;   Medical Translation Insight: Machine translation vs. crowdsourcing in medical translation (poll) - ForeignExchange Translations

Machine translation vs. crowdsourcing in medical translation4It seems like a day does not go by without some news about companies using crowdsourced translations or some new machine translation improvement. Today alone I read about software powerhouse Adobe testing crowdsourcing in China and DocTranslator bringing further improvements to automatic in-browser translation.

So far software and social media companies have taken the lead on crowdsourcing. And machine translation still requires a big up-front investment, relegating it primarily to the real of "really big" organizations.

But it's only a matter of time until a pharmaceutical or medical device company deploys one or both of these technologies. And why not? For instance, as drug and device companies (slowly) become more active in social media, their international audience will look for local-language support - and will be happy to help.

It's too early to tell whether this will be bad news or good news to service providers. Chances are, it will be a bit of both. But one thing that is certain, is that these technologies will be highly disruptive for providers of medical translation services.

What's your take on this? Which of these developments will prove to be more disruptive in the area of medical translation?

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  1. cgtradmed said...
    Dear Medical Translation Insight authors,
    If you go on this way, I think I'll stop reading your blog because nearly everyday you announce a potential catastroph.
    After the Greek crisis impact on the Pharma industry, now this disquieting perspective.
    Have you decided to demoralize the whole army of medical translators? :-D
    Afa I'm concerned, I'll keep optimistic. And you should too.
    Andres Heuberger said...
    @cgtradmed: Thank you for the comment! And sorry to sound pessimistic :-)

    In fact, our outlook is 100% optimistic. Sure, there are challenges out there but I am convinced that they present terrific opportunities for many translation providers.

    Having said that, I also think that the translation industry is overdue for a shake-out. Too many service providers have had it too easy for too long. I don't know what event will serve as the catalyst but again, ultimately, I think it will be a good thing for our industry.

    In the mean time, we'll make an effort to be more positive :-)
    Elena Stella said...
    It's hard to tell. My guess, as you say, is that organizations and companies that do not depend too much on accuracy will be using just one of these.

    On the other hand, this doesn't sound like they are going to be the most authoritative ones. Others will be using one of these + other language services that can only be rendered by specialists only. It will also depend on their budgets or their will or their respect for their audiences.

    Maybe all this will give us more chance to provide other kinds of language services.

    As for your poll, sorry: I can't tell. Time will tell. Look, the crowd is not made up of specialists and machines are not human. Then...neither of them is good enough. Don't you think?

    As a reader I'll start to do something and whenever I have the feeling some content was produced by any of these two I will be sending and email or commenting in their blog or something "Sorry, but the content is not clear enough. Maybe you need a human professional translator."
    Megan said...
    I feel like the big elephant in the room for all these translation/localization companies pushing either machine translation and crowd-sourcing is that they aren’t really protecting the value of their client’s intellectual property.

    Not all content needs protecting, but I think particularly with Medical Translations, much of it does. Most of these technologies, by default, publicly shares the content or at a minimum shares it with a 3rd party which might not be under a non-disclosure contract (e.g. Google Translate).
    Raquel DeRoo said...
    I have not yet seen a body of work from any translation program that looks as a plausible translator substitute. However, I understand that the day will come when we will be more editors than actual translators.

    As in my case because my language pairs are English <>Spanish I have a broader latitude because of so many variations exist at this time. We need to learn to use the programs in order to be competitive.

    Thanks for giving me this heads up!
    Shelly Orr Priebe said...
    I responded to your quick poll, but much more to say. Both MT and Crowdsourcing are "disruptive innovations" but the key is that disruptive innovation presents tremendous opportunity. What will innovative LSPs do to create opportunities from perceived threats? That is the vital question.

    Articles I have authored on Crowdsourcing:


    Adam Warren said...
    Hullo Andres, yours is a fascinating arena! An obvious point I failed to make about crowdsourcing is that it can be used to produce translations which wouldn't otherwise see the light of day. Equally obviously, however, the lack of assured professional standards in this process would contra-indicate its application to critical areas such as engineering and pharmaceuticals, or perhaps also the law, or finance. In the end, the exclusion list gets rather straggly and gangly. The obvious drivers in crowdsourcing are major web platforms seeking to harness low-cost resources, justifiable if documents would not otherwise get translated, but containing a threat to professional standards.
    Kind regards,
    ForeignExchange Translations said...
    Wow, 320+ votes so far...

    We have posted a follow-up article that contains poll results.

    Thank you all for your comments and votes!
    Claudio Porcellana said...

    I don't think that crowd-sourcing (I prefer call it crow-scorching ;-))) or MT will be disruptive in our field, but rather that these tools (as every tool of ours) is a boomerang in unskilled hands


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