On Survival and Pride: A Translator’s Challenge in the AI Era

Sometimes, I get offended whenever I hear Google Translate suffices for translating one’s articles or texts from Bahasa Indonesia to the English Language. This isn’t because I am a freelance translator but it’s more on how shallow one perceives translation’s job.

For sure, I use Google Translator quite a lot. I use AI more like a dictionary. I prefer Google Translator because it saves my time as compared to open thick dictionary that is put on my bookshelf. Google Translate offers me with reliable synonyms, antonyms and sentence use. I don’t depend on it for translating sentences or even paragraphs. I once used Google Translate for translating some sentences but the result was confusing. I didn’t obtain readable meanings out from it. It turned out that Google Translate only reads words and will translate words as mere words.

Let me share with you that sometimes I find translating is more difficult for creative writing. That especially goes for translating from Bahasa Indonesia to the English Language. I prefer to receive jobs on creative writing, for instance, to translation jobs. A striking contrast of thoughts between Eastern thought pattern and that of the Western creates a problem in translating. While in creative writing I deal with own my thought, I don’t see the same case with translating. Of course, in translating, I have to translate other people’ thoughts or opinions into proper meanings in the English Language.

And to be honest, that can sometimes drive me crazy, LOL! Not all of my clients have good writing skills. It’s very common that I have to dig deeper into what original texts say in Bahasa Indonesia first. After I come to proper sentences in Bahasa Indonesia, I will start translating them into the English Language. This takes more time than real translating itself.

Not all translating jobs are that tough, though. What I’m trying to say is that a decent translator will firstly know that translating is all about shifting or carrying the meaning of certain texts into the most proper ones in the targeted language. With that goal in mind, you may find totally different translated meanings from word-per-word rough translation.

To arrive in that exact or most proper meanings, a translator sometimes will have to work super-hard. He or she will have to check up different dictionaries. He or she will have to do a little research. Lastly, he or she will have to determine whether or not the translated words are well understood by readers of the targeted language.

Localization brings another headache, at least for me. In general, localization means translating certain terms from original texts or words into that of the targeted language. I call this one as a daunting task because not all localization words or terms have exact (and hopefully short) words in the targeted language.

For example, the word pecel. This Indonesian word refers to vegetables with peanut condiment. Some may translate the word into Indonesian salad but for me, that’s too broad. Pecel contains levels of condiment and spices. While salad tastes plain, pecel feels spicy and hot depending on the number of chillies you use to make condiment.

In Indonesia, we have very rich localization terms that range from food to local jargons. Our diverse tribes and local languages are among contributors for the fact. Thus, you can imagine how excruciating a translator can be when she or he has to translate the terms into targeted languages.

I use a few numbers of artificial intelligence or online dictionaries for helping me with translating jobs. With Google Translate, I can roughly come to the conclusion that artificial intelligence or machine, like Google Translate, is very well below a good translator’s capacity.

Even so, I can’t deny when many people start depending on it as compared to the human brain like me. For trivial tasks, of course, it feels okay if you use the machine. It’s understandable that some will hesitate to pay some amount of money to a translator, editor or proofreader.

But for important articles either those are job-related or not, trusting a translator is more recommended. This especially goes for original articles with poor writing. Once you feel confused with the original texts, better ask for translator’s help.

On the other hand, I myself as a translator mustn’t get relaxed with the AI era. I have to realize that not all people know how difficult a translator’s task can be. Some may underestimate my job while others take this profession seriously. At any rate, improving my skill is necessary for any seasons.

For myself, comprehending then updating our localization terms is on top of the list. Another important point has always been about understanding the meanings of original texts before translating them.

At first, survival is inevitable. A translator requires money to survive. At least for me, I feel a bit afraid that the machine will make people, or, potential new clients, turning away from me. They choose the machine instead.

Above all else, pride matters most. Not in arrogance sort of thing. But I take pride in hours of efforts to translate just one or two pages given their high difficulty levels. I respect myself for reading, researching or recalling information that packs my mind for just translating one or two sentences. And for that reasons, it makes real sense that a translator sets high tariff.

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