I am having a go at translating my short stories into Catalan, but have decided to lose the first two stories and add two later ones from the second English collection. So we’ll start with ‘Spotting Composers in Train Stations’, something much more typical of the sort of thing I do and go on from there.
Now my Catalan, though increasingly okay, is nowhere near good enough to translate a short story from English into Catalan. But what I’m finding out is how the automatic translation technology around is at a good enough level to produce a first version of what I want. That is good enough to let my Catalan fans knock it into more idiomatic shape for me. My Catalan is good enough to know when what the translation algorithms throw up is wrong, but not good enough to say what it should be instead.
Now, if I do this, and I am no trailblazer, others are doing it too. The consequences in the not too distant future, if those consequences haven’t arrived already, are that the perfectly reasonable expense of professional translation for those that might want a translation will not be needed. Further, it might be assumed the technology of translation will only get better and the need for specialist translators less.
In the longer term, the sci-fi stuff of Douglas Adams’ ‘babel fish’ becomes a real possibility. A device can be imagined, that when popped into the ear translates a language in real time to someone who doesn’t know that language. Potentially no one need ever learn a language they don’t already speak.