Tag: Interpreter

England’s Top Judge Predicts ‘the End of Interpreters’

England’s Top Judge Predicts ‘the End of Interpreters’

The top judge in England and Wales has joined the machine translation debate. And he is not mincing his words. Speaking on “The Age of Reform” at the Sir Henry Brooke Annual Lecture on June 7, 2018, the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) of England and Wales stated “I have little doubt that within a few years high quality simultaneous translation will be available and see the end of interpreters”.

The Lord Chief Justice is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales. He is also the President of the Courts of England and Wales and responsible for representing the views of the judiciary to Parliament and the Government.

In his speech, the LCJ, Ian Burnett, also described current-state online instant translation as “the technological equivalent of the steam-engine” and “artificial intelligence that is the transformative technology of our age.”

He acknowledged, however, that the current ambition of “HMCTS [HM Courts & Tribunals Service] and Government is more modest but nonetheless important. It is to bring our systems up to date and to take advantage of widely available technology.”

The comment made by Lord Burnett of Maldon, who occupies one of the most senior judicial positions in the U.K., has been met with disbelief by some, with a number of industry professionals posting comments in response to an article published online by the Law Society Gazette on June 8, 2018.

“I have little doubt that within a few years high quality simultaneous translation will be available and see the end of interpreters” — Lord Burnett of Maldon

One anonymous comment read “…I feel that the LCJ simply does not have the slightest understanding of what interpreters do, or the difficulties they face, in the real world.” Another contributor said that “it is astonishing and very seriously worrying that any member of the judiciary, let alone the LCJ, can seriously think that a computer will in the foreseeable future, or even ever, be able accurately to translate the fine nuances of a legal argument or evidence.”

Interpretation services for the HMCTS are currently provided under a four-year MoJ contract worth GBP 232.4m (USD 289m), which thebigword took over from Capita TI in late 2016.

Slator reached out to language service provider (LSP) thebigword for comment, and CEO Larry Gould responded by agreeing on the one hand that “it is right to say that machine translation and AI are transforming the language sector, as they are many other parts of the economy.”

He continued in explaining that, “our experiences have taught us that AI still has a long way to go in being able to deliver the subtleties and nuances of language. At the moment these can be lost very quickly with machine translation, and this could have a big impact on access to justice and law enforcement if it is rushed out too fast.”

“(…) this could have a big impact on access to justice and law enforcement if it is rushed out too fast” — Larry Gould, CEO, thebigword

For an interpreter’s perspective, Slator also contacted Dr Jonathan Downie PhD, AITI, whose PhD was on client expectations of interpreters. Downie told us that “The Lord Chief Justice has done all interpreters a favour by raising the issue of machine interpreting and showing how persuasive the PR around it has been. He is also right that legal Interpreting is ripe for technological change.”

“We do have to remember however that so far the lab results of machine interpreting have been shown to be irrelevant to real-life. The Tencent fiasco with machine interpreting at the Boao Forum this year taught us that lesson, as has almost every public trial of the technology outside of basic conversations.”

“We do have to remember however that so far the lab results of machine interpreting have been shown to be irrelevant to real-life” — Dr Jonathan Downie PhD, AITI

“It may be meaningful that my challenge to machine interpreting companies to put their technology on trial at a realistic conference has been met with deafening silence. Could it be that they are not as convinced by their PR and marketing as the Lord Chief Justice seems to be?”

Reference: https://bit.ly/2JIotc2

AI Interpreter Fail at China Summit Sparks Debate about Future of Profession

AI Interpreter Fail at China Summit Sparks Debate about Future of Profession

Tencent’s AI powered translation engine, which was supposed to perform simultaneous transcribing and interpreting at China’s Boao Forum for Asia last week, faltered badly and became the brunt of jokes on social media. It even made headlines on the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s main English newspaper – which, incidentally, is owned by Tencent’s key rival Alibaba.

The Boao Forum, held in Hainan Province on April 8-11, 2018, is an annual nonprofit event that was started in 2001. Supported by the region’s governments, its purpose is to further progress and economic integration in Asia by bringing together leaders in politics, business and academia for high-end dialogs and networking.

