Are Translators Also Responsible for the Current State of the Translation Sector?
This post may not please everyone, but there’s something I’ve been wanting to say out loud for a while now.
In my opinion, translators also contributed, to some extent, to the uncontrolled automation of translation work that is affecting our jobs.
Why? By having accepted, for years, to post-edit (or rather rewrite) content at rates that were far too low. All the while not worrying enough about the fact that their translations were reused again and again to feed engines.
Post-edition is NOT a requirement to succeed as a translator. You don’t have to offer this service by default to please clients and make a living.
There are clients who care about quality and are willing to pay you fairly for HUMAN translation. They won’t throw you away like a tissue because you (rightly) refuse to be paid 0.04 EUR per source word to correct the unusable output of a machine.
I know, finding such clients is hard, and prospecting can often leave you discouraged since results are far from being immediate. But I don’t think being fatalistic is a good approach either. It’s not because someone tries to convince you that machine translation (MT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are the new panacea that you have to side with them. Especially when this person has no clue whatsoever about the translation process.
When you see ads from companies looking for translators willing to post-edit marketing (😱), legal (😱) or medical (😱) content, don’t assume that this is the new normal. IT IS NOT. We have to fight against these practices and educate end clients to prove them that proceeding like this is just the recipe for disaster.
That being said, if so many companies are now aggressively promoting MT and offering post-edition as the only option to linguists, it’s also because we sort of let them. So much so that it’s almost become difficult for us to complain about the chaotic use of AI and automation when we have, for so long, jumped on post-edition requests reaching our mailboxes.
I’ve been a translator for 13 years and I refuse post-edition requests, even from regular clients who may, one day, decide to give MT a try. I am not making 10,000 EUR per month as a translator (who really is, though? Beware of all these braggers!), but I never lost a client after I said no.
If you continuously provide quality, if you are a reliable professional (e.g., you ask questions when in doubt, or offer added value by highlighting issues in the source text), it’s very unlikely that they will suddenly let you go (or if they do, well, maybe they were not that great after all, so good riddance).
It’s time to act and stop being passive. We all have to make ends meet, definitely, but I’m convinced you don’t have to blindly accept post-editing requests for that.