Mobile Translation Experience: Current State and Future Directions

Mobile Translation Experience: Current State and Future Directions

Nancy Xiuzhi Liu, Matthew Watts
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7885-7.ch012
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After closely examining the experiences of mobile translation in which people engage with translation on mobile platforms in the contexts of healthcare, crowdsourcing, and machine and translator training, the authors have identified a tightly intertwined relationship between mobile translation and machine translation. They have also found that the technological side is more dynamic than the user side in the case of mobile translation and machine translation, which may lead to a gradual reduction of people learning foreign languages and a possible loss of professional translators and language specialists. When it comes to contextual and textual translation, however, human translators currently outperform mobile or machine translators. Although human contribution will be determined by translation scenarios or specific translation tasks, the human-mobile/machine interaction in translation deserves further studies. It is imperative to compare mobile use and experience in human-mobile interaction related to translation in different cultures or countries so as to locate similarities and differences. Furthermore, it is also expected from the editor that further studies should focus on mapping, measuring, and modeling those identified similarities and differences.
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Mobile translation (MbT) is, essentially, an umbrella term which can be taken to encompass all forms of translation, both human and machine, and processes in the translation workflow carried out on a mobile device. As the number of mobile devices in the world continues to increase (GSMA Intelligence, 2018) and the underlying technology improves, it becomes increasingly possible to carry out tasks and activities on mobile devices that were traditionally performed on non-mobile, stationary devices, such as desktop computers. Translation is one of those tasks that might be carried out on mobile devices and it is easy to see why – mobility is inherent in translation and its main purpose is to enable communication across different languages and cultures, which only come into contact when there is movement of people, whether physical or virtual. The form that this translation takes, however, may differ greatly depending on the context and to provide an exact definition of the term ‘mobile translation’ is difficult. Indeed, there is not a single, agreed upon definition for mobile translation and its definition has evolved in recent years. However, in a blogpost for the translation company Stepes, Armstrong (2016) discusses the evolution of the meaning of mobile translation into the modern idea of apps which professional translators can use to facilitate their work. Jimenez-Crespo (2016, p. 76) then draws on this to formalise three definitions as follows: “(1) the localization of apps; (2) the use of MT [machine translation] apps; and (3) the use of apps inspired by crowdsourcing workflows to carry out human translation either though post editing MT or through direct human translation”. These definitions are what will be used in this chapter to reflect on different ways that users have engaged with mobile translation. As definition (1) refers to localizing (translating) apps to ensure they are ready to launch in a specific locale and does not necessarily involve using a mobile device to produce this translation, it does not specifically cover the mobile translation experience as the content could be translated using more traditional, desktop-based translation workflows. Thus, definitions (2) and (3) are of principal interest in this piece as they can be analysed in terms of users’ experience in using mobile devices for translation, both from the perspective of professional translators and non-professionals. In short, mobile translation in this chapter refers to translation, human or machine, that is performed through the use of mobile devices or realized through apps operated on mobile systems.

Numerous mobile apps have been developed to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages and the list of such apps is inexhaustible with the technology constantly evolving and new apps constantly being developed. Although we may think of MbT technologies as rather new, they can be traced back further than the modern systems available on smartphones to electronic pocket translators. Furthermore, in 1993, the German government, with collaborators around the world, initiated a huge project called Verbmobil, a speaker-independent and bidirectional speech-to-speech translation system for spontaneous dialogue in mobile situations between three languages (German, English and Japanese) (Wahlster, 2013). However, it is with the rise of smartphones that MbT has proliferated and become democratised, with increasing numbers of people using the technology. Indeed, our modern understanding of MbT apps and apps more generally only emerged in the late 2000s with the development of app stores that enabled easy installation on a device without a wired connection. Taking China as an example, according to a report by the Sootoo Institute (2018), a Chinese research institute specialized in analysing big data on the Internet, MbT users have increased substantially in recent years, especially since 2015, as shown in Figure 1. By 2019, the number of MbT users is projected to reach 382 million.

Figure 1.

Mobile translation users and the rate of increase in China (Translated and adapted from Sootoo Report, 2018)


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