Dr. Bellos or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Machine Translation

A 4min video tells translators it may be time to celebrate the proliferation of machine translations:

“Far from putting translators out of a job, it will support the extension of translation as a major profession and a central part of global civilisation.”


This is the view expressed in Big Think’s intriguing short video discussing machine translation with David Bellos (he’s everywhere at the moment).

He expounds his opinion that machine translation will continue to require human translation to “feed off”. The limitations of machine translation are notorious, meaning sensible translation is predominantly human translation. However, Bellos holds that the expansion of expectation of communication allowed by machine translation creates more space for professional translation. As he puts it:

“The overall picture is this.  The more machine translation there is the more translation will happen, the more people will expect to be able to communicate with other folk and the more they will realize that although machines can clear the ground, the actual translation has to be done by somebody because language is human behavior.  It’s machine simulated, but they’re not doing anything like what a human translator is doing.” 

Fascinating viewing, and a refreshingly optimistic analysis: what’s your view?

2 Replies to “Dr. Bellos or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Machine Translation”

  1. I believe there’s a long way to go but there’s one day computer can be comparable to a brain’s function like image and sound recognition and processing. Only on that day we will be able to use such babel fish of machine translation. How long is it, no one know. Maybe a couple of decades?

  2. This is a great effort to improve the efficiency of translation services. I was recently asked to help my friend write for her jewelry blog. Her store reaches to a myriad of locations all of the globe. I wanted to start writing segments that would appeal to her non american demographic, so I started looking into translation services. I found a great deal of machine based translation services that helped me target my audience. They work great, but I hope they are unable to steal jobs away from actual people in that field. Thank you for sharing the importance of these types of options.

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