Translation plays a crucial role in the global expansion of companies around the world. With the ever-increasing demand for accurate translations of legal documents, technical documents, websites, and other marketing materials, it is no surprise that the global language services market’s estimated net worth is USD 60.68 billion. This rapid escalation has created a perfect opportunity for machine translations to seize control of the market and potentially replace professional human translators…or has it?
What is Machine Translation?
This computational technology allows for the interconversion of text or speech between languages using artificial intelligence, all without human involvement. The neural system of a translating machine is widely considered to provide the most accurate output; this system was adopted by Google Translate in 2016. Neural network systems consist of many artificial neurons, which are the core of deep learning algorithms that simulate neurons relaying information in the human brain. These neurons are responsible for suggesting texts as we type emails or messages, predicting subsequent words’ possibility.
Essentially, the input text is converted into a sequence of numbers by a complex mathematical algorithm. This number sequence is then translated by the neural network into an output series of numbers which represent the text in the desired language.
Why Use Machine Translation?
There are abundant benefits to using machines and their artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Machines yield translated text instantaneously and can handle large volumes of text at the same time. Professional translators are usually only fluent in two languages, whereas the same automated system in a machine can translate a multitude of different languages. The process is much cheaper and considerably quicker, especially considering the time and resources spent searching for the right human translator. From a business perspective, translated text typically does not require grammatical perfection. Business may prioritize cost-effectiveness and basic comprehensibility instead and these requirements are better met by machines. However, there are more advantages to employing human translators.
Why Use Human Translators?
The accuracy of translations is marginally higher when using a professional human translator than a machine. This is largely because machines adopt a word-for-word translation technique instead of considering the word’s context within its sentence. Machines also struggle with languages that have very different grammar rules, such as Chinese, Korean or Japanese. On the other hand, professional human translators can quickly adapt and make necessary changes.
The nature of the content to be translated also affects the precision of the output text. Literary or poetry translations are significantly harder for machines due to the subtle nuances and forms of the words. These automated translation engines also cannot rectify errors in the source text before translation. They might simply produce a translation that does not make sense. This means that humans are still required not only to understand and ensure the source material’s accuracy, but also to ensure the translation’s accuracy. An experienced human translator has the capability to weave cultural elements into the translated content as well. This is especially important for businesses aiming to localize in a country with deep-rooted values and traditions reflected in the native language. The human touch ensures that the translated content conveys the same meaning as the source using creativity instead of merely changing each word into a different language.
Optimal Solution…For Now
We can conclude that humans and machines have their own drawbacks, so the ideal solution is to combine them. Professional translators expedite their work by utilizing computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools – softwares that are specifically designed to support linguists by enabling editing, creating and storing translations. This differs from machine translation because CAT tools are not responsible for translating the text but serve to augment and enhance the performance and efficiency of human translators.
One of the most defining features of CAT tools is the translation memory. This feature separates lengthy documents into phrases stored in the CAT tool database, which can be reused any time. For every translation task, the human translator will receive suggestions from the translation memory database on phrases that have been translated before. This then makes the translator’s job more convenient.
CAT tools can also detect images and text within images, allowing the translator to translate them. Additionally, the software has a spellcheck ability and ensures consistency in both formatting and translation. This allows for more affordable and faster translation by humans while maintaining high-quality output text, making it the most cost-effective strategy.
Nevertheless, with rapid advancements in artificial intelligence seen in recent years, it is likely that machine translation will continue evolving. However, it may never fully replace human translators.