“Dealing With Documents” Covers a Lot of Territory

Another translator in an online group I belong to recently wrote: "I agree with your points about the rise of the large purchasing departments facilitating the rise of large LSPs, but this is a transitory phase. More of this work will be automated, since at the end of the day, translators and LSPs are just dealing with documents, almost all of which can be handled with a computer with an Internet connection." (The points he refers to were not mine, by the way; they were another translators’.)

My response was: 

“ 'Dealing with documents' is a very vague term. There are countless ways of dealing with documents, only a very few of which can be done by computers without actual humans involved. The basic problem with computerized 'dealing with documents,' in my opinion, is that computers can't read; only humans can, because natural languages are basically products of human activity, and we are a very long way from automating human activity in general. Where linguistic activity is concerned, and especially translation, I have my doubts that full automation or computerization will ever be possible, though that is a subject for long, technical argument."

© Jon Johanning 2014