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Monday, September 25, 2017

The chasm between top management and the trenches

TMs, augmented translation, and machine translation—they all have the same goal: replace humans, who are an expense, with an automatic solution which can reduce or even eliminate the need to pay people.

Interestingly enough, these economic concerns are the same reasons companies try to replace experienced project managers with interns.

This is the flow of the industry. TM tools, after all, are meant to enable a company to discount linguists’ work. Linguists even have to pay for this discount by buying the TM tool (in most cases).

Underpinning this is the idea that technology can replicate the work of a specialist linguist so that they can be replaced with a cheaper (or free) generalist. It means one can swap one linguist for another because this technology assists their word choices (although “correct” translation is a lot more than proper word choices and the assist from technology often does not lead to better translation—we pointed this out and coined the “over reverence phenomenon” years ago).

The possible savings are a tempting thing for the C-level folk in localization companies—imagine the cost reduction—and profit increase—if one did not have to pay so much to those pesky translators!

However, the clarion call from production is the same—the need for individual experts and individual subject specialists. Only these human beings can adapt the style and substance to a certain client.

The needs from clients also are clear. They need competent project managers to sort out the mid-project changes that are inevitably part of any project. Harried interns are rarely about rise above hectoring in their efforts to force linguists to adhere to tightened deadlines or other changes.

So this demonstrates the long-standing chasm between top management and the trenches where the work is done. More and more systems with little to show for it, but more bureaucracy…