In recent years, we’ve witnessed many technological revolutions. Professional translators, amongst other specialists, have had to adapt to new technologies. And while translation memories and other translation tools have improved their productivity and opened a whole new world of possibilities, a new “danger” has emerged: machine translation.
Should professional translators fear the machine? Are translation companies threatened by this automated process? Are translators an endangered species? Before demonizing the machine, let’s take a look at its benefits.
It is widely accepted that a machine translation tool can process a large amount of texts and documents faster than any human. All you have to do is select the documents you wish to have translated, press a button and voilà! The translation tool spits out an English translation, a French translation, a Spanish translation or a text in whatever language you need it. With Google Translate recently launching a new Japanese feature, possibilities could be endless.
Online, you can find many translation services for free. And let’s be honest: moneywise, who can beat a free translation?
If no one can argue that machines can translate documents from English to French – or in any other pair of languages – faster and cheaper than anything else, one also has to know that this approach comes with many disadvantages. Let’s now explore the darker side of machine translation.
The whole process of machine translation is done automatically. Most automatic translation services use statistics to provide translated content, whether they are used for translating websites, PDF or other file formats. While it can be surprisingly close to what a professional translator would do, it does not take context into account, and that’s where it can all go wrong. Since machines don’t get nuances of a particular language, they often make the wrong decisions, which will inevitably introduce grammatical and meaning errors in the end text, not to mention shortchange it in terms of cultural references. Simply put, you get a word-to-word translation that does not convey the meaning of the original document.
A human translator analyzes the text. Most of the time, translation agencies will hire native speakers. So, if a company’s target audience is located in Canada and needs translation in French-Canadian, the translator assigned to its project will most likely be Canadian, and a native French-speaker. Therefore, he will use idiomatic expressions intended for the target audience, which will in the end provide a higher-quality translation. Instead of translating literally, the translator adds a native color to the text and makes sure it reflects the meaning and the goals intended by its original author. The creativity of the specialized translator adds value to your content. No matter how hard a machine tries and how well the translation tool is trained, it will never get to this result.
While an automatic translation service can deliver a translation in a heartbeat, it will never get to know you. You have requirements and preferences that only a human can understand. By choosing to partner with a translation agency, you ensure consistency in content, trusting it will meet your requirements without having to spend precious time on extra reviewing or subsequent editing.
The list of inconveniences and problems with machine translation (or, inversely, the list of advantages from using translation services offered by real professionals) could go on, but the bottom line is, even if Google Translate and the likes can give you results that are “good enough” at first sight, there is nothing like a human touch. Thanks to the creativity and critical thinking of a professional translator, you are more likely to get a translation that reflects a positive image of your company and that show just how much you care about your customers.
A skilled manager with a strong grasp of his métier, Jean–Guy Latulippe brings FIG Translation’s clients over 30 years of diversified experience in the fields of communications, marketing, business development and training.