why computers can't replace human translators
Everything Translation

5 Reasons Why Computers Can’t Replace Human Translators

Everything Translation

5 Reasons Why Computers Can’t Replace Human Translators

Despite being considered a relatively “new and modern” phenomenon, machine translation has existed since the 1950s. Over the years, it has vastly improved; so much so that the translation industry is continuously on the verge of change. Due to its rapidness, efficiency, and quality, machine translation has boldly suggested it could forever replace human translators.

But can it really? The short answer to that is no – not entirely anyway.

Below, let’s dig into 5 key reasons why human translation will always surpass machine translation – and why some people and companies choose to use it anyway.

Machine Translation Engines: How do they work?

Machine translation (MT) engines are highly complex systems with a long history and evolution. To build them, expert linguists and technicians use algorithms, coding, and decoding. Originally, rule-based machine translation, or RBMT, used a so-called classical approach. This approach relies on linguistic information collected from source and target language dictionaries and grammar sources.

In 1990, machine translation was replaced by statistical machine translation, or SMT. SMT analyzes a body of bilingual texts and data. It was a significant step forward for the RBMT, as machines tend to learn language rules by themselves, without needing linguists’ manual help. SMT might be considered a more traditional translation model, but it is still widely used nonetheless.

5 Reasons Why Machine Translation Can’t Replace Human Translators

Many professional translators claim that machine translation cannot replace humans. The simplest reasoning behind this is that machines still tend to err during the translation process for various reasons. Testifying to the fact that computers can’t translate as well as humans are the following 5 reasons:

1. Better Content Quality

Human translation is fluid, natural, and based on the artistic interpretation of the original content created. Human translators understand the essence of the content translated, whereas machine translation does not. Human translators will know the cultural language particularities, nuances that native speakers use, tone, and phrases. As machine translation engines don’t really understand context, they cannot perfectly translate the meaning of the content. 

2. Language Skills

When it comes to native human translators, their experience in both languages helps translate any content to meet the audience’s needs. Although machine translation is cheaper and faster than human translation, it cannot grasp the connotation of a document. Human translators have natural language skills and a genuine knack for wording and conceptualizing content.

3. Cultural Sensitivity

The most critical aspect when translating content is cultural sensitivity.
That said, each culture has its values intertwined within its language. When translating content from one language to another, human translators can consider various different cultural norms and values. As human translators understand cultural norms and values, they will translate the content to perfection. Automated machines, however, will likely miss cultural hints and connotations and will therefore fail to translate the content accordingly.

4. Language Evolution

It is impossible for machine translation engines to ‘learn’ the whole vocabulary history of a language and its use – especially as new words are added to our everyday vernacular daily. Human translators can adapt much quicker to these changes than machines. For machines, these changes are difficult to adapt to and require contact upgrading and reteaching – they just can’t keep up.

5. Human Touch

Artificial intelligence that machine translators use can never match human intelligence. Machine translators are indeed pretty efficient, but still, human translators give the content the special significance it lacks. The translation process will be understandable and grammatically correct if there are proofreaders and copy editors to manage it. As only humans can understand the complexity of a language, they are the only ones able to enhance the translation for the target audience.

Why Do Some Choose Machine Translation?

Although human translators are somewhat indispensable in the industry, some companies and businesses still opt for machine translation – and here’s why.

1. Translation Speed

It goes without saying that computers outperform humans when it comes to speed. Most companies have turned to machine translation when they need to meet a deadline or handle a mass volume of content at once. However, a significant drawback of automated translation is the loss of translation accuracy.

2. Consistency

Sometimes machine translation provides superior quality to human interpretation. This is mainly due to consistency in its wording and style, where machine translation exceeds expectations. But, machines often fail to choose the right words based on cultural nuances. Therefore, even though they are consistent in their wording and phrases used, they cannot be trusted to judge the correct meaning by context.

3. More for Less

Automated translation allows larger projects with a higher volume of content to be delivered quickly. As a result, this allows a business to save up more money and avoid overspending on human translation, which comes at a high cost. With machine translation, there is often no or little additional cost for revision, which is why automated translation tends to be a more budget-friendly option.

The Final Verdict: Machine or Human Translation?

Machine translation is faster and time-saving. Yet, the final results cannot match the quality, flow, and structure of human-translated content. If you decide to use a translation engine with human reviewers in certain areas – what is often referred to as neural machine translation and post-editing (NMTPE) – you can make the best of both worlds and get the desired content results faster. 

The importance of the machine translator is obvious, but, if you eliminate speed as a factor in the process, human translators are still your best bet for high-quality translated content. The final decision is up to you and your company’s stakeholders depending on your specific needs.

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