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April 18, 2016
As translation websites and smartphone and tablet translation applications grow in popularity, the battle between man and machine looks set to rage on. What is for certain is that the ease of translating documents or websites from one language to another has become more readily available due to technology advancements in translation tools. However, just because something is easier to do does not necessarily make it the best option both in personal and business terms. There are thought to be up to 7,000 different spoken languages in the world today all of which have evolved over time and as such sometimes there are occasions when an exact conversion from one language to another is not feasible. It is in these cases among others than human translation wins due to machine translation’s downfall of using rules rather than judgment or equations and not expertise built up over years of experience.
In many instances if not all professional human translators will only ever translate into their native language and therefore are able to adjust the flow of text and replicate the original text’s tone, style and meaning. While human translators are not novelists they are experts in their field who are able to make a piece of writing not appear to be an actual translation at all, but instead to read as though it was originally composed in the mother tongue. The ability to understand the cultural contexts makes the text easier to be understood by the intended audience. Human translators can therefore be compared to editors who shape, mould and perfect a piece of writing to make it more suited for public consumption.
When faced with a set of instructions and guidelines on the small piece of paper supplied with pharmaceutical and medical products, the average person can be excused for not fully understanding or making sense of many of the terms. Not being specialized in a particular field especially the medical and technical industries can create havoc for a machine translation application or website. Only with human translators are you provided with a specialized person who has built up years of experience and often worked within the actual industry. This ensures that the specific details of the subject are maintained and accurately translated minimizing confusion or misunderstanding by the final or target user.
Anyone that has tried learning a second language or even delving into the workings of their mother tongue will appreciate the complexities of language. Not only does it constantly evolve over time but the different cultures and traditions under the umbrella of that particular language are just as dynamic. For example, in the Spanish-speaking world there are great varieties between culture, grammar and even meanings when comparing Spanish from Spain and its close relation in Latin America. Whereas machine translations cannot accurately adapt a translation to ensure its culturally sensitivity or appropriate use for its intended audience; professional human translators can get rid of confusion and use the appropriate wording to avoid sometimes offensive errors.
Software and applications in general have a better accuracy when they are simply translating one word. When faced with a large text or sentence it will more often than not, translate word for word rather than appreciating the context of the whole text. The beauty and skill of human translation is this exact creativity that a machine lacks as the professional translator can find the most appropriate word or phrase while still being able to portray the original message to the target market or audience. Take the example of novels that are translated into a number of different languages. Where there is no exact translation, a human translator can use their creativity to perfectly craft the most appropriate phrase or expression to convey the original meaning.
There is no doubting that machine translations can convert a large amount of content from one language into another in a shorter time than human translators. However, it is only human professional translators that have an understanding and appreciation of a language’s complexity, the subject at hand and knowledge of the culture making their work priceless. In the same way that today, a computer cannot produce a captivating symphony or create a stunning piece of artwork that is more beautiful than that of a human; so too the machine translation cannot replicate the intricate workings of a professional human translator.
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