We tend to believe that computers are very good at calculations and repeatable, logical processes, but less good at tasks requiring creativity, abstract thought and tasks that can be performed a number of different ways. Translation, remembering back to my days as a Modern Languages undergrad, was all of these things and more that computers *shouldn’t* be able to do, so I confess that, since my move into the Technology and Consulting spaces, I’ve been a little surprised to see Machine Translation take off at the rate it has.

…but indeed the forecast that the Machine Translation market in Europe will reach $390 million by 2024 (see below article) is not to be sniffed at. So are translators all going to be out of jobs in the next few years? No – I don’t see Google Translate passing language Finals papers for some years yet (sorry – languages students!). As is so often the case with automation, machine translation software is not taking value from the existing translators, who, it’s true, still provide a ‘human touch’ beyond the major industry tools. Instead, with gradual improvements in translation quality now reaching a level acceptable in a much wider range of use cases, the technology, through its lower price point and faster turnarounds, is opening up new customer groups hitherto inaccessible to the translation industry.

What this means is that things that were not previously *worth* translating or without a certain enough source of revenue, such as product reviews, blogs, social media posts suddenly become so. Expressed differently (read: if you’re a real nerd for the industry), the required minimum potential revenue increase or cost saving from translating is rapidly sinking as the price for translation to a given standard comes down. The market is rapidly developing two sides: the high-quality, high-value market that has always existed and will likely continue to be owned by human translators; and the lower-value but potentially much higher volume market rapidly being opened up by machines.

Of course, understanding where those use cases lie in an industry and their true value to the firm, not to mention the interfacing to existing systems, process re-design and skilling employees, is no small operation, but the potential is there, and I have to imagine it will only grow with each coming year…