Behind the Screen: Rethinking Job Satisfaction of Language Professionals in the Era of Machine Translation

by Athina Fatsea, PhD Researcher, the Ionian University, Greece.

4 min read

Machine translation (MT) has revolutionized the field of translation, bringing both efficiency and challenges to language professionals. The impacts of this shift may be obvious not in terms of lost employment, but in changes in the tasks they perform and in job quality. With the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI), translators rely on automated tools to assist in their work, significantly altering their daily routine. While these tools offer quick and accessible translations, they also pose a double-edged sword for job satisfaction and worker well-being.

To be more specific, MT has streamlined the translation process, that has led to increased productivity and potentially more opportunities. Today, translators work with machine translation and perform post-editing (MTPE). This task refers to the process of revising machine-generated translations to ensure quality and accuracy. The impact on job satisfaction is nuanced. Some translators appreciate the assistance of MT as a helpful tool, enabling them to focus on more creative and complex aspects of their work. However, others may feel a sense of threat to their profession, with concerns even about job security, within with a higher-paced work environment.

Traditionally, translators engaged in the creative and intellectually stimulating task of translation, using their unique translation style and linguistic signature. With the advent of MT, their role has shifted towards reviewing the machine-generated output. During post-editing, language professionals have to decide whether to edit an MT result or translate the sentence from scratch. While this process is undoubtedly more time-efficient, some translators find themselves yearning for the deeper engagement and satisfaction derived from the intricacies of original translation work. Therefore, the impact on job satisfaction of translators lies in the shift from being creators to validators of content and guardians of quality. This change can be challenging for language professionals, as they grapple with the trade-off between efficiency and the intrinsic satisfaction derived from the craftsmanship of translation.

As the translation industry navigates this transformation, it raises broader questions about the evolving relationship between AI and various professions. The experience of translators serves as an early indicator of the impact of automation on job satisfaction and the nature of work. The future of work is inextricably linked to AI. In this context, we should embrace AI as a tool and harness its strengths to boost human skills. Nevertheless, this has to be achieved with regard to workers’ well-being which is frequently disregarded in talks about automation and AI, albeit its societal significance.


About the Author

Athina Fatsea is a PhD Candidate in Cultural Heritage and Disaster Risk Management at the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting (DFLTI) and the UNESCO Chair on Threats to Cultural Heritage of the Ionian University (IU). She is the Project Manager of the Transatlantic Periscope; a project of Bertelsmann Foundation in partnership with the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). She also works on translation projects for the institutions of the European Union. She serves as a Research Fellow at the Institute of International Economic Relation (IDOS/IIER) and at the Laboratory for Geocultural Analyses (GeoLab).

Technology, Employment and Wellbeing is a new FES blog that offers original insights on the ways new technologies impact the world of work. The blog focuses on bringing different views from tech practitioners, academic researchers, trade union representatives and policy makers.

picture alliance / zb | Hans Wiedl

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