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  • Black Country Translator

Is PEMT a Blessing in Disguise for Language Industry Newcomers?

Despite the apprehension of most translators towards PEMT, we must accept that the language services industry is gradually experiencing a shift from translation proper, as it were, to PEMT work. With the adoption of NMT, which is often characterised by highly idiomatic and accurate translations, this shift has raised fears once more that machines will replace human translators in the future. But, rather than fearing changes to translation technology, would it not be better for us to embrace these changes and use them to our advantage? As a newcomer to the industry, you would think that I would be concerned given talk of my job potentially becoming obsolete over the next few decades due to marked improvements in MT output and other translation technologies. However, the PEMT projects on which I have worked have provided me with renewed optimism, and I am about to tell you why.

One of the translation agencies that has recently taken me on runs every single one of their projects through its custom MT engine first, meaning that their work is exclusively PEMT-based. They are also a specialist technical translation agency. It would therefore seem strange that I chose to apply to work for them being a specialist in sport, tourism and international development, but, thanks to the opportunity to do PEMT work, I have felt comfortable tackling content that I would usually avoid. By leveraging previous translations of similar content, this particular agency's MT engine produces accurate output, thus helping me to understand concepts related to highly technical fields that a mere linguist such as myself - I refer to myself as such, since I hold a BA in languages rather than another subject area - would struggle to comprehend, even when conducting my own research using techniques adopted at university such as the consultation of parallel texts. The accuracy of this MT output is also supported by glossaries compiled by subject-field experts, which, in turn, reduces the possibility of the inconsistent use of terminology - a major concern of mine as a junior translator working on projects related to an unfamiliar field. Another advantage of these projects is that they allow for greater consistency in terms of style; quick Google searches that I have performed while working on these projects confirm that certain phrases generated by raw MT output are expressed in accordance with domain-specific phraseology. This is a relief from a personal point of view, since, given my limited experience of technical domains, post-editing such phrases rather than translating them from scratch reduces the possibility of my personal writing style prevailing over that expected by the target audience.

The PEMT work that I have carried out thus far has therefore facilitated my efforts to achieve end-product quality, by ensuring terminological and stylistic consistency, and the accurate rendering of the ST's meaning in the TT. Thanks to this, I have not only gained confidence working on projects pertaining to fields in which I have no prior experience, but also potentially added another specialism to my translation portfolio. If, down the line, it turns out that I have not managed to achieve the latter, at least I will be able to say that I tried to diversify during the early stages of my career, and thus, not damaged my prospects of succeeding in the languages services industry by putting all of my eggs in one basket.

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