ATA President Jiri Stejskal Responds to Administration’s Call for Machine Translation

Dear Mr. President:

Your recent Strategy for American Innovation policy paper recognizes that accurate translation is vital to our economy, our national security and our relationships with other nations. At the American Translators Association (ATA), we agree entirely — but we are also convinced that technology is only part of the answer. As the largest association of translators and interpreters in the United States, we urge you to take a long-term approach to language security by investing in human skills and promoting greater awareness of and expertise in foreign languages.

Are we against technology? Certainly not – in fact, most professional translators already use computer tools to speed up their work. But computational linguists have been working for over 50 years to achieve “fully automatic high-quality computer translation,” and despite all the changes wrought in our lives by technological advances, no computer can match the language skills of a five-year-old child.

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