If you are a professional translator or interpreter, you may be concerned about the number of machine translation (MT) options now available to individuals and business owners. The alternatives are certainly numerous – from Google Translate to Xerox Easy Translator to Babylon software and many more. Even more concerning for professional translators is the fact that many of these options are remarkably inexpensive. But there’s good news for linguists who may be worried that their jobs will be taken away by cheap MT programs: you get what you pay for.
While it’s true that several of the MT software products can perform translation services at the most basic level, artificial intelligence is far from producing the kind of quality translations that can be provided by an experienced human linguist. And although the day may come when our automated translation capabilities are far more advanced than they are now, it’s hard to imagine a time when any MT program can keep up with the myriad of languages spoken throughout the world, all of which are constantly changing and evolving at an alarming rate.
The fact is that even the best-performing machine translation products are unable to pick up on the nuances of language – such as variations in word usage or changes in language brought about by popular culture. Even further down the road is the MT program capable of intuitively understanding the cultural sensitivity of people in different regions of the world. And when it comes to business translations that require knowledge of industry-specific terminology, machine translations fall seriously short of adequate. These are tasks that can only be accomplished by a professional translator or interpreter.
If this isn’t enough to quell your concerns, consider this: In the year 2016, professions involving translators and interpreters were some of the fastest-growing careers around the world. This is due not only to the fact that we are becoming increasingly global in our personal and business relationships, but also because only experienced human translators can provide the highest-quality translations, which include an understanding of language nuances, cultural sensitivity, and a knowledge of industry-specific terms.
There is no doubt that machine translation continues to be a popular choice for some individuals. And in certain situations – such as personal communications on social media, for example – it may be adequate. But for the type of high-quality translations required by governments, non-profit organizations, and businesses in a wide variety of industries, there is truly no replacement for human translation.