A Not-so-Bold Prediction

Well within three years from now, most NES (native English-speaking) translators currently making their living translating Japanese-to-English will no longer be making their living by translating. And they will very likely not be doing post-editing of AI output either, as post-editing rates have already fallen to a level incapable of supporting even a modest lifestyle. What’s more, post-editing is also already being seriously discussed as a target for AI to at least partially handle, and that will lower the level of skills required of post-editors and, by extension, the rates earnable from post-editing.

By “most,” I envision no more than 10% of current NES translators remaining in translation three years from now to the extent that they can earn their living from translation.

Some of the people exiting translation might be able to find employment or work making use of their Japanese-language ability. Some have already done just that. Others will migrate to work unrelated to translation or language skills.

This is not a very bold prediction, as we can already see people leaving JA-EN translation, including highly skilled translators who expected to translate for much longer. It is ending, and people are leaving.

Suggestions that translators simply adopt AI themselves to allow them to continue working are delusionary and ignore the realities (1) that translation is a business and (2) that the businesses (translation brokers) that supply translation work to the vast majority of translators are already switching to AI for the translation process itself, this being a business decision that complaining translators will not be able to change. It is ending.

There are people and organizations to whom the above prediction or even discussion of its possibility is anathema. I would hope that they continue to observe where the profession is going as we move toward the end. It should come into focus for even the most optimistic observers. It is ending.

[Although the suggestions made in 2019 would be adoptable by only a tiny number of translators, translators might also look at presentation I made at the Cairns IJET-30 Conference in 2019, regarding moving from tier two to tier one in the translation business.]