The BDÜ – German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators – met from 22 – 24 November 2019 at the World Conference Center in Bonn. Not only the historical venue, but also the contributions of the BDÜ Conference 2019 were impressive!
Under the motto “Translating and Interpreting 4.0 – New Paths in the Digital Age” there was a colourful programme on topics such as machine translation, digitisation, interpreting and the associated tools.
What DeepL & Co cannot (yet) do in the age of 4.0
My highlight was the lecture by Patrick Mustu, who demonstrated how to bring DeepL to its knees with the peculiarities of legal language. Here are some examples:
- DeepL “wants” to translate every word at all costs. There are words in English that we also use untranslated in German, such as Compliance or Whistleblower.
- The compulsive translation of every single word is also the reason why machine-translated texts are very similar in length to the source text. Only a human specialist translator (ideally for legal language) can provide the transfer service here: Capturing the information from the source text, which usually comes from another legal system, and finding the most accurate description in the target language. Patrick Mustu has pitted DeepL against a translator with the following result:
- Legal texts often contain expressions from Latin. With such “language mixes”, machine translation is still difficult:
On the whole, DeepL delivers astonishingly good results. We all know that by now. Even these translations should be treated with caution, because mistakes in content can always creep in, which can easily be overlooked due to the good grammar knowledge of DeepL. Mr. Mustu showed us further limits of DeepL in his very appealing presentation.
Making machine translation available in companies
Lousia Flavel talked about this in her lecture “The 21st century translator’s quagmire – how to introduce machine translation without losing your job”. The demand for machine translation is there. And we are noticing this at blc. Companies want to use machine translation – be it to “copy paste” a short text or to accelerate the internal translation workflow. Free systems here fall through the cracks of information security. Paid services are secure and can be trained in the corporate language. However, this requires know-how. And who has this know-how? The translators! As language experts, they can actively and significantly participate in such implementations.
Man is far from obsolete
I think the BDÜ conference showed very well that human translators and interpreters will not disappear from the scene so quickly. However, they must open themselves up to the new technologies. Because machine translation is no longer a laughing stock.
The contributions I saw at the BDÜ conference all dealt with the symbiosis between man and machine. The conclusion was the same as at Tekom: not man or machine, but man AND machine. Highly qualified technical translators are particularly in demand. Because when in doubt, they are the ones who recognise the errors in content that the machine can make.