Translators in the Age of Image and Speech

April 11th, 2010
In the age of image and speech, the role of the translator (regardless if he's a freelance translation service provider or a professional translation agent) or even human translation in general has shifted and transformed quite a bit. Sweeping, dramatic changes have been happening in the ways in which professional translation is conducted at present, particularly in the realms of industrial translation service (the category to which general non-literary translations, technical translations, scientific translations, medical translations, legal translations, and commercial translations belong to). This is mostly thanks to the advent of globalization, localization, the Internet, the personal computer, and the unremitting development of mass communication in the past few decades or so. To be true, there are also other factors that have influenced how professional translation is conducted nowadays, such as the increasing use of English as the lingua franca (also known as "bridge language" or "vehicular language") of choice for the sciences, technology, law, and international business as well as the growing utilization of CAT tool programs and machine translation. The pace of this evolution in human translation work has sped up at such an incredible rate that it's quite hard to foretell how translators will be doing their projects in the future and what this particular profession would appear like ten or even five years from now. The Modern Trends in Translation Work In the age of image and speech, localization and globalization rule supreme; as such, "translation writers" have become a dying breed. If present trends were to continue unabated, then future industrial translators will probably need to become jacks-of-all-trades in their designated line of work. Because of contemporary concepts such as multitasking and time management, future translation companies will soon be forced to hire multilingual proofreaders and copy editors in order to fully streamline their operations. At present, translators are still talented writers who incidentally have knowledge of two or more languages, but the new breed of translator appears to be more of a multilingual grammar checker than an expert in multilingual creative writing. One particular issue that hasn't been sufficiently addressed by individual translation experts or the translation industry as a whole is the fact that our society has come to the end of the Gutenberg Era. That's the reason why this age we live in is dubbed as an age of "image" and "speech"; the written word is no longer our exclusive source of education, information, and overall knowledge. Nowadays, the spoken word and the moving image are fast becoming this generation's mediums of choice when it comes to educating themselves in regards to the world around them. Innovations such as the phonograph player, the telephone, film, radio, television, the personal computer, the Internet, the cellular phone, and so on serve as signs of modern times. These seminal inventions have affected every aspect of our lives so absolutely that we take them for granted more often than not. Our mental processes and method of perception have shifted since the age of our grandfathers (and their grandfathers), so of course translation will naturally follow suit. In the upcoming age of multimedia communication, translations could theoretically and exclusively be done by computer, so the future could very well spell the end of the translation writer as we know him.

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