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How tech is helping equip Hong Kong’s new generation of translators

According to a recent report, the rapid rate of technological advancement in the world is leading to better outcomes for translators in Hong Kong and across the globe.

The acting programme director, MA in translation, an associate professor in the department of translation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) noted that translation technology is a help, not a threat. She added that it is extremely important for students to develop the proper attitude towards translation technology, realise the abilities and limitations of the tools and resources available to translators, and make appropriate and effective use of them in translation tasks.

CAT classes are an important part of teaching at CUHK. Students are taught the latest developments in translation technology, such as computer-aided, terminology management and machine translation, and their applications in various tasks. They are trained to use the latest tools and resources.

A translation graduate from Lingnan University, supports this opinion, noting that the advance of technology will give translators and interpreters better access to information and improve their work environment. They will thus be able to work with greater efficiency and competence.

The graduate added that translation and interpreting is a deeply “human” practice that requires cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivity to the communicative situation, making it difficult for machines to replace people. However, she also acknowledged the importance of staying updated on the latest trends.

A CUHK graduate a translator at the M+ museum pointed out that there are obviously things that AI is yet to achieve in the realm of translation. These include translating commercials where a lot of creativity is needed, as well as adjusting their tone and style, and being diplomatic as necessary.

The programme leader, MA in language studies at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) stated that technology, far from being a threat, is being utilised to benefit teaching and learning.

He also stated that CityU stays properly updated on the latest technology and boasts of state-of-the-art computer terminal rooms where students get hands-on training in computer knowledge, a simultaneous interpretation laboratory, and a multimedia room for video conferencing and training in interpreting. Students are free to enrol in courses like human-machine interactive translation and computational lexicography, for example.

The optimism with which the profession treats technology extends to the employability of master’s in translation and interpretation graduates. Figures show that the need for translators and interpreters is growing around the world in line with globalisation, while in Hong Kong the “Belt and Road Initiative” is expected to boost the market for translators.

According to a Lingnan survey of its department of translation, 55 per cent of graduates went on to work in the commercial and industrial fields, while 15 per cent took up education-related jobs.

Every year a few graduates set up their own companies, and they find the training in language and communication skills they received useful, according to the head of the department of translation at Lingnan.

CityU offers four streams in its MA in language studies (MALS), with translation and interpretation (TI) the most popular. TI students have a wide range of electives, as they can choose courses from all four streams. The study modes are also flexible, from one year to up to five.

One graduated noted that the course was very practical and contained basic natural language processing and statistical analysis to meet the needs of the age of big data.

Thus, it appears that Hong Kong universities are taking steps to meet the need for better, more educated translators via the use of technology and are seeing rather positive outcomes.

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