Automation anxiety and translators

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Abstract

Translation is currently described as a profession under pressure from automation, falling prices and globalized competition. Translators’ stance on machine translation (MT) is famously negative, but the economic dimension of this positioning is scarcely researched and often unclear. This article provides an analysis of translators’ blog and forum postings contextualized within general trends in employment, the economy and work automation. The analysis concentrates on MT and pay. Two key findings are reported. First, MT was found to be a secondary issue in translators’ comments on pay; most grievances were based on business practices themselves. Second, most criticisms of MT were rooted not in fears of being outperformed by MT systems, but rather in the technology’s limitations and market consequences. This article calls for a broadening of translators’ role across areas of specialization and argues that, in the debate on translation’s future, MT cannot be decoupled from its economic effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages22
JournalTranslation Studies
Volume13
Issue number1
Early online date29 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • work automation
  • translators
  • machine translation
  • translation rates
  • translation technology

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