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Man against Machine [Translation]

28th, October, 2017

Man against Machine [Translation]

This topic is a current hot potato, with many translators learning new skills and software to assist with translation automation. At Linguistico we do sometimes work with specialists who use Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) software tools, and they can and do save money when cheap translations are required. However, often CAT technology isn’t appropriate and actually increases the risk of error in a project. In our experience, many senior, industry-experienced translators working with pen, paper and Microsoft Word still deliver a more correct, concise and knowledgeable translation than someone using CAT tools.

Next time you have five spare minutes, try inputting some words into Google Translate, translating them, copy and paste back in to Google translate in the other direction and see the results. Sometimes the results are excellent and sometimes comical. How does a machine know if “J’aime” means “I like” or “I love”? Without context and human understanding, it doesn’t.

In many situations, old-fashioned approaches can and do continue to work far better than newer, software-based translations and some more senior translators simply refuse to use modern software. Experienced translators who have, spent years in legal practice or in the medical profession for example, and then gained even more years of linguistic knowledge are certainly better suited to a project containing specialist language or language nuances.

On the other hand, for the translation of documents such as user manuals, incorporating repetitive content, CAT tools can speed up the translation, reduce cost dramatically andensure words and phrases are translated consistently.

A growing trend at some translation agencies is “Machine Post-Editing”, this is when an automated translation is followed by a human review to improve accuracy or tone. This can be a great cost and time saver with simple texts, but for anything complex or slightly away from the norm, it is better to use a real human (or team of real humans) from the outset. Furthermore, if a translation is inaccurate to start with, it will be extremely difficult to edit and will never be as good as if it had been translated correctly by a human to begin with!

We don’t often come across this type of scenario in our specialist sectors of legal, medical, mining and engineering translations, as much of our work is heavily nuanced or too important to trust to a machine.

However, looking ahead, it surely is an exciting time to be involved in our growing industry, as national borders and language barriers are impacted by the internet and technology. We don’t see computers taking all the work away from humans any time soon, particularly in the more specialised industries, but their impact – both positive and negative – cannot be denied.

At Linguistico, we use human translators, not machines. If you’d like to speak to one of our Project Managers to discuss your document translation needs we’d love to hear from you.

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