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Human Interpreters versus AI?

Simultaneous interpreting is more commonly referred to as “simultaneous translation”. It’s an abuse of language, but that’s not the point, far from it! In fact, let’s talk about it, because this abuse of language benefits the promoters of AI solutions, which are as numerous as they are promising. So what exactly is the situation? Does AI live up to all its promises? When we talk about simultaneous translation being offered, or sometimes offered for a fee, to participants at international conferences, what are we talking about?

human interpreters: ordinary service providers?

Is simultaneous translation a professional service like any other? Alongside accommodation, catering or shuttles from the hotel to the conference centre? I’d say it’s not quite the same thing. Why not? Simultaneous translation makes it possible to disseminate and understand the speeches made by speakers and keynote speakers. It’s also the keystone of any interaction at the event. In fact, when people ask me if a multilingual event was a success, I answer “yes, interaction was there”. In concrete terms, when human interpreters allow audiences to ask any question IN their mother tongue.

Human Interpreters versus AI: a lost fight?

Human interpreters versus ChatGPT: who will win?

By the way, do you think it matters to ChatGPT if we record a lot of interactions during an event? Let’s not confuse everything. AI is a powerful tool, so let’s learn how to use it properly! Let’s ask it to list the audience’s interactions, the subjects discussed, the questions asked and the language used. On the other hand, to include the whole audience, let’s leave it to human interpreters!

You may object that I’m biased, that I’m preaching to the choir, but of course I am, and I’m proud to defend the skills of human interpreters. However, I’d like to add one important nuance: if I’m fighting to impose the presence of human interpreters, it’s also to offer a better show and a better understanding of the event for both participants and speakers!

Now is the time to more systematically offer a post-event survey to audiences who have had access to simultaneous translation. Ask them a few questions about their feelings, their comfort/discomfort, whether they felt involved and included, despite the language barrier. And beyond that, did they have access to the same communication media and the same information? Some would say “they were in on it”. Hey ChatGPT, how would you translate this idiomatic expression?

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