Tencent is one of the tech giants of China, often dubbed the “B.A.T.” (for Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent; sometimes BATX if one includes Xiaomi). Its most well known products include the instant messenger WeChat as well as microblogging site Sina Weibo. Both are everyday apps used by just about all Chinese citizens as well as other ethnic Chinese around the world.

WeChat in China is pretty much an all-round, full service lifestyle mobile app in its local Chinese version. You could do just about anything in it these days – from buying train and movie tickets to making mutual fund investments to ordering groceries or an hourly maid from the neighbourhood.

In 2017, Tencent rolled out an AI powered translation engine called “Fanyijun”, which literally translates to “Mr. Translate”, since the Chinese character for “jun” is a polite, literary term for a male person.

What went Wrong?

Fanyijun is already in use powering the in-app translator in WeChat as well as available online as a free online service. However, it was supposed to have made a high-profile debut at the Boao Forum together with the Tencents “Zhiling” or literally translated, “Smart Listening” speech recognition engine, showcasing the company’s ability to do real-time transcription and interpreting. In retrospect, it seems the publicity effort has backfired on Tencent.

To be sure, human interpreters were still on hand to do the bulk of the interpreting work during the forum. However, Tencent used its AI engine to power the live translation and broadcast of some of the side conferences to screens next to the stage and for followers of the event within WeChat.

This resulted in many users making screenshots of the embarrassing errors made when the engine frequently went haywire and generated certain words needlessly and repeatedly, as well as getting confused when some speakers spoke in an unstructured manner or used certain terminology wrongly.

Chinese media cited a Tencent’s spokesperson who admitted that their system “did make errors” and “answered a few questions wrongly”. But he also said in their defense that the Boao Forum was a high-level, multi-faceted, multi-speaker, multi-lingual, discussion based event. That and the fact that the environment was sometimes filled with echo and noise, added to the challenges their system faced.

“They still need humans…”

The gloating hit a crescendo when someone circulated this screenshot from a WeChat group composed of freelance interpreters. It was an urgent request for English simultaneous interpreters to do a live webcast later that day for the Boao Forum.

One group member replied, “They still need humans…” Another said, “Don’t they have an interpreter device?” A third sarcastically added, “Where’s the AI?”

Tencent later clarified that this request was meant for engaging interpreters for their professional news team doing live reporting in Beijing, and not for the simultaneous interpreting team located onsite at the Boao Forum.

Tencent reportedly beat other heavyweight contenders such as Sogou and iFlytek to secure this prestigious demo opportunity at the Boao Forum after a 3-month long process. Sogou is the 2nd largest search engine in China, which also provides a free online translator, built in part through leveraging its investment in China startup UTH International, which provides translation data and NMT engines. iFlytek is a listed natural language processing (NLP) company worth about USD 13 billion in market capitalization. Its speech recognition software is reportedly used daily by half a billion Chinese users and it also sells a popular pocket translation device targeted at Chinese tourists going abroad.

But given what went down at the Boao Forum for “Mr. Translator”, Tencent’s competitors are probably seeing their ‘loss’ as a gain now. The social media gloating aside, this incident has sparked off an active online debate on the ‘what and when’ of AI replacing human jobs.

One netizen said on Sina Weibo, “A lot of people who casually say that AI can replace this or that job, are those who do not really understand or know what those jobs entail; translation included.”

However, Sogou news quoted a veteran interpreter who often accompanied government leaders on overseas visits. She said, “As an interpreter for 20 years, I believe AI will replace human translators sooner or later, at least in most day to day translation and the majority of conference interpreting. The former probably in 3-5 years, the latter in 10 years.”

She added that her opinions were informed by the fact that she frequently did translation work for IT companies. As such she was well aware of the speed at which AI and processor chips were advancing at, and hence did not encourage young people to view translation and interpreting as a lifelong career, which she considers to be a sunset industry.

Reference: https://bit.ly/2qGLhxu