The Sad News: Japanese-to-English Translators put out of work almost 36 years ago.

Today marks the day, almost 36 years ago, when human Japanese-to-English translators were thrown out of work by the arrival of machine translation, in the form of an “automatic translation machine” as it was described in this Asahi Shimbun first-page article of May 18, 1984. The company selling this product was Bravice International, which was soon to go bankrupt and sell the rights to its technology to another outfit.

Machine Japanese-to-English translation developed by numerous companies has had a perfect record of not putting qualified human Japanese-to-English translators out of work all these years but it is now poised to achieve parity with incompetent Japanese-to-English translators in China and India. And it only took 36 years to do that. Actually it has taken longer, since the Bravice failure was certainly not the start of efforts to replace expensive translators with software.

A tip of the hat to all the people who poured their hearts (and misplaced hopes) into this effort.

Author: William Lise

A long-time resident in japan, I have been chiefly involved with Japanese-to-English translation and litigation interpreting for decades. I was an electrical engineer in my previous life.