If you’ve used Google or any other machine translator before, chances are the results you got were either far out or not natural sounding. Machine translation and automated tools can be useful for everyday use, but they cannot match the accuracy and knowledge of a professional human translator for technical industries and purposes, such as medical or legal documents. In certain circumstances, there is no reliable replacement for a professional human translation.

Why is a human translator so important? And what should you consider when choosing to rely on a professional human translator rather than a machine translator? Here are some insights into this topic, so keep reading to find out.

Woman with headphone doing translation work on her laptop Definition of Human Translation

Human translation is employing the translation services of a human who studied linguistics and has background knowledge of the specific industry they are translating for. For example, human translation services are available in the legal or medical field. Human translators are also typically ones who speak the native language of the target language.

Translation and language services take more than just writing a message from one language to a target language, which makes it a complicated process. It considers the cultural context and other nuances of the language. A professional human translator, therefore, must possess the linguistic skills and have experience using that language for a given amount of time to ensure that they can overcome any nuances in understanding the language.

On the other hand, machine translation is on the rise, especially with the advancement in artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s now possible to find a translation software that can offer translation services that blur the line between machine and human translation. One example of that is neural machine translation (NMT), which means that the software learns as it does the translation to the target language.

NMT aims to overcome the current limitations of machine translation, such as the fact that these translations sound robotic instead of natural-sounding (as they should). The words and phrases that are used for every translation are stored in a large neural network, which is designed to mimic how the human brain works. During translation, the processing device taps into that neural network in the same way that humans tap into their stored knowledge and familiarity with the language to translate content from the source language into another language while preserving the precise message and meaningful context.

For example, sentences are phrased in such a way that it sounds like a human would say them. Translation memory is a type of technology utilised in many machine translation tools to not only improve the speed at which language is being translated but also to increase efficiency in the results.

AI is clearly on the rise in the translation services industry, which leads to the next big question: will AI translators replace human translators?

Benefits of Human Translators

Human translation services will remain the gold standard in the translation industry, as they come with the most comprehensive set of skills to handle any type of translation work. Here are some reasons why professional human translators get the upper hand over machine translation.

Accuracy

Accurate translation is the most important factor to consider when you are looking for quality translation. And this is where translation services have the edge.

The advancement in AI for machine translation means that they are close to mimicking the way the human brain works. However, humans are still more advanced because the software used in machine translation is only as effective as the data it can store. Human translation is more precise because it can interpret and convey the meaning, as well as take into account the target audience, in the translation project.

Woman with headphone looking at laptop screen and writing on a notebook Human translation services also consider the differences in language usage based on the various fields or according to the translation project, such as in technical industries. In addition, accuracy can be an issue when dealing with a high volume of translation jobs. The correct format of the original language should always be preserved in the translated language.

Contextual Understanding

The human language is complex as it is but it becomes more complicated when you toss in the contextual nuances. The difficulty of this task is evident when you have to do translation for different languages and target audiences around the world. Each translation must be done with the highest level of accuracy, which means preserving the true meaning of the text. Simple word choices can have an impact on the quality and efficiency of various languages.

The phrase ‘lost in translation’ became popular after certain contextual elements can interfere with the process of translating one language into another. You have to consider the technical expressions, jargons, and other factors to ensure that you achieve the best outcome with the translated document.

It’s something where professional translation services have the edge since machines are incapable of understanding these nuances, although advanced translation software has built-in tools like memory to address this.

Cultural Sensitivity

Each culture is different and has a unique set of norms and values. These norms can impact how that particular culture uses language. Cultural sensitivity is one aspect of translation services that only native speakers will understand and be able to employ in their translation projects.

A human translator uses that cultural knowledge when doing the translation to ensure that the message is appropriate for its context and target languages. At the same time, they can ignore any aspects of the translation that is culturally irrelevant, which could cause confusion about the written text and risk losing the original meaning of the source document.

Human Translators: How Do They Compare to Google Translate?

Nowadays, it is easy for most people to turn to Google for answers, including translation. But is Google a good alternative to human translation?

Person using a laptop keyboard and chat icons popping up The obvious answer is that human translators are the most suitable choice over Google and automated translation tools. But machine translation isn’t too bad either. It’s important to understand why you should rely on professional translation services rather than using machine translation in particular situations.

Pros and Cons of Google Translate

PROS

Here are the benefits of using machine translation like Google:

  • It is a free tool and can be used for practical application in non-technical or high-risk cases.
  • It offers fast translation within seconds.
  • It is based on an online database of language information. While it isn’t as advanced as many language tools, it can deliver efficient results, especially depending on language pair frequency.

CONS

Here are the potential pitfalls of using machine translation:

  • The precise meaning of the message can be ‘lost in translation’ since automated tools don’t incorporate context.
  • The translated text or document might contain lots of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • The machine translator does not have a system to identify and correct those errors.
  • The quality and accuracy of the translation depend on the language paired.

Comparison of Human Translators and Google Translate

To answer the question above, you must identify the differences and similarities between professional human translation versus machine translation.

As mentioned previously, human translation offers higher accuracy and contextual understanding of the language. It is especially true with specific industries, such as the legal and medical industries that deal with technical expressions and language, as well as information only humans have an understanding of.

On the other hand, Google Translate and machine translation tools offer speed and cost-efficiency. It is a more obvious choice for casual or personal use. Relying on automated translation can be good for conversational translations. However, human translation will remain the most reliable choice for translation projects that have a higher set of risks. When the lives of patients are at risk, there is no room for error in doing the translation and only humans have the ability to discern the accuracy of a translated document.

Human translation is also advantageous in the sense that humans are more updated with new terminologies and cultural references that could change the meaning of the written text. Moreover, a professional translator can tailor the language according to the target audience, target language, or the purpose of the translated document. It’s critical for some industries to use the right words and tone as it must be consistent with the source document.

Person looking at a dictionary Conclusion

As technology continues to develop and AI reigns supreme in nearly every aspect of society, it seems as though it is only a matter of time until it renders human translation obsolete. However, this is far from the truth. Machine translation might have disrupted the translation industry but there is no reliable replacement for expert human translation.

In fact, the technology of machine translation is not yet capable of replacing human and professional translators, and it probably never will. However, it’s good to have machine tools for casual use. But when you are dealing with important documents, it’s best to look for quality translation from a professional human translator.

There are strengths and weaknesses for each type of translation process. You must assess the situation to understand what is the most appropriate choice for your project. Nonetheless, it is clear that human and machine translation will co-exist around the world and in various industries.

 

My Language Connection is an expert translation agency that provides technical translations, ensuring that your message is accurately conveyed in other languages to give you the peace of mind and confidence needed for effective communication. Get in touch today to find out more about our services.

Victoria Nicol

Author Victoria Nicol

As founder of My Language Connection Ltd (MLC), Victoria is qualified to a 2:1 BA honours degree level within Management, Technology and Enterprise. Victoria has nearing a decade of experience working within the translation industry, which has involved recruiting, training and managing sales teams, project managers, marketers and suppliers, managing high value projects across industries, working in key client account management roles, leading our team, focusing on strategy and growth and overseeing our full operation. Her passion, education and experience ensures that she and her team know how to look after you and your translation projects exceptionally well, delivering an excellent level of customer service and managing all aspects of your projects to make sure they are delivered on time and to budget every time.

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