The Translator’s Perspective by Jost Zetzsche
Oregon dunes, 60 km of the in the US. It’s
live right in the heart of the
a majestic stretch of more than largest coastal sand dunes unspeakably beautiful.
fact, standing in some
areas makes me feel like to
shared my sentiments about our unique
landscape, inspiring him to start his
Dune saga here. (Readers my age will know what I’m talking about.) There’s an interesting story about our dunes, though. One of unintended consequences. Like many dunes, these are wandering dunes. This makes for interesting, ever-shifting scenery, but it wasn’t deemed helpful when the dunes also wandered over roads and houses and other important structures. So in the early 1900s, local experts decided to plant non-native European beach grass to stabilize the sand. And it worked! Our wandering dunes were finally subdued. What no one had foreseen, though, was that the aggressive grass eventually began to take over the dunes, forming a layer of topsoil thick enough for other plants to grow. Today, vegetation covers more than 80% of the sand dunes. In another 50 years they will most likely be gone completely.
Why do I tell this story? Because it feels personal — not a day goes by when I’m not out on the beach marveling at what’s left of the dunes — and because the unintended consequences remind me of another story. Only this one is about machine translation. Readers of my column know that my interest in machine translation is not primarily in the alltoo-common process of post-editing of machine translation (PEMT). I’m convinced that there are better and more productive ways to work with machine translation, ways that help the translator do what she was trained to do: drive the translation rather than be driven by the translation. I know this sounds outrageous to some in the machine translation community who manage very high-quality, in-domain MT engines whose sugg e s t i o n s typically require very few
I’m convinced that there are better and more productive ways to work with machine translation, ways that help the translator do what she was trained to do: drive the translation rather than be driven by the translation.