1.1 Increasing importance of information technologies
The world around us is ceaselessly changing. The last few decades have seen rapid technological development, thousands of new technical inventions, appliances, tools and gadgets were introduced, and the importance of scientific and technical translation has grown. This process continues also in the 21st century. The human race is increasingly dependent on smart devices, computers, and computer mediated communications, and lives surrounded by technology which is supposed to streamline any working processes, any harder physical work, and also to simplify the mental work. All the calls and demands for such technological achievements create alongside the demand for sharing and localizing various studies, manuals, user guides, software, and many different kinds of technical and scientific information. In consequence of this situation technical and scientific translation plays an important role in the contemporary world of translation. “Translation is an important driving force of modern society. It facilitates the flow of ideas, expertise, values and other information between different cultures” (Byrne 1).
Also the role and the working procedures of translators have significantly changed during the last few decades. The major role in this change is played by information and communication technologies. Information technologies (IT) affect our everyday life – personal and professional. A few decades, or even a few years ago, the work of a translator consisted mainly of consulting volumes of dictionaries, a translator had to look up appropriate words, write them down, and compose sentences on paper. This workflow is nowadays almost obsolete (in the case of scientific and technical translation), contemporary translators make use of electronic dictionaries in the form of term-bases, where they can easily search for appropriate terms, as well as of translation memories which store previous translations. The whole process of technical translation is now handled through information technology and the scope of the translation work covers phases of drafting a translation (reading of the original text, creating a first draft of translation), translation research (searching for detailed information regarding the translated content – on the web, for example), the translation itself, and quality control (QA: spellcheck, term consistency, final reading).
1.2 History of translation
Translation is a process of transferring documents and texts from an original language into a different language. The history of translation is complex and as long as the history of writing and it is closely connected with the need of communication between different cultures. However, the history itself is not the subject of this thesis, the important and interesting aspect it attempts to highlight is the relationship between translation and technology. Byrne points out that:
That translation has accompanied virtually every significant scientific and technological discovery throughout the ages is well documented and it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a single example of an invention which was not exported to another language and culture by means of translation. (3)
While the beginnings of translation were tough and slow and rewriting of the texts over and over again led to alterations of texts, mistranslations, errors and mistakes, the development of the printing system by Johannes Guttenberg in 1447 meant a significant progress and advancement of translation, and the omissions, addictions and edits of translated texts were minimized. The translation process has been changing since then quite slowly but ceaselessly. The last century with its advent of computerization and information boom brought immense changes to this field.
Naturally, the tools of the trade have transformed also beyond recognition. The paper, pens, typewriters and bilingual and monolingual dictionaries and wordbooks were replaced by computers, text editors, machine translation, files in different kinds of formats, the internet, online dictionaries, and databases, file transfer programs, and other sophisticated hardware and software.
Dr. Robert Hodgson described the transformation of the role of a translator in the Foreword of the book Translation and the Machine: Technology, Meaning, Praxis:
The Russian poet and translator Pushkin thought that translators in his day functioned as mail-carriers of civilization, shuttling information across barriers of language, culture, and time. If so, then translators in the computer age more closely resemble high speed data lines, disseminating information not in the form of printed, hand-delivered mail, but in the form of digital packets.