Kommersant UK interviews Yelena McCafferty
Updated: Sep 9
I am delighted to have been interviewed by Kommersant UK about why professional translators and interpreters are still in demand, if the language profession faces any threats, what makes a good translator and interpreter, why errors happen. In this interview I also give top tips to beginner translators.
— Why does business still need professional translators if there is Google Translate, and the quality of machine translation is improving all the time? Are you nervous you might be out of work in ten years’ time?
Google Translate is indeed part of our life, and there is no denial that the quality of machine translation has been approving year after year. If about fifteen years ago I was routinely translating business correspondence, these days a lot of businessmen manage emails without going to a professional translator. And more often than not they are not fluent in the language of their business partners.
It doesn’t mean that the business world will do just fine without translation services though. Apart from correspondence there are a lot of business development processes, for example you need to do marketing brochures, presentations, draft contracts, create multilingual websites. And a company keen to do a lucrative deal with a foreign customer will make sure to use a professional translator to avoid any misunderstandings.
Incidentally, internet marketing specialists working for Google warn website owners against using their Google Translate tool. They claim that search engines reject automatically translated content. Such pages may even be considered spam.
As for the fear of losing work, forward-looking translators keep up-to-date with trends and modern technologies, using translation memories for instance (which is a different concept from machine translation). This speeds up and eases our work, helping to maintain consistency of terminology for a particular project. Linguists are indeed wary of the future, but if you think logically, the fewer new specialists enter the market, assuming that this profession is not very promising, the smaller the competition among us, experienced practising translators. Even if you take post editing of machine translations, you can’t do without a professional.
What’s more, certified translations can only be done by an accredited linguist. Translation certification is often requested by private clients submitting documents to various organisations. However, companies, too, use professionals, for instance to certify translations of foreign qualifications obtained by job applicants they are hiring.
You can read this interview in Russian in full in the online edition of Kommersant UK.
Yelena McCafferty is a director of Talk Russian Ltd, an award-winning Russian translator and interpreter based in the UK.