Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sunsetting CAT

For decades Computer Assisted Translation based on sentence translation memories has been the standard tool for going global. Although CAT had been originally designed with a mid-90s PC in mind and there have been proposals for changing the underlying data model, the basic architecture of CAT has been left unchanged. The dramatic advances in Neural Machine Translation (NMT) have now made the whole product category obsolete.

NMT Crossing the Rubicon

While selling translation memory I always said, machines will only be able to translate once they understand text; and if one day they would, MT will be a mere footnote of a totally different revolution. Now it turns out that neural networks, stacked deeply enough, do understand us sufficiently to create a well formed translation. Over the last two years NMT has progressed dramatically. It has now achieved “human parity” for important language pairs and domains. That changes everything.

Industry Getting it Wrong

Most players in the $50b translation industry, service providers but also their customers, think that NMT is just another source for a translation proposal. In order to preserve their established way of delivery they pitch the concept of “augmented translation”. However, if the machine translation is as good (or bad) as human translation, who would you have revise it, another translator or a subject matter expert? 

Yes, the expert who knows what the text is about. The workflow is thus changing to automatic translation and expert revision. Translation becomes faster, cheaper, and better!

Different Actors, Different Tools

A revision UI will have to look very different to a CAT tool. The most dramatic change is that a revision UI has to be extremely simple. To support the current model of augmented translation, CAT tools have become very powerful. However, their complexity can only be handled by a highly demanded group of maybe a couple ten thousand of professional translators globally.

For the new workflow a product design is required, that can support dozens of millions of, mostly occasional, expert revisers. Also, the revisers need to be pointed to the sentences which need revision. This requires multilingual knowledge.

Disruption Powered by Coreon

Coreon can answer the two key questions for using NMT in a professional translation workflow: a) which parts of the translated text are not fit-for-purpose and b) why not? To do so the multilingual knowledge system classifies linguistic assets, human resources, QA, and projects in a unified system which is expandable, dynamic, and provides fallback paths. In the future linguists will engineer localization workflows such as Semiox and create multilingual knowledge in Coreon. "Doing words” is left to NMT.