Embracing New Directions: Axelle Sæunn Detaille’s Journey to Icelandic Translation

This month, we’re featuring reader Axelle Sæunn Detaille, a translator and project manager specializing in Icelandic. Here, she discusses her career in Iceland, as well as her thoughts on the future of the translation business.

Why do you enjoy reading MultiLingual magazine?

I like reading the articles written by industry experts because they cover a large variety of subjects. I also love keeping myself up to date with industry advancements, and I specifically enjoy reading the latest news about language technologies.

How did you get involved in the translation business in Iceland?

In 2006, I was finishing my master’s degree in Translation and Project Management at the University of Lille 3, France. In order to obtain my diploma, I had to do a six-month internship abroad, and I found this very exciting internship at the leading language services provider (LSP) based in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. I did not study Icelandic at school, but the destination is not a coincidence; I have felt a deep connection with the island for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by its culture and nature. After my graduation, I naturally moved to Reykjavik where I was offered a permanent position as a project manager at the company I interned at. 

Since you entered the translation industry, how has the business landscape changed?

CAT tools have exploded over the last 10-15 years, and new tools have helped increase productivity and quality dramatically. Ten years ago, machine translation (MT) was a significant challenge when applied to the Icelandic language due to the very nature of Icelandic grammar. But recent years have seen remarkable efforts in terms of translation quality generated by MT engines. On the other hand, LSPs have been more pressured to deliver high-quality content on shorter deadlines and at reduced costs. This is a difficulty all stakeholders face.

Could you share your experience working with your first client or on your first project?

When I came to Iceland in 2006, I did not speak a word of Icelandic, so my duties were mostly focused on projects for the foreign market because I was able to communicate in English with the customers. This experience gave me the opportunity to work with the major LSPs on large accounts right away.

Do you believe it’s a good time to enter the translation business?

I believe that it is a good time to work in the translation business. The increasing need for translation worldwide is a great sign that the industry remains essential. While technology has shaped our way of working, it is necessary to be aware of it to be able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.

Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 10 years?

I am passionate about languages and translation. This is where I like to thrive. I am currently looking for job opportunities in the industry. I seek continuous learning, and I am excited to know where it will bring me in the next 10 years. 

What predictions do you have for the future of the translation industry?

Cutting-edge technology is playing a major role in the turn that the industry is taking. Its future is already being shaped around it through new steps such as MT post editing (MTPE). I am curious to see how much AI and MT will redefine the human tasks. Will the technology remain an assistant designed to serve humans in their creative, daily tasks? Or could the technology outsmart human cognitive capacities when it comes to translation, without being biased or throwing a few hallucinations along the way? 

Customers should be aware of the different offers available on the market, as well as the quality that ensues — i.e., using MT vs. human translation — and all the options in-between. I believe that humans remain the best bet. Technology is made available to help humans performing tasks that only humans can perform. The nuances and subtleties of a language can only be reflected in another language by a human brain who has the knowledge of both languages. Large language models (LLMs) are not able to pick the right word in a given context. But it is exciting times ahead!

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