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Technologies for Translation and Interpreting: Challenges and Latest Developments

Prof Lynne Bowker, School of Translation & Interpretation, University of Ottawa

Machine translation literacy in the context of non-professional translation

18 December 2020

We recently passed the 70th anniversary of Weaver’s Memorandum (1949), which is widely acknowledged as having launched machine translation (MT) research. A lot has happened in that 70-year period, including the introduction of free, online machine translation accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Through university-based translator education programs and professional development opportunities offered by professional translators associations, language professionals have numerous opportunities to learn more about how to interact effectively with MT tools. But these tools are no longer solely in the hands of language professionals; they are also “in the wild”. How and why are non-professional users employing MT? What do they need to be aware of to use it effectively? What support is available to non-professional users of MT? Why should developers care about non-professional users? In this talk, we will explore the notion of “machine translation literacy”, examine some of the needs of non-professional MT users, consider the social responsibility of translators toward non-professional users, and discuss the results of two different efforts to deliver MT literacy training to non-professional users (one as part of a workshop offered through a university library, and one as part of a first-year university course on translation for non-language professionals).


Lynne Bowker is a certified (French-English) translator and holds a PhD in Language Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UK). She is Full Professor at the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Ottawa (Canada), with a cross-appointment to the School of Information Studies. She is the author of Computer-Aided Translation Technology (University of Ottawa Press, 2002) and co-author of both Working with Specialized Language: A Practical Guide to Using Corpora (Routledge, 2002) and Machine Translation and Global Research (Emerald, 2019). In 2020, she was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of her contributions to research in translation technologies.