The 35th ASLIB conference opens today, Thursday 28th November and runs for two days in Paddington, London. The annual ‘Translating and the Computer Conference’ serves to highlight the importance of technology within the translation industry and to showcase new technologies available to localization professionals.
KantanMT was keen to have a look at how technology has shaped the translation industry throughout history so we took a look at some of the translation technology milestones over the last 50 years.
The computer has had a long history, so it’s no surprise that developments in computer technology greatly affect how we communicate. Machine Translation research dates back to the early 1940s, although its development was stalled because of negative feedback regarding the accuracy of early MT output. The ALPAC (Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee) report published in 1966, prompted researchers to look for alternative methods to automate the translation process.
In terms of modern development, the real evolution of ‘translation and the computer’ began in the 1970s, when more universities started carrying out research and development on automated translation. At this point, the European Coal and Steel Community in Luxemburg and the Federal Armed Forces Translation Agency in Mannheim, Germany were already making use of text related glossaries and automatic dictionaries. It was also around this time that translators started to come together to form translation companies/language service providers who not only translated, but also took on project management roles to control the entire translation process.
Developing CAT tools
Translation technology research gained momentum during the early 1980s as commercial content production increased. Companies in Japan, Canada and Europe who were distributing multilingual content to their customers, now needed a more efficient translation process. At this time, translation technology companies began developing and launching Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) technology.
Dutch company, INK was one of the first to release desktop translation tools for translators. These tools originally called INK text tools, sparked more research into the area. Trados, a German translation company, started reselling INK text tools and this led to the research and development of the TED translation editor, an initial version of the translator’s workbench.
The 1990s were an exciting time for the translation industry. Translation activities that were previously kept separate from computer software development were now being carried out together in what was termed localization. The interest in localizing for new markets led to translation companies and language service providers merging both technology and translation services, becoming Localization Service Providers.
Trados launched their CAT tools in 1990, with Multiterm, for terminology management and the Translation Memory (TM) software Translators Workbench in 1994. ATRIL, Madrid launched a TM system in 1993 and STAR (Software, Translation, Artwork, Recording) also released Transit, a TM system in 1994. The ‘fuzzy match’ feature was also developed at this time and quickly became a standard feature of TM.
Increasingly, translators started taking advantage of CAT tools to translate more productively. This lead to a downward pressure on price, making translation services more competitive.
As we move forward, technology continues to influence translation. Global internet diffusion has increased the level of global communication and has changed how we communicate. We can now communicate in real-time, on any device and through any medium. Technology will continue to develop, and become faster and more adaptive to multi-language users, and demand for real-time translation will drive the further developments in the areas of automated translation solutions.