The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020 - 25

RESOURCE REVIEW

COMPILED BY JOST ZETZSCHE

Women and Machine Translation

I

t has always bothered me that there seems to be a serious
under-representation of women who are involved in the
development of machine translation (MT). Since it didn't
make much sense for me, a man, to write and complain
about that, I asked three women-Lynne Bowker, Sharon
O'Brien, and Vassilina Nikoulina-who are involved in MT
in academics and development to discuss the topic with me.
It ended up being a phenomenal exchange (with me on the
receiving rather than the giving side). Without further ado,
here it is.
Jost: I'm so glad that the three of you are willing to talk
with me about women in MT development and women in
the academic pursuit of MT. But first, would you mind
introducing yourselves?
Lynne: I grew up in Canada and received my
initial BA in translation. I'm a certified
French>English translator (Association of
Translators and Interpreters of Ontario) and
worked briefly for the Canadian government
within the Translation Bureau and as a freelancer
before studying for my graduate degree. I received an MA in
translation from the University of Ottawa in the early 1990s,
when I became interested in technologies for terminologists and
translators, which were just beginning to emerge on the market.
I continued my studies in language engineering and earned a
PhD from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and
Technology. My first academic job was at Dublin City University
in Ireland, where I taught both translation and computational
linguistics. In 2000, I returned to Canada and am currently a
full professor at the University of Ottawa with a crossappointment between the School of Translation and
Interpretation and the School of Information Studies.
Jost: Let me add one more thing to that, Lynne. You were
also recently chosen as a Fellow of the Royal Society of
Canada. Congratulations!
Sharon: I received a BA in applied languages
(with French and German) from Dublin City
University, in what was effectively a translator
training program. In my final year, the
instructors introduced us to the translation
system from ALPNET, after which I was hooked
on translation technology! I had the opportunity to do a master's
research project with the Eurotra project, an ambitious machine
translation project established and funded by the European
Commission from 1978 to 1992, where I investigated the
effectiveness of MT for " sublanguage " (or language for special
purposes). Afterwards, I moved to Luxembourg for a threemonth internship with the European Parliament. During this
time, I had the pleasure of using the DOS version of the Trados
www.atanet.org

Alignment tool for three whole months (i.e., T-Align, the
precursor to WinAlign) to align translations in 11 languages of
the CVs of members of Parliament so the translation memories
(TM) could be used for the upcoming elections.
Somehow, this qualified me as a " language technology
specialist " for a localization company in Dublin that was
interested in introducing Trados into its workflow. My job was
to define the localization processes with a TM tool and train
and support the translators. At one point, a very adventurous
client wanted to test MT (which was still known as rule-based
MT at the time), so I was responsible for that project. After a
few years of working in the localization sector, I decided the
time was right to get a PhD and that MT and post-editing was
an interesting topic. I went back to Dublin City University and
completed that PhD in 2006, after which I became a faculty
member within the university's School of Applied Language
and Intercultural Studies.

My message to MT researchers is that the translation
studies and professional translation community is
here, and we have a lot to offer and are open for
collaboration. Develop with us not for us.

Vassilina: I grew up in Russia where I
completed my initial studies in applied
mathematics. I arrived in France at the École
Polytechnique in 2003, where I completed the
equivalent of a master's degree in computer
science. I got acquainted with MT during my
first internship at Systran in 2005. Despite my mathematical
background, I've always been interested in foreign language
studies, which is why I decided to pursue research in MT. I
completed a PhD focused around statistical MT at the
University of Grenoble and Xerox Research Center in Europe
(XRCE) in 2010. Afterward, I kept working on MT and other
topics related to natural language processing within Xerox
Research in Grenoble. In 2017, Naver, Korea's leading internet
portal company, acquired XRCE. As a follow-up of this
acquisition, I had a chance to spend 10 months with the team
working on Papago1 (Naver's MT engine) in Korea in 2019. It
was a great and challenging experience that allowed me to
transition from the MT research world to its practical
application, and at the same time act as an active MT user in
my everyday life. (I used Papago MT every day, several times a
day!) I'm now back in France conducting my usual research
American Translators Association

25


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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020

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