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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 24, 2021

Is automation changing the translation profession?

  • Anthony Pym ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Ester Torres-Simón ORCID logo


As a language-intensive profession, translation is of frontline interest in the era of language automation. In particular, the development of neural machine translation systems since 2016 has brought with it fears that soon there will be no more human translators. When considered in terms of the history of automation, however, any such direct effect is far from obvious: the translation industry is still growing and machine translation is only one instance of automation. At the same time, data on remuneration indicate structural wage dispersion in professional translation services, with some signs that this dispersion may increase in certain market segments as automated workflows and translation technologies are adopted more by large language-service providers more than by smaller companies and individual freelancers. An analysis of recent changes in discourses on and in the translation profession further indicates conceptual adjustments in the profession that may be attributed to growing automation, particularly with respect to expanding skills set associated with translation, the tendency to combine translation with other forms of communication, and the use of interactive communication skills to authorize and humanize the results of automation.

Corresponding author: Anthony Pym, Rovira i Virgili University, Tarragona, Spain, E-mail:


Paper written as part of the project Language Competence and Work (RecerCaixa 2016ACUP00020), 2017–2019. A preliminary Spanish version of the first parts of this text has been published in a collective report on that project.


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Received: 2020-05-20
Accepted: 2021-01-04
Published Online: 2021-05-24
Published in Print: 2021-07-27

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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