The Pitfalls of AI Translation


The Pitfalls of AI Translation
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

12/17/2019

The importance of translation in today’s business world has led to an increase in the demand for quality translation services.

Translation allows firms to interact and communicate with global audiences. The service is also critical for organizations looking to foster harmonious relationships with international communities.

Here are other benefits of professional translation services:

  • Bridges communication gap between global companies and international audiences
  • Helps in the formation of successful partnerships between local governments and businesses
  • Accurately reflects local sentiments and culture, which enhances the understanding of films, literature, and music
  • Enhances international diplomacy by enabling the sharing of global ideas in an accurate, non-condoning and expressive manner

Despite the many benefits of translation, some organizations still have their content in one language. These firms are typically torn between using machine or human translation services.

Human Translation vs. AI Translation

Human translation involves using professional translators to change content from one language to another. On the other hand, machine translation involves using artificial intelligence (AI) to transform text from one language to another.

Human translation is more accurate than machine translation. On the other hand, AI translation is typically cheaper and faster. However, if you are dealing with a specific industry, every industry has its own jargons and terminologies which vary from country to country. Here, the human translators win the race by understanding and translating the content more accurately, and in sync with the context.

In the recent past, the number of AI translation providers has grown. Moreover, there has been a considerable improvement in the accuracy of machine translation. Some of the leading AI translation firms include Google Translate, DeepL Translator, and Microsoft Translator.

Despite the many benefits of translation, some organizations still have their content in one language. These firms are typically torn between using machine or human translation services.

Examples of AI Translation Errors

Let’s look at a few examples of just how inaccurate AI translation can be.

  • Chinese to English

    Sometimes, AI may directly translate words, losing the intended meaning of the text.

    Consider the Chinese to English AI translation errors below:

    脚踏实地 is a Chinese idiom that means ‘to step on solid ground’ when translated in English. This is a positive idiom that encourages one to focus on doing the right things and proceed steadily. However, Google Translate translates the idiom to ‘down to earth’ and it misses the idiom’s true meaning.

  • English to German

    Human translation is also better than machine translation when it comes to detecting voice tone. While a human translators will know which tone best suits a message, a machine won’t.

    For instance, look at this English to German machine translation:

    Original message: Make sure you have the latest operating system on your device.

    AI translation (German): Stellst du sicher, dass du das neueste Betriebssystem auf deinem Gerät hast - Make sure you (informal) have the latest operating system on your (informal) device.

    In this translation, du, which is the informal form of "you" is used. A more preferred formal word would be sie. The informality can be viewed as impolite by readers.

  • Dutch to English

    Some words have more than one meaning and AI can’t determine the best option to use in a sentence. For example, consider this Dutch to English machine translation:

    Original message: Packages 1 and 2 both charge a monthly fee, as these have additional features to Package 1.

    AI translation (Dutch): Pakketten 1 en 2 vragen elk een maandelijks bedrag, omdat deze extra functies hebben voor Pakket 1. - Abonnements 1 and 2 both charge a monthly fee, as these have additional features to Abonnement 1.

    AI translated the term package to abonnement, which means a whole different thing from what is referred to in the original message.

Despite the growth of AI translation, human translation is still very relevant today. Moreover, AI translation still has a long way to go if it is to beat the translation accuracy levels of human translators.

 

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.