Last week Monday, the QuickPro Translations English to French department wrote a light-hearted blog inspired by Arthur, a client of ours who could not digest the fact that we do not use automatic machine translation services such as Google Translate to carry out our work. This led me to explore the big question; will machines replace humans in the translation industry? (The human versus machine – translator wars)
It is an unavoidable truth; Information Technology has impacted every aspect of human life. No profession, person or organisation has remained untouched by the relentless march of computation, information and communication technology.
Language service providers and translation agencies have also been affected by IT. Services like Google Translate use algorithms that scan a source text of one particular language and translate it into the selected target language by trying to match the meaning of words and phrases, syntax and grammar.
Although it works to a certain extent, it is far from efficient. The quality of the target language is mediocre at best and difficult to comprehend. Did you know that even the FAQ section of the Google Translate tool states: “Even today’s most efficient software cannot master a language as well as a native speaker and have by no means the skill of a professional translator.”
Google Translate is amongst the most popular machine translation services, but ironically even Google Translate produces below-average quality. Despite years of innovation, incremental improvements, technological advancements and contributions from computer scientists and language experts, automated machine translation remains ineffective and below par. It produces an extremely literal and inaccurate translation requiring a lot of human intervention to fix and rephrase. No matter how efficient a machine translation service claims to be, it cannot and will not replace the human translator.
Why does machine translation fail to deliver the desired quality?
To understand why machines fail to translate content from one language to another with the same dexterity as a human, it’s important to know how the human mind processes language. No two persons think alike. Even two identical twins born and brought up together, taught the same language with similar brain structures would process languages differently. It’s this subjectivity of the language processing skills of humans that machines cannot replicate.
Language is not just about the written words or sentences. There’s more meaning between the lines than there is in the lines or the words. When it comes to translation, an efficient translator is a person who can translate not just the words but also the implications, meanings and most importantly, the impact of the content.
When readers read content in any language, their comprehension and understanding of the written text is influenced by the culture and unique characteristics of their language as well as the region. While translating, a native translator who is an expert in the target language will be able to evoke similar emotions as those found in the original source text. These qualities and abilities are way beyond any technology or computer. No matter how advanced a computer is, unless it’s able to “Think” and “Feel” like humans, it wouldn’t be able to translate content with the same level of competence.
A trained and skilled translator incorporates all these elements in the translated text in a subtle manner.
Yes, automated machine translation is gaining ground and technology is accelerating, but it will never replace the human translator. In fact, as we move into the future, specialist human translators in fields such as medical, legal, engineering and finance, etc., will become more and more invaluable.
In the future, language service providers (LSP’s) will progressively need to modify their day-to-day processes through the incorporation of machine translations, but these processes will never be free of the human touch. The human translator does not face extinction if he or she specialises and becomes an industry expert.
Through our years of experience in the translation industry, we at QuickPro Translations in Mauritius have experienced a very compelling truth that when it comes to translation, nothing can replace the human touch.
If you’re on the lookout for efficient and cost-effective translation services, contact us today for a free, no obligation translation quote. Our specialist ‘human’ translators deliver high-quality translations on time and with consistency!