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Good time of the day to everyone here!

Disclaimer: I am pretty sure that this question has been asked loads and loads of time by lots of people, but I just cannot get it out of my head.

I am on my way to acquire a bachelor degree in translation studies, would like to do interpreting as a master degree, and have been extremely fascinated with both jobs since childhood. However, I'm faced with more and more evidence of the possibility of machines stealing both jobs (google smth like "Skype translator", for example). And yes, I do know that all of these programs have many faults so far, that they're not yet fast or accurate enough, but with the current speed of technological development I'm afraid that the key word here is "yet".

To put it bluntly, I am really afraid to be left absolutely jobless and useless by my thirties (I'm in my early twenties now) because I am simply not needed anymore. After all, I am not even one of those who have some background in a different field.

It would really please me to learn what other students and working interpreters/translators think on this matter. Do you perhaps think that there's a way for human interpreters and machine interpreters to peacefully coexist to everyone's benefit somehow, for example?

I would also like to add (though I am afraid I might pass as really rude right now) that I am somewhat tired of answers like "Good Lord, no, the machines will NEVER be as good as us!" -- this confidence hardly finds a place in the modern world.

I am a native Russian speaker who also studies German, so answers in English/Russian/German would be welcome.

asked 08 May '16, 15:53

AimeeKite's gravatar image


Since any answer could be long and philosophical let me limit myself to 2 short answers...

  1. I wouldn't worry about it. Any job can disappear at any stage. You can always retrain - you sound like an intelligent sort!

  2. For machine interpreting to work machines will have to be able to think. And when machines can think the last thing the human race will need to worry about it whether interpreters can make a living ;) !

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answered 10 May '16, 04:22

Andy's gravatar image



Congratulations on thinking well ahead! IMHO, whatever happens, an interpreting degree will always be an asset, just like a law degree (though somewhat less recognized as such). It teaches you to think critically, to understand messages behind clouds of verbiage, to understand what someone is really saying, to communicate complex ideas precisely, and to make connections - between ideas, languages, cultures, and people. Make sure that whatever degree you get, you also get some practical training in marketing and running a business, and you will have the ideal education for the future, whatever you choose to do.

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answered 12 May '16, 11:32

JuliaP's gravatar image



Thank you very much for your answer! I've been recently thinking about that again, I mean, that a degree in interpreting can still be an amazing and potentially useful training experience in general.

(13 May '16, 17:33) AimeeKite

I'm thinking that we're rather at risk of losing clients, not because of computers, but because the new generation of lawyers, economists, businessmen, etc. do increasingly speak a foreign language well enough to get by without an interpreter - which a few decades ago wasn't an option.

This also means that if you get hired for the more technical meetings, you'd better be on par with their expectations.

After all, I am not even one of those who have some background in a different field.

Because of the above, and having read your other thread, I'm thinking that it'd be beneficial for you to study a bit in Germany, to get a better command of the language and also widen your knowledge.

Rushing into the MA in translation and interpreting if you don't have a strong background in the "basic" subjects that a non-linguistic BA can teach you might end up being counter productive. You could not get admitted or not get your diploma at the end. Better be safe than sorry:

A BA degree with a major in WiWi, BWL (or PoWi) would allow you to get some understanding of those subjects - the understanding you'll need to be able to interpret meetings adequately. Plus, you'll get the in-depth knowledge of the German culture, and the immense joy of writing Hausarbeiten during the spring and summer breaks, making it easier later on to work towards a German B.

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answered 15 May '16, 11:06

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 15 May '16, 11:11



Part I!

I am very much aware of being rather "naïve to the ways of the world", however:

-- Uni Leipzig (which is my most desired goal) has special courses dedicated to jurisdiction, medicine and finances as part of their MA KD. Of course it's not the same experience as studying the subject properly, but might still keep me floating.

-- I have never studied in Germany, but I have an experience communicating with German and Austrian students and professors thanks to them coming to study/teach in our university. Yet I know loads of people who studied in their countries of choice for a term or even a full year and return with zero improvement when it comes to their language skills or cultural knowledge. This leads me to an opinion that good old hard work can equal to an immersion, if not downright be more productive. However, I understand that the combination of hard work and immersion can bring absolutely wonderful benefits.

-- I am also aware of benefits that a degree in an "unrelated" field can bring, yet I am not sure that economy will be my focus point, and if I am to be extremely, really blunt -- sorry, but it's one hell of a decision, to spend 3 years studying smth you have doubts about in Germany when your life isn't eternal, when the course of rouble makes the financial situation tough, and when you're a young Russian woman still heavily dependant on her family's support to a certain extent (this is "normal" by Moscow standards, but nevertheless unpleasant).

(15 May '16, 12:05) AimeeKite

Part II.

-- I'm well aware that I might not be accepted. I also have certain concerns about my German rather "approaching the C1" with it being my third language, rather than being a proper, stable C1 or C2. Nevertheless, the decision is made, the invitation to an admission test will come soon, and even if I fail this year, I want to at least gain experience, see how it looks on the inside and test myself. Please trust me, that decision was not a carefree one.

Nevertheless, thanks for your advice, I understand your position!

(15 May '16, 12:06) AimeeKite

Rest assured that our profession will not be snatched from us by greedy computers. I could elaborate more but I ll just refer you to the post i did on the topic:

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answered 11 May '16, 23:12

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

edited 11 May '16, 23:12

I don’t fully agree with the article when it says computers cannot translate or interpret because they are not living / not self-aware. Today’s computers are stupid and today’s machine translation has little to do with translation (the article makes that pretty clear too).

However, I do agree with Andy: perhaps one day computers will outsmart us, but then humanity’s top worries will probably not be translators and interpreters’ employment prospects.

However, there is one thing I regard as a nearer threat: computers that can’t translate or interpret properly but whose advertisers are talented enough to convince our clients (using impressive demonstrations etc.) that their machines are better than us. In the long run, the clients will eventually realize their mistake, but before they take action and start hiring interpreters again, where will we be?

And what about machine-aided interpreting? If such a thing comes to exist one day, will this be used as an excuse to make us work longer hours / work without a boothmate / work in currently unacceptable conditions?

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answered 20 Jun '16, 05:57

mflorian's gravatar image


edited 20 Jun '16, 06:02

Unfortunately, we don't need to wait for machine-aided interpreting to see downward pressure on our fees or conditions, or upward pressure on working hours. You need to be fantastic at client education and already working for direct clients or good agencies to be able to negotiate good working conditions in today's economy,

(20 Jun '16, 09:08) JuliaP
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question asked: 08 May '16, 15:53

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