Gizmodo fires Spanish staff amid switch to AI translator

From Ars Technica:

Previously, Gizmodo en Español had a small but dedicated team who wrote original content tailored specifically for Spanish-speaking readers, as well as producing translations of Gizmodo’s English articles. The site represented Gizmodo’s first foray into international markets when it launched in 2012 after being acquired from Guanabee.

Newly published articles on the site now contain a link to the English version of the article and a disclaimer stating (via our translation from Google Translate), “This content has been automatically translated from the source material. Due to the nuances of machine translation, there may be slight differences. For the original version, click here.”

As both a translator and a tech writer, this article touches upon a lot of aspects of my professional life. As a translator with a master’s degree in translation and over 13 years of experience, I can confidently say these AI-translated articles won’t be anywhere near the quality of a professional translation, let alone that of original content written in Spanish. Computers are actually not that great at language, and every time I play around with machine translation tools – they tend to be integrated into the various translation software suites I use – it’s barely passable as coherent text.

There are things you can do to increase the success rate of machine translation. It’s crucial to write the source text in a very formulaic manner, using short sentences with basic sentence structure any primary schooler can easily follow. Avoid complicated clauses, literary devices, sayings and wordplay, and words that can carry multiple meanings. To further increase the success rate, make sure your writers reuse the same formulaic sentences in different articles, so the machine translation software can learn from earlier corrections.

By the time you instilled all this and more into your writing staff, not only will they quit because writing in such a way is not engaging at all, it will also tank your SEO – something the kind of people who would fire translators to rely exclusively on machine translation would care about – into the ground. It wouldn’t feel natural, and nobody will enjoy reading it but computers.

…it’s going to end up as AIs writing for other AIs.


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