Translation is an effective tool for communication between business, companies and their customers, organizations, and between countries.
One of the most common methods for completing translation is to hire a translation agency or perhaps a freelance translator. However, in the past few years, we have seen the emergence of a new type of translator: machines.
In this blog post we will discuss the differences between human translation and machine translation (i.e. what type of project can you use them for? OR How reliable are they?).
At times, machine translation can appear to be a good way to save money and time, but be cautious.
Machine translators first analyze the structure of each term or phrase within the source text; then, they break this structure down into elements that can be easily translated and recompose a term of the same structure in the target language.
While this method may appear correct, the quality of the translation is much lower than human translation, because sentence structure differs from language to language, which is something that most machine translators don't take into account.
Word For Word Translation
Your best-case scenario is that the machine translation provides a literal, word-for-word translation, which unfortunately leads to horrible results.
While the translation may be comprehensible, it will not sound natural at all, could include numerous grammatical mistakes, and may not be well-structured enough to maintain the original meaning.
Also, some words in foreign languages can have several possible meanings in the target language depending on the context. This is why human translation almost always trumps machine translation.
An informed understanding of the source text is essential, which machine translators can't offer.
Even Google has added this caveat to their translation software:
“Even today’s most efficient software cannot master a language as well as a native speaker and have by no means the skill of a professional translator.”
Where Does Human Translation Have The Advantage?
This is the greatest benefit of human translators: they are most often native speakers of the target language.
This is mainly why, unlike machine translation, they are quite familiar with all of the language's specifics, expressions, grammar, slang, and expressions, which allows the human translator to keep the meaning and tone of the original text, while providing the best and most accurate/appropriate translation.
On top of that, most translators have translation degrees, and their learned knowledge in the field facilitates the translation, while a machine translator may not be able to give an accurate translation.
Also, machines may sometimes leave terms as they are in the source text if they cannot provide an equivalent term in the target language.
Are There Any Appropriate Uses For Machine Translation?
Essentially, machine translation should only be used for small, non-important projects, for which you only need to gain a general understanding, not a perfect translation.
For example, if you needed to write a small postcard to your Grandma in France, you could take your time and use Google Translate to write a quirky, half-correct sentiment in French.
However, machine translation just is not practical for any serious projects by professional businesses.
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Last Updated July 2, 2018