Translation as a form of language mediation is called upon to convert the source text written in one natural language into the target text in another, to assimilate or disseminate information across language barriers. Prior to the ubiquitous availability of the Internet, translators worked without the benefit of fast and affordable online access to up-to-date information in a wide variety of languages or to fellow translators in different geographical locations to share knowledge. Translation texts were largely in printed form and their circulation was dependent on physical delivery systems. In response to the widespread use of information and communication technology (ICT) leading to the advent of the Internet, the concept of teletranslation was first proposed (O’Hagan, 1996) to demarcate an emerging translation paradigm based on electronic networks of global communication rather than one where physical transportation was the main means for moving texts. It represented the new modus operandi where translators, which may include machine translation (MT), and customers are electronically linked with online access to translation tools and to other translators for knowledge sharing. It presupposes the translation text to be in electronic form and thus able to be seamlessly transmitted, stored, and processed by electronic means. Today, teletranslation has been embodied in Web-based platforms on the Internet, allowing the translator not only to receive and transmit translation text, but also to procure translation jobs, conduct research as well as collaborate in teams. Furthermore, an increasing array of computer applications has made computeraided translation (CAT) commonplace (Quah, 2006) where technology is indispensable for the production of translation. On the basis of the infrastructure supported by ICT networks as well as the prevailing use of CAT, teletranslation continues to develop as the predominant paradigm in the translation industry. The term translation embraces different modes of language mediation. According to the strict use of the terminology, however, “translating” refers to the act of mediating communication in written form, which typically takes place asynchronously whereas “interpreting” facilitates oral communication in synchronous mode as in conference interpreting. So far, the impact of ICT has been far more prominent in translation than in interpretation where text-processing tools play a limited role in oral communication and face-to-face mode prevails with little dependence on electronic means, with a few exceptions of remote interpreting modes. These language mediation modes serve to facilitate a given communicative situation where the sender and the receiver of the message do not share a common language, therefore requiring the source language to be converted into the target language in a required form. The language mediator plays the unique role of simultaneously being the receiver of the source text and the sender of the target text where translating or interpreting forms an act of communication embedded in another act of communication (Hatim & Mason, 1997, pp. 1–2). This fundamental role played by the language mediator remains the same in teletranslation. This article provides the background to the emergence of teletranslation, its current status, and future prospects with reference to relevant research and developments in related fields.
Background: Evolution From Translation To Teletranslation
Prior to the 1980s, physical transportation systems underpinned the translation business by facilitating the movement of text between translator, customer, and often translation agency acting as an intermediary. As such, translation services were constrained by physical distance, thus operating primarily as a regional business. The arrival of fax machines allowed them to become less location-bound. The nature of translation work primarily being text-based and asynchronous (i.e., translation usually does not have to be done instantaneously) suited telework mode in which translators receive and return text at a distance with a time lag. Fax machines facilitated telework by allowing translators to work on text remotely without incurring additional delivery delays. During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, text transmission via fax was gradually replaced by use of modems with text transmitted directly from computer to computer. This provided the advantage of text arriving in machine-readable form with flexibility for further processing by computer. Into the 1990s, the power of computer networks began to see translation businesses operate internationally, linking translators and customers worldwide.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Availability: Timely, reliable access to data and information services for authorized users.
Nonrepudiation: Assurance that the sender of data is provided with proof of delivery and the recipient is provided with proof of the sender’s identity, so neither can later deny having processed the data.
Bandwidth: Amount of data that can be transmitted in a second. It is measured in bits per second.
Integrity: Protection against unauthorized modification or destruction of information.
Digital Certificate: An attachment to an electronic message to verify the identity of the sender and to provide the receiver with the means to encode a reply.
Confidentiality: Assurance that information is not disclosed to unauthorized persons, processes, or devices.
Digital Signature: A digital code that can be attached to an electronically transmitted message to uniquely identify its contents and the sender.
Protocol: A set of rules that control transmission on a network.
Authentication: Security measure designed to establish the validity of a transmission, message, or originator, or a means of verifying an individual’s authorization to receive specific categories of information.
Multimedia: This combines different media such as text, voice, and video into a single application.