Lost in Translation: Why the Human Touch Beats Robots Every Time - Speak Your Language | Australia

GET a Quote




Live Chat

Lost in Translation: Why the Human Touch Beats Robots Every Time

Posted on: May 22, 2023 by admin

The role of AI in our changing world is one that’s expected to grow in the next few decades, but despite the rapid advancements in machine translation technology, there are still areas where human touch is essential, particularly in the field of translation. While machines can process and translate large amounts of text quickly, they often lack the ability to understand the nuances of language and culture that are essential for accurate and effective translation. This is where human translators and interpreters come in, offering the human touch necessary to ensure that translations are not only technically accurate but also culturally appropriate and effective in conveying the intended meaning to the target audience.


Issues of tone and context


There are a few nuances that stand out when a computer program is asked to translate reams of text from one language to another. Tone and context are not generally integrated correctly in a machine translation. A machine is adept at translating words and may be even able to translate them with respect to a particular level of formality, but language is a complex and highly malleable process. It is intrinsically human – idiomatic expressions, metaphors, slang, and other elements of language are directly tied to our cognitive abilities and understanding of the world around us. Therefore, human translation will always have better consistency and flow. (For now). To convey the message of a source text clearly while keeping the integrity of the original is beyond a machine. In a situation where a word has multiple meanings, a human translator would be quick to attribute the context correctly. A translating program might make an awkward connection that native speakers will quickly catch.


Cultural norms


Cultural sensitivity and adherence to cultural norms is another prevalent shortcoming in machine translation abilities. It is easy to miss the subtle cultural connotations that are embedded in language. For instance, certain words may have multiple meanings or connotations that are specific to a particular culture, which may go unrecognised by a machine. For example, in Japanese culture, the word “tatemae” refers to the public face or facade that a person presents to others, while “honne” refers to a person’s true thoughts and feelings. These words have a unique cultural significance and are often used in everyday conversation, but a machine may not be able to accurately convey their meanings to a non-Japanese speaker. They are certainly difficult enough to explain in this piece, in which 8 or 9 words are used to replace 1. This can lead to a misunderstanding of the true intentions behind the words, which can have significant consequences in business or diplomatic contexts. Human translators can recognize and translate these subtle differences, ensuring that the intended meaning is effectively conveyed to the target audience. A deep understanding of both languages, their colloquial nuances, and an up-to-date understanding of slang and idioms are things that machine translators just can’t replicate.


Speed and resources


It’s assumed that a machine could create a translation in a fraction of the time that a human could. However, when incorporating the time and expense of revising, or the cost of a mistake or misunderstanding, a machine can be considered more expensive in terms of time and resources. Human translators are extremely skilled at their craft and have undergone a lot of comprehensive training to get their language skills to a reputable standard. They can ensure that documents are accurately translated and culturally appropriate, reducing the risk of errors and misunderstandings. Additionally, human translators are able to work quickly and efficiently, often completing projects in a fraction of the time it would take a machine to produce a similar quality of translation. The cost of hiring an editor to revise a crudely-translated machine text would be similar to getting one to translate from scratch – only with more time wasted.


Technical translation


Technical translation is a complex process that requires an understanding of esoteric, context-dependent language. Many professional translators that don’t specialise in a technical field struggle with this form of translation, and a machine would struggle with the specific demands of the work. Technical translation requires a human translator’s expertise and knowledge to understand and accurately convey the meaning behind technical jargon and specialised language. Additionally, knowledge of specific terminologies which vary by industry and geographic region is required. Therefore, it is essential to have human translators that specialise in the specific industry or domain. These translators are well-equipped to handle the technical language that is specific to that industry. Human translators are also more adept at handling variations in language, dialects, and colloquialisms. Different regions or countries may have variations in terminology, grammar, and style that may not be recognized by machine translation systems. Human translators have the cultural and linguistic expertise required to understand these variations and ensure that translations are not only accurate but also culturally appropriate.


In conclusion, despite the massive improvements in the capabilities of AI of late, human translators won’t be collecting unemployment cheques anytime soon. The field is simply too specialised and nuanced for machines to overtake experienced translators. Tone and context and issues of cultural sensitivity require human touch to finalise. The cost of hiring an experienced translator, in terms of resources and time, is less than the alternative of fact-checking a machine-translated script. Finally, translation algorithms don’t yet have the capacity to translate in extremely technical and context-dependent fields like science, medicine, engineering, and law. For an experienced translator that can handle all these demands and more, contact Speak Your Language.