3. TRANSLATION TOOLING
I was recently asked whether I use any kind of translation tools. My immediate reaction was - who doesn't? I already did more than 25 years ago when I first started translating, although then 'digital' and 'online' were not part of our daily language. The tools I had when starting out comprised a rainbow of dictionaries, glossaries, thesauri and any other specialist reference works you could get your hands on, from legal and financial to polytechnic and ICT. Of course, you also needed the bookshelves to accommodate all this paper! Interactive was a concept that tested your dexterity!
And then along came Windows and the whole landscape changed. A mouse still had a tail and there were CATs around, too. But after a bit of Tom-and-Jerrying, the shock of the revolution subsided and we warmed to the constant surge of offerings that, at first sight, seemed to make life easier. Dictionaries that could be integrated into your Word package - click and translate - and the growing availability of online reference. Of course, tools like Google Translate had their shortcomings in the beginning and many of us have laughed till we wept at some of the weird and wonderful textual concoctions served up. However, nowadays, if you're stuck in the middle of Bulgaria, say, and need to communicate with a local, your smartphone can help you out without fear of insulting a passer-by.
Progress has been remarkable. Nowadays, it's not 'digital' and 'online' that are flavour of the month but 'AI'. Although still a bit of an infant, AI is proving to be a boon to translators, enabling them to have the very latest tools at their fingertips - more sophisticated and reliable (if you pay) than the Google offer. But there's a nice saying that one man's meat is another man's poison. So it is with translation. One company's Raad van Bestuur may be the Executive Board but to another company it's the Board of Management. That's another cookie, as Van Gaal might say!
So while your sophisticated AI-assisted program can come up with a perfectly viable translation, one that is fit-for-purpose in many contexts, you still need to exercise human control - whether that's to check, for example, whether 'voorkomen' should be 'occur' or 'prevent', or to ensure that the terminology translated is consistent with the terminology actually used by the client. Mind you, as I have experienced all too often, you can still be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as technical boffins champion their own preference - give me a 'boorhamer' not a 'hamerboor'. You say tomato and I say tomato...but, of course, while both are right, one will still be wrong!
Back to the question I was asked. Absolutely I use translation tools! They are the hod carriers on the Word building site. And they will put the basis bricks where you want them, give you a floor, walls and ceiling and relieve you of all the effort of typing in from the one language to the other, grammar intact and even with a level of contextualisation not possible a few years ago. What does this mean, then? Well, it means that you as translator can work at the important end - shaping the text such that it takes account of the content, the specific framework of the client and keeps a focus on the purpose and target group of that particular text. You embellish the basic shell the tool generates with 'design and furnishings' appropriate to the needs and wishes of the client.
tools will probably catch up with us in the end but, for the moment, the human
translator is still at the control panel, pushing the buttons but very grateful
to the tireless assistant to which the digital age has given birth. By the
way, I still have the hard-copy versions of all those dictionaries - the Oxford
English and the American Heritage, Roget's Thesaurus - and glossaries.
Posterity has a powerful pull, even though it is confined to the attic!