Will Technology Replace Professional Human Translators?

Over the past few decades, we have been warned that technology will soon supersede humans with movies such as, I Robot, Ex Machina, and AI-Artificial Intelligence promoting the assumption that humans will be one day be inferior to the machines they have created.

And yet, we still don’t seem to be quite there, especially in the translation industry, where the accurate use of language (our most subjective, culturally-driven and fickle friend) is paramount to understanding, acceptance and success.

But still, AI giants such as, Microsoft, Facebook and Google invest millions each year into automatic translation and tell us that technology will replace human translators in the near future.

So, how true is this claim?

This blog assesses the benefits that human translators have over AI and considers some of the uses for AI translation, in an effort to find the truth….



Translation, Language, Localization, Culture and Expertise

Language is more complex than many of us realise. It is inextricably linked to culture, time and place, it is constantly evolving.

For instance, humour, colloquial speech and lexical meaning often change depending upon location, politics, upbringing, socio-economics and the time period, to the extent that even within the same culture, a parent and their child can interpret the same word in a different way.

Writers, translators, marketers, therapists and so on, spend years perfecting their language craft so they hit the right tone of voice for each audience and imitating this expertise takes huge cultural and linguistic knowledge which has yet to be replicated by a machine.

However, there are varying levels of complexity linked to translation and language.

For example, asking for directions, ordering a meal, saying ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ are fairly straightforward and are not so susceptible to linguistic nuance, so AI should have no trouble creating an accurate translation.

However, the more the developed the conversation and language, the more difficult the translation becomes.

Translations which involve highly technical content such as, engineering, medical and legal translations require additional sector-specific knowledge, alongside the linguistic skills, to ensure an accurate and precise translation. It can even be a matter of life and death in some instances so trusting a machine to perform as well as a human translator is not always advisable.


Translation for Business in a Global Economy

It has become common to communicate with potential customers around the world, no matter where your business is located or where the customer resides.

But this interconnection can also present a hurdle – how do we effectively market products to customers who don’t speak the same language or share the same culture?

The answer, of course, is translation.

But in order for this to be accurate it is necessary to use human translators who understand the specific cultural and language adaptions needed for full engagement.

AI offers machine translations which can be especially useful for platforms such as, Facebook, Twitter and other social media but even in these instances, customers expect a high level of accuracy and a sound knowledge of the predominant culture.

For instance, a UK based firm marketing shampoo to an Arabic nation should be aware of cultural expectations linked to advertising that may have potential sexual connotations or shows women with their hair uncovered in public.

These cultural expectations are linked to the Islamic religion and filter through most areas of life in Arab countries. AI and machine translation have no concept of these values, except in their link to language rules, whereas a human translator (with in-depth cultural knowledge) would understand this explicitly.

AI and machine translation have their place in today’s fast-paced, interconnected world but relying on these solely for a linguistically and culturally accurate translation may lose your firm potential customers through sloppy mistranslations and inappropriate content.

If you are looking for a translation service that is second to none and gives assurances regarding quality and project management, then look no further.

Contact the team at Creative Word today to see how we can help.

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