Translation Technology: What Translators Should Know

  • Time to read: 8 min.

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If you do a search online on why translators need to learn about translation technology, you’ll see posts claiming two things:

  1. That translators hate technology and look at it as the bane of their existence and that if they could just get rid of technology, they would be able to concentrate on what they like to do: translation.
  2. That translators love technology and that no translator today can be a successful translator without fully embracing the latest and greatest translation technology.

Those are obviously the two extremes.

The one thing, however, that neither side tends to recognize is that whether or not you love technology or hate technology, you have to be willing to learn about it.

Why Learn About Translation Technology?

There’s a lot of reasons to learn about translation technology, whether you love it or hate it. Here are five.

Technology is Here To Stay

Translation technology is here to stay. There’s no denying that. Technology in general is the future. Put it another way. There is no future where technology does not exist. So you might as well not only get used to it, but learn to live with it and, even more so, learn to use it and even master it.

Technology is not evil. It is not against translators. However, not learning about translation technology will hinder you as a translator.

Think of your grandma that doesn’t know how to use a cell phone because the technology is just too advanced. That will be you as a freelance translator if you don’t embrace translation technology

Translation Technology Can Improve Productivity

One of the arguments against translation technology is that it will eventually remove translators from the equation.

The thing is, people have been using this argument for years and it has yet to come to pass.

Sure, certain types of translation technology if perfected could change the role of a translator. But that’s only if the technology is perfect, which it’s not.

Instead, that translation technology can do something great for translators. And that is that it can improve a translator’s productivity tremendously.

Translation tools (like translation software) exist that have the ability to significantly speed up a translator’s work rate. Which means more money per hour. Who would be opposed to that?

Mastering Language Technology Will Provide Additional Opportunities

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again here. As a language professional, you don’t have to limit yourself to only earning money as a translator if you want to.

Translation technology has opened up a whole new industries where translators can find ways to make extra money.

Sure, if you want to only focus on translation, then you can continue to do that.

However, if you’re like me and are interested in expanding your skills and like to do different things to keep from getting bored, delving into translation and language technology is a great direction to go.

Your Clients Will Expect You To Know About Translation Technology

In the end, if you’re a translator because you want to earn money, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you like or use translation technology.

Ultimately, it’s the client that will dictate your use of translation technology because your client will expect that you are keeping up with the technological advances in your industry.

If you’ve decided that you don’t want to keep pace with those technological improvements, eventually your clients will recognize that and drop you for someone more interested in translation technology.

Translation Agencies Need Translators Literate in Translation Technology

Your non-agency clients aren’t the only ones that expect you as a translator to be literate in translation technology.

Translation agencies also want to hire freelance translators that are knowledgeable about and that use translation technology.

Remember, translation agencies are not evil. Many translators have great relationships with translation agencies. But those relationships are best maintained when both sides are doing their best to make sure that they provide the best service possible.

And part of that means that both sides are doing everything they can to save money, put out a quality product, and essentially meet the end clients expectations.

So remember, you can hate translation technology. You can love it.

But either way, you need to learn about it if you want to be a successful, professional freelance translator.

What Kind of Technology Should Translators Know?

This is a difficult question to answer because the answer largely depends on what kinds of clients you want to work with.

For example, if you want to work with direct clients, then you don’t need to know as much about technology because those clients will often provide you with all of the necessary tools and files that you need to do your job.

On the other hand, if you want to work with translation agencies, then you need to be aware of the various technologies that those agencies use so that you can give them what they need and do your job effectively.

Some of the technologies that translators should be aware of include the following.

Machine Translation

One of the most controversial topics in the translation industry is machine translation.

Some people love machine translation. Some people hate machine translation.

Personally, I think that machine translation has its place in the industry, but it should not be used as a replacement for human translators.

That said, it’s still important for translators to know about machine translation and how it works because there is a good chance that you will encounter it at some point in your career in the language industry, including:

  • neural machine translation
  • statistical machine translation
  • rule-based machine translation
  • near real-time translation

Even if you never use it, it’s still good to know about machine translation technology so that you can have an informed opinion about it.

CAT Tools

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are one of the most important technologies for translators.

CAT tools are essentially software programs that help translators to be more efficient and accurate in their work.

There are a lot of different CAT tools on the market, and choosing the right one can be difficult.

But once you find a CAT tool that you like and that works well for you, it can be a lifesaver.

CAT tools help translators to do things like create glossaries, store previous translations, and track changes.

They essentially help translators to work smarter, not harder.

If you want to be a successful translator working with multilingual content, then you need to be proficient in at least one CAT tool.

Localization Tools

Another important technology for translators is localization tools.

Localization tools are software programs that help to automate the process of localizing content into multiple languages.

This includes things like formatters, find and replace functions, and spell checkers.

Localization tools can be very helpful for translators because they can help to speed up the localization process.

And when you’re working on a tight deadline, every little bit helps.

So if you want to be a successful translator, then you need to be proficient in at least one localization tool.

File Conversion Tools

Another important technology for translators is file conversion tools.

As the name suggests, file conversion tools are software programs that help to convert files from one format to another.

This is important for translators because often times you will need to convert files so that they can be used in different CAT tools or localization tools.

Without file conversion tools, translators would be stuck using the same CAT tool or localization tool for every project.

So if you want to be a successful translator, then you need to be proficient in at least one file conversion tool.

Translation Management Tools

Last but not least, translation management tools are another important technology for translators.

Translation management tools are software programs that help to manage the translation process.

This includes things like project management, workflow management, translation memories, and quality assurance.

Translation management tools can be very helpful for translators because they can help to streamline the translation process for translated content.

And when you’re working on a tight deadline, every little bit helps.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The important thing is to be aware of the various technologies that are out there and that your potential clients may be using both now and in the near future.

And if you’re not familiar with a particular technology, then make it a point to learn about it so that you can be prepared when a potential client asks you if you’re familiar with it.

What About Google Translate?

One technology that you might be familiar with is Google Translate.

Google Translate is a machine translation tool that is free to use.

It can be helpful for translators because it can provide a quick and easy translation of a text.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google Translate is not a perfect tool.

It’s not always accurate, and it can’t always capture the nuances and accuracy of a language.

So while it can be helpful, you should always make sure to proofread your translations carefully before you submit them to your client.

Do NOT use artificial intelligence like Google or Babel Fish for translating in your business, especially if you have large amounts of words/phrases or source text to translate.

This is especially true if you have your own legal translation service or are doing translations in the medical or business industries.


In the end, whether or not you like it, technology is here to stay and it’s only going to become more and more important for working in the translation industry.

As a translator, you need to be prepared to use various technologies so that you can provide the best possible service to your clients.

If you’re not willing to learn about and use translation technology, then you’re not going to be a successful freelance translator for very long.

FAQ – Why Learn About Translation Technology?

What is the translation technology?

Translation technology refers to the various tools and software that translators use to do their job. Some of the most common pieces of translation technology include translation management systems (TMS), computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, project management tools, machine learning, file conversion tools, and quality assurance tools.

What are the three 3 main types of translators?

There are three main types of translators: freelance translators, in-house translators, and agency translators.

What are the benefits of technology in translation?

The benefits of technology in translation include increased efficiency, better quality translations, more content, and the ability to work with clients all over the world as part of a whole new generation.

What are the disadvantages of technology in translation?

The disadvantages of technology in translation include the potential for human error, the need for ongoing training, and the possibility of technology failures.