Despite a myriad of translation engines and web sites, human translation is still a very important job that requires a lot of experience and knowledge to be done properly.
It’s not just the language.
No-one in their right mind should tackle e.g. legal or technical translations if they’ve never worked in any of the fields (unless the job pays really, really well and it’s worth digging through books and Googling everything :)).
Translation work is well paid (and rightly so) – and thus quite expensive for the client.
After all, you usually pay for 1-3 passes of proofreading after the translation, depending on the type of document you are delivering.
And if it’s marketing or other commercial text, the translator needs to know how to write copy, too.
I am sure that in Brussels, where everyone and their dog have a translator in their rolodex (as just about everything is translated into more than 20 of EU’s official languages), this is a pressing issue.
There is a huge demand for cost-cutting through Machine Translation and Crowdsourced Translation – it’s one of those markets where the right solution can make a lot of people rich instantly – but we are not quite there yet.
We are still in the era of machine-aided human translation.
This means that the areas where money can be made right now are:
- Translation corpuses (example: http://evrokorpus.gov.si/)
- Translation memory tools (example: Trados)
- Seamless integration of dictionaries, thesauri, …
- Various tools for translators (e.g. tools that hide HTML and other tags in web pages)
Natural language processing, machine translation and various semantic technologies are already having beneficial effects on productivity in writing, research and language learning (look at Lingro, Zemanta, Google Translate, Systran), but we are still years away from being able to deliver quality localizations without an experienced human translator.
Fun fact: this post would cost about 25-50 EUR to translate by a professional
Disclosure: I used to do freelance translation and nowadays still occasionally do business as an agent and proofreader