Written by: Lauren Kim at Worldwide Express
When people look for translation services they quickly realize there are two different types of translations: human translation or AI (machine translation). It’s pretty self-explanatory that a human does the human translations, while a software program does machine translations. The question here is, can AI fully replace human translators? The short answer is ‘no’, due to various reasons that you may not have thought of before: accuracy, context and critical thinking.
There are varying levels of precision a person may consider when looking for a translator. With an uptick in free, web-based machine translations many people have quick-access to these tools and the results may have some inaccuracies but overall could be understood. This is acceptable if the file is small (just a few, simple sentences) or the reader only needs to under the gist of the matter. Understandably, if a legal document or medical report must be translated, the translation should be precise and with little to no mistranslations as one error could cost a company millions of dollars or end up with fatal consequences. That is one of many reasons why one will choose to go with a human translation instead.
It’s important to know that some languages are harder to translate than others. For example, the hardest language pairing to translate is Chinese to English. This is due to the fact that one word in Chinese can have multiple meanings based on the way you pronounce a word. Another example is the Spanish language where verbs and tenses are difficult to translate while also preserving it’s meaning. For example, individual Spanish words determine the gender of the subject so a lot more explanation is required when translating to another language like English. Often times, phrases and words don’t have a literal word translation in a different language, which can create big misinterpretations or gaps in the final translation if it is done with a machine. With a human translation, the translator is able to find an equivalent word or phrase so the final translation stays true to the original meaning and doesn’t get watered down. Unfortunately, AI cannot do this for you.
Human translators can ask questions to the client to verify or clarify information. Machines are unable to do this and are often restricted to the language pairings that best suit the system. So when you put a file through the software program, unless you read or speak the same language that is being translated, you may not be able to tell if you received the best translation in the end. With a human translation, they can review and edit their work to provide a guarantee that the translation you are receiving can be understood by anyone who reads it.
Despite the complex and advanced platform of machine translations, the accuracy and consistency is lacking. The reason for this is due to context and idiomatic expression that machines simply can’t apply to their translations the way humans can. This is why a human translator will often review larger files even after a machine translation has been completed to ensure there is no awkward phrasing or mistranslations in the text. This can delay the completion time of your file. In addition to that, the context must be taken into consideration context because of tonal or idiomatic languages. No matter which option is chosen, machine or human translation, there must be a diligent quality-control process put into place to preserve the original message across all the languages. Human translations can give you this certainty and no machine will ever be able to replace that.