As the years go by, our quality of life has been greatly improved by technological innovations. However, a question often asked by many people is whether machines will ever make humans redundant. In the translation industry, debate has raged for years around machine translation.
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Definition of machine translation
Machine translation is defined as the automatic conversion of words and phrases from one language to another. We can understand machine translation done on computer with non-human output. This software uses databases and statistics to analyze the structure, break it down and reconstruct it in another language.
In an article by Sure Languages, the author explains that machine translation works well with formulaic languages, or "with small paragraphs of unmistakable meaning". However, for more complex documents, machine translation is unlikely to be as good.
Machine translation software cannot understand the context, detect errors in the source text, or pick up nuances of the language. In contrast, human translators are capable of everything because machines work with words, while humans work with languages.
Why companies should avoid machine translation
Most businesses translate their documents into other languages to attract new customers from abroad. In today's global market, entering foreign markets is crucial and investing in multilingual content is a must.
However, the availability of content in multiple languages will not be used if the message is poorly represented and the language quality is poor. What brand image are you aiming for if you make a mistake while targeting?
An article on website translation explained that consumers tend to buy more when information is explained in their own language. The writer of the article below is the research and also supporting evidence:
- Can't read, Won't buy by Common Sense Advisory has shown that: 72% of consumers spend most (if not all) of their time online on websites in their language. The same percentage also admitted to be more likely to buy a product if the information is available in their language.
- Language preferences of online users by the European Commission ddax researched is that 90% of Europeans always visit a website in their language of choice. And 42% of them said they never buy a product or service if the information is not available in their mother tongue.
Should we fear and avoid machines?
Absolutely not. Translators rely heavily on software to make their work easier through computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. These tools are for enhancing productivity. They differ from machine translation in that they involve a human in the middle of the process.
CAT tools include Translation Memory (TM) that records and stores past translations by human linguists. This memory picks up similar phrases or repeated terms between different texts and helps translators deliver the finished product consistently and save time.
Furthermore, customers also enjoy the benefits of computer-aided translation as they receive back translated texts in less time without sacrificing quality.
Conclusion: Can machines replace humans?
In short, machine translation is not a threat to the translator's livelihood. As stated in an article by the American Translational Association, “Despite continual improvements, researchers and practitioners recognize the specific and measurable limitations of using using machine translation”. So if perfect quality is the goal, the answer to this question in the title above is definitely no.
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The Difference Between Machine Translation And Translation Tools
For many people, the terms Machine Translation and Translation Engine are not much different, so they can do something with automatic translation (just like Google Translate). But is that true? The truth is that Machine Translation and Translation Tools are far from the same.
Let's start by learning the definitions of these terms:
Machine translation is a tool or software that performs all the automatic translation tasks from one language to another. No human involvement in the translation process is necessary. The machine does it all for you. Google Translate, Bing Translator or Yandex Translate to name a few are translations that millions of people are using.
The Translation Tool (or CAT), on the other hand, is a piece of software designed for translators to use during the translation process. Human translators are responsible for translating, reviewing and proofreading on the CAT Tools platform. The purpose of CAT tools is only to help translators improve the productivity and quality of translations, not to take over the work of translators.
I'm sure you can tell the difference between these two concepts by now. But that's not enough information for you to decide when to use Machine Translation and when to use Computer Aided Translation. So let's dig deeper into their advantages and disadvantages.
Compare Machine Translation and Translation Tools
If you need to translate a document, all you have to do is paste the text into the machine translation tools and wait 1-2 seconds for the translation result. Super easy and fast right? Immediate results are definitely the best benefit of using machine translation.
Meanwhile CAT Tools possesses some important features that help translators work much faster than those who do not use the tool. CAT Tools translation memory and terminology restores previous translations or bilingual formats allowing translators to compare source and target versions while contributing to higher translator performance.
Language is complex and dynamic. Language also deals with unique cultures and social norms that computers cannot understand. Therefore, inaccuracy is the biggest drawback of machine translation. Your translation is prone to misinterpretation or unnatural.
These translations are often required post-editing by humans to ensure acceptable quality.
Since CAT tools only serve as a support for translators, the quality of translating projects depends mainly on the translator. Translators from professional translation agencies or freelancers are well-trained and highly qualified, so accuracy can be guaranteed.
Besides, humans understand the context and social norms so you don't have to worry too much about the use of grammatical words or the grammar of the translated text.
There are a large number of free machine translation programs like Google Translate, Linguee, iTranslate, etc that give you instant translations. If your volume is high, you may have to purchase the paid versions of these tools.
Anyway, the price is significantly lower than hiring a translator or using CAT Tools.
CAT Tools are not freely available, nor are the translators who use them. So you have to pay some money for a good quality translation.
But you know, you get what you pay for.
Machine translation should only be used to understand the main idea of the text.
As for the demanding quality, Any official documents, both internal and external, must be translated by translators with the help of CAT Tools for best results.