Are Computers Going to Replace Translators & Interpreters?

By Liz Redd

Short answer: No! There is always a higher level of quality and accuracy that can only be achieved by a human. Computers will make translators and interpreters’ work easier.

David Rumsey, former president of the American Translators Association (ATA), stated, “As the economy becomes more globalized and businesses realize the need for translation and interpreting to market their products and services, the opportunities for people with advanced language skills will continue to grow sharply.”

According to this CNBC article, which cites Rumsey, the ATA, and the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there is no sign of a decline in need for these specialties.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects:

  • a 17% growth rate from 2016-2026 for translators and interpreters.
  • (That’s 10% higher than the average growth rate for all occupations in the U.S. economy.)
  • Greatest needs in the U.S. being for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and Russian
  • Other strong needs:
    • Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages
    • Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, and Korean
    • Mixtec, Zapotec, and Mayan languages from Mexico and Central America
    • Specializations in healthcare and law

The ATA also predicts that most of the growth for the industry will be in contracted work, but can range from government agencies to tech, media, and automotive companies. Any company could need the help of language professionals, and the more one knows about not only their languages, but also specific subject matter, the better their chances of work.

It’s true that things like Google Translate continue to improve and help people with language barriers, but they will not be able to replace human translators and interpreters. There will always be highly specialized content that needs a human to work on it, or cultural nuances that a computer cannot pick up on. Translation software and technology have been and will continue to help speed up the process for language professionals, but there is no risk of humans being replaced!