- Companies will pay for MT — and the development of it, further research, staff to operate it etc. — in order to avoid having to pay translators.
- MT is now — ironically! — combatting its image of an easy thing to do, just like translation should. Not translation but MT is being presented as the respectable art or science which requires skill.
Look at Asia Online's banner close to the bottom of Pangeanic's blog post.
Here's also what they claim at AsiaOnline:
On the other hand, the complexity of high quality MT can be daunting. To succeed requires a significant amount of skill, a deep understanding of the different approaches to MT and MT technology, a deep understanding of the data used to customize MT and a range of tools, skills and knowledge that permit optimizing, managing, manufacturing and fine tuning of the data to deliver the highest possible quality. These skills are generally in short supply and are not available to most in-house. (Emphasis added.)
The text is a fragment of content-driven copy, i.e. text which still sells or achieves a PR goal (e.g. awareness, loyalty, incentive to switch), but does so through creating informative content rather than advertising.
Let me show you a couple of characteristic PR/marketing moments in the text. To avoid any misunderstanding: PR/marketing is not pejorative. It's not (necessarily) a dark sales ploy. It's persuasion and advocacy, and its techniques are often used without conscious deliberation by people who want to convince others of something. I'm not 'unmasking' here, just showing you how persuasion works here.
It 'leverages' scarcity, i.e. presents MT as rare goods, which sell better because demand outgrows supply.
It 'leverages' the techy side of MT by justifying the client in not being able to grasp it fully — it's too complex for you, don't worry, it's not your fault and you aren't any less a smart person if you can't fully grasp it. NOT: You can't hope to understand it, forget doing it on your own even if you're a full bilingual, just hire a professional and pay up — which is often the way we, translators, talk.
So, the MT guys keep the tech aspect well short of losing them the client's attention and interest. The result is respect and admiration rather than headache, loss of interest and dismissal of the idea as uncomprehensible and of doubtful viability. Which is different from what we, translators, achieve or even try. Rather, we tell the client we're necessary whether he likes it or not — which is not quite endearing — or we try to make ourselves useful, often in ways conflicting with self-respect, which clients and agencies do pick up on.
By contrast, look how MT dodges both!
The copy also still reassures the client that the highest possible quality can be achieved, even: 'delivered'. It would be unfair to make too much of 'deliver', since just about everybody else talks like that, and 'deliver quality' is pretty much an established collocation, but 'deliver' is still a bit of a marketing buzzword which 'leverages' mental associations with physical delivery (right in your mailbox, on time) or delivering on a promise.
In other words, the paragraph presents MT as something too complex for the average person or business to 'deliver' but still something a reasonable businessperson would want to use.
Like a good ad, the copy keeps the editorial style while unloading a whole slew of positive factors. It conveys just enough complexity to earn the reader's respect and concession of status, but not enough to make the reader lose faith in his own ability to make an informed judgement regarding its viability. Sort of like engine parameters in a sophisticated car ad or encyclopaedic details in a high-class food ad. See Ogilvy classics. I particularly have in mind the Rolls-Royce ad and the Guinness ad as good illustrations of the editorial/tidbit technique.
Other than a potentially transpiring notion that MT is capable of reliably achieving the highest possible translation quality — one can't disagree with the facts in that copy.
In short, they're doing their PR and marketing right. They're getting it right as far as copy goes.
The problem, from a translator's point of view, is that:
- A machine's skill to translate is valued. A human's is not.
- MT skills are clearly being the subject of a PR initiative to raise their profile, which means both awareness and status, plus positive emotions and associations such as respect, admiration, reliability and robustness.
- MT is an investment, human translation is a cost. Guess which one wins? Okay: Investment always wins over cost.
- R+D time and money, and marketing and PR budgets, go to MT and not human translation. There will be or already are clients who prefer — other things being equal — to put money in machine translation rather than human translation as a matter of preference.
Re: #2 but also in connection with #4, don't count on the MT-driven part of the 'translation industry' to raise the profile of human translation, make it respected, admired and well-rewarded. It's in their interest to keep the profile of human translation low — and lower — and raise the profile of MT instead.
Individual translations can't do that, either, because we don't have the 'leverage' and we didn't become translators to be half-time PR and marketing paraprofessionals.
Rather, it's up to translator associations to give human translators some serious PR. Can't do much of that when they rely on financing from MT-related companies, though.