers of machine-translated text without realizing it or having a say in the matter. And now that ChatGPT has entered the picture, even more changes are upon us. 

In a world where new tools continue to emerge and machine translation-mediated communication is on the rise, it is crucial for people to improve their machine translation literacy in order to become informed and responsible participants in the process. Join us for a discussion on the ups and downs of translation in the age of AI, and take away some tips for enhancing your own machine translation literacy. 

The event starts on 1 March at 16.00 EET time at Lossi 3, room 218. The discussion is moderated by Reelika Saar, Junior Research Fellow in Translation Studies at the University of Tartu, who will also talk about the representation of machine translation in Estonia. 

You can also watch the lecture via Zoom. Join using the Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 933 9322 3206
Passcode: 775218


Lynne Bowker

Lynne Bowker is Full Professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, where she holds a cross-appointment between the School of Translation and Interpretation and the School of Information Studies. In 2020, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for her contributions on translation technologies. During the 2022/2023 academic year, she is a NAWA Visiting Researcher in the Scholarly Communication Research Group at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, where she is working on a project about plain language and machine translation. She is the author of several books, including Computer-Aided Translation Technology (University of Ottawa Press, 2002), Working with Specialized Language (Routledge, 2002), Machine Translation and Global Research (Emerald, 2019) and the open access book De-mystifying Translation (Routledge, 2023).