As more of the global population comes online, people need MT to access the content that interests them even if only in a gist-sense, and today we see that there is growing momentum in the development and advancement of the state-of-the-art (SOTA) on “low-resource” (languages with limited or scarce data) languages to further accelerate global MT use.
MT technology has been around in some form for the last 70 years and unfortunately has a long history of over-promising and under-delivering. A history of eMpTy promises as it were. However, the more recent history of data-driven MT has been especially troubling for translators, as SMT and NMT pioneers have repeatedly claimed to have reached human parity.
These over-exuberant claims about the accomplishment of MT technology, have driven translator compensation down and have made many would-be translators reconsider their career choices.
It does not help that a more careful examination of the human parity claims by experts shows that these claims are not true, or perhaps only true for a tiny sample of test sentences.
Many say, that the market perception of exaggerated MT capabilities has damaged translator livelihood and there is often great frustration by many who use MT in production environments where the high-quality human equivalent translation is expected but never delivered, without significant additional effort and expense.
To add insult to injury, the overly optimistic MT performance claims have also resulted in many technology-incompetent LSPs attempting to use MT to reduce costs by forcing translators to post-edit low-quality MT output at low rates.
It does not seem to matter that most LSPs have yet to properly learn to use MT in localization production work, according to a survey of MT use by LSPs done by Common Sense Advisory last year.
It is also very telling that the author wrote a blog post on MT post-editing compensation in March 2012 that has had the widest readership of any post he has written ever, and continues even in 2022 to be an actively read post!
Thus, often "monolithic MT" is considered a dark, unuseful, and unwelcome factor in the lives of translators. However, this state of affairs is often a result of incompetent and unethical use of the technology rather than a core technology characteristic.
The Content and Demand Explosion
However, the news on MT is not all doom and gloom from the translator's perspective. There is a huge demand for language translation as evidenced by the volume of use of public MT, and by the digital transformation imperatives for global enterprises driving the need for better professional MT.
Both public MT and enterprise MT are building momentum. The demand for content from across the globe is exponential which means that translation volumes will also likely explode. And, while much of it can be handled with carefully optimized Enterprise MT, it will also need an ever-growing pool of tech-savvy translators to drive continuously improving MT technology.
World Bank estimates say that by 2022, yearly total internet traffic is projected to increase by about 50 percent from 2020 levels, reaching 4.8 zettabytes, equal to 150,000 GB per second. The growth in global internet traffic is as dazzling as the volume. Personal data are expected to represent a significant share of the total volume of data being transferred cross-border.