Mohamed is still relatively young but has the feeling of an old soul when you speak with him. On the one hand, he is a technology whiz – he studied an MA in Linguistic and Literary Computing and now works at EVS Translations specialising in MT training and development. But he’s also a doting new dad who is trying to solve the hardest question of all: How do you balance work and family?
Mohamed’s time in the office is spent with machines. Testing and training machine translation engines so that the output creeps ever closer to the elusive quality of a human. In his softly spoken voice he tells me: “I’m trying to develop processes and I’m doing a lot of testing. It’s hard to keep up with the rapid developments in this field, which have changed immensely even in the past two years. I use the best data we can gather. In some ways, the machine is like a child. You have to teach it to correct its mistakes”.
Perhaps you imagine a young man sat in a room filled only with himself, the machine and complex sets of results. Mohamed works hard to improve the mistakes he sees. If it’s not right, he tries again. Patience is key.
But don’t mistake him for some sci-fi computing engineer who marvels at the human virtues he observes in his engines. He’s very grounded and has a four-month-old baby and a wife to thank for that. “Everyday, my daughter seems to grow. And I sometimes feel like I don’t have enough time with her. But when I come home, my wife is in the doorway holding her and it reminds me I want to spend every second I can with them”. It’s beautiful because you can hear the joy in the tone of his voice.
Talking of language training, Mohamed’s daughter is no different. His first language is German, but he also speaks Tarifit with his family. “Some people call it ‘Berber’, but I don’t like this term” he asserts gently, “because this comes from the Romans and it means ‘barbarian’. I speak to my daughter in Tarifit because I don’t want my language to die out”.
Curious about his role at home, I ask inquisitively “Are you a ‘hands-on’ dad?” (knowing that mums like the answer to be ‘yes’). “Do you change the diapers?” I add quickly. “Yes, of course!” He laughs brightly. “That’s part of my job! I’m tired when I come home but I know I need to do these things; to cherish every moment. Even the diapers!”
Speaking with Mohamed, I get the sense he’s in harmony with the world around him. He’s going to get it right. I tell him: “Having kids gets better each day, as they learn to speak with you and tell you their experiences of the world.”
But what of the machines? Will they grow to deliver complex concepts as effortless output? “Machine translation is not good with content that requires human reasoning” he explains. “What I can say is that collaboration between humans and machines must be embraced. You can’t say that MT can do it all. They need lots of supervision. To reach the point where they don’t need us anymore won’t be within the next ten to twenty years”.
That’s true, Mohamed. At least for the machines.
Lucy Kikuchi from our marketing department interviewed Mohamed for our blog.
If your business requires consultation on the best use of MT and development possibilities, contact our team today. They can advise you on approaches and strategy.
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