—Machine translation is a fascinating technology but can it really ever replace human translation services ? As technology advances, so does the human desire to obtain information fast. We can now google a word or phrase and have a definition or information on a topic within a matter of seconds.
The desire for everything to be so instantly accessible applies to translation as well. As businesses continue to develop relationships overseas, the need to communicate quickly becomes ever more powerful. This is where machine translation comes in useful.
No longer just the domain of Google translate, there are apps on mobile phones and other technology that allow instant translation from one language into another. The wonder does not cease as an iphone app instantly translates foreign language text and further confirms the idea that technology really can do it all. Menus of strange foods can be understood at the touch of a button and translation suddenly no longer seems a distant, complex art form but rather something that can be accessed instantly.
This is of course an idealistic view of these technologies. Whilst they are helpful for small everyday comprehension requirements, they falter on larger more important translation projects. Even short sentences can create problems with word order and terminology choice is left up to the user. In German for example there can be several words for one English word and with machine translation it is not always obvious which one is the right choice. This can lead to embarrassment for businesses using machine translation as they have to face up to the reality of their bad translation in the public eye. There are numerous examples of hilarious mistakes made in translations that are used all over the world. In China for example there are many strange English signs available for all to see. When it is a translation out of your native language it is not necessarily possible to realise where there are mistakes so it is best to ensure you trust the person taking care of any projects to do a good job.
Translation requires distinctions to be made between terminology choices, style and many other language nuances. This is something that machine translation cannot be certain of achieving and a text pushed through these software forms often needs to be post-edited. Whilst on the surface this seems a preferable choice to waiting for someone to laboriously translate each sentence, it is not actually so straightforward. Word order must be changed, strange collocations adapted and general style and terminology choices changed. We discuss why translation is such a confusing business, in our our guide to translation.
When communication is so important to business, does it make sense to trust a machine to work with something as delicate as as languages?