Machine Translation (MT) is rightly seen as a great leap forward for localization, as it allows firms to turn projects around in a short timescale, while also enabling companies to translate materials that until the advent of MT were seen as too costly to have translated.
However, human translators shouldn’t fear for their future, as they are not going to be replaced any time soon! Why? Simply because they will always be required when top-quality final translations are required.
While EQHO understands and embraces the benefits associated with MT – it isn’t necessarily universally viable without the collaboration of professional linguists.
Here are a few compelling reasons why human translators will always be in demand.
Quality translations take time and expertise. Polyglots will often struggle to translate a document perfectly, so to expect a computer program to do a better job is misguided. It’s a simple fact of life that humans are better at doing certain activities. An appreciation of cultural nuances and the ability to translate good writing from one language into another is very much a highly-prized skill. Remember, translators often have to recreate sentences in order to make sure they make sense in different languages, rather than simply translating word for word.
Language is highly subjective. Words can have different meanings depending on the context, while idioms and phrases do not always cross country borders. For example, contract, agreement, pact can all mean the same thing in certain contexts. Human translators will translate documents differently, but there is no consistent way to ascribe quality, as they will all be correct in so far as they will be without grammatical errors. This is where MT falls down, as it is not able to factor in subjectivity in the process, instead using either a rules or statistics-based system. As such, MT will only ever be able to offer limited options with their output.
Estimates suggest there are around 7,000 different languages. Now, while a lot of these languages may not be used very often, the capacity to develop a foolproof MT system for even the most popular 1,000 languages is still a massive challenge and there will always be knowledge gaps on the part of machine engine capabilities. Added to this, there is significantly more translation work than there are translators to perform it. The only aspect holding a lot of companies back from translating certain content is price. While the nature of linguistic work may very well change; shifting from full translation or editing assignments to that of MT post-editing, the volumes are set to explode as cost challenges are addressed through innovative MT technologies. This essentially means significantly higher volumes for linguists, albeit for lower unit rates.
The need for the human touch
Most compelling of all is the fact human translators are already used in MT processes. Whether it is for engine training and re-training, light of full post-editing, people will be employed to create a translation that is not only accurate but also stylistically appropriate. This involves reviewing the copy created by the MT and making any alterations that are required in an effort to create a quality level which is indistinguishable from that of professional human translators.
Subject matter expertise
MT is undoubtedly useful for certain types of translations, and is a quick and effective way of translating a lot of material in a short period of time. However, certain subject matter will always require the human touch. For example, developing engaging and creative marketing material in one language is tough even for professional translators, so MT will not do your efforts justice. Instead, it is a much better idea to use an expert translator who has a good understanding of the topic and creative flair, as they will be much better placed to create copy that resonates with the target audience.