As technology continues to advance in this growing age of innovation, it’s easy to assume that just about anything can be automated. The truth is that some fields absolutely require that human touch to effectively achieve its purpose, and one of those fields is translation.
Companies like Google and Microsoft have developed their own automated translation services to varying degrees of success, but the main consensus is that nothing surpasses the ability of native-speaking humans to translate at a personal and professional level. Plenty of businesses agree with this sentiment.
The Department of Labor has stated: “It is seldom, if ever, sufficient to use machine translation without having a human who is trained in translation available to review and correct the translation to ensure that it is conveying the intended message.”
With technology at such an advanced stage, is it really true that it is almost impossible for automated translators to match the strength of human translators? We asked a handful of businesses from multiple industries about their experiences, in order to find out what makes human translation so much better.
Here are the responses that we received:
“We need translations done to offer our software to a global market. We maintain websites and software in German and English, but we often need to have contracts and offers translated into other languages.
A lot of our work is related to software and can be quite tricky for a machine (for now) to understand. Technical language in Germany has adopted quite a few English words into it, so if you translate those words directly in Google or Bing translate, it will sound wrong to a native speaker.”
“We use human translators to localize content into 17 different languages across 19 different websites. Through our vendor, LionBridge, we have built an API that helps automate the distribution process, however all of the translations are performed by native-speaking individuals.
We have established a "brand voice," so that our tone and message are consistent across the globe. Keeping this human touch is important as one-for-one machine translations are not always accurate in our industry. Keeping the distribution automated saves our team and the international site owners from loads of administrative "cut and paste" work. This automated peace will grow in importance as we grow our program to 25 sites by the end of 2016 and 42 by the end of 2017.”
“I always use human translation, particularly when we are translating for product packaging in other countries or regions with a specific dialect like Quebecois French. Automated translators won’t give natural, fluently readable translations. For example, Google Translate gives a mechanical and direct translation of words. You won’t get text that reads naturally across those language barriers. More importantly, context is not part of the equation: Google Translate won’t know the context of your content. For example, who is your target audience, what are their ages, education level and cultural sensitivities? In addition, what is the content being used for? “
“AegisFS operates Worldwide and provides Corporate Debit, Prepaid Debit Card Solutions to Corporations. Additionally, we manufacture ATM-Debit Card Issuance Kiosks. When discussing money, no automated translator can address with certainty the discussions, negotiations at hand.
We find the Human aspect for Translation exceeds expectations for our Representatives that are not proficient or fluent speakers with clients or counterparts located in other countries. We tried machine-based translation, but the experiences were horrible. Firstly, they were deemed highly impersonal and could not clearly transmit our business intentions. We felt it best to have human translation closing the gap of communications.
The one most embarrassing moment was when a certain lexicon application insulted a potential client. Rather than conveying we would enjoy conducting business with the male and female counterparts, the translation machine basically insulted the counterparts with a message of distrust and concern. Needless to say, from that point in time and at great expense, we junked the machines and hired individuals who are native speakers in the countries we conduct business. "
“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. A lot of my patients do not speak English, and if they do, they do not speak the language well enough to understand the medical jargon. I currently work in the operating room, so every patient needs to sign consents prior to any procedure. A consent is necessary because it signifies that the patient understands all of the risks and benefits of their surgery.
When the surgeons and anesthesiologists are obtaining consents, they must use an accredited medical translator. We cannot use family members as translators because we have no way of knowing if they are translating correctly.
There are a few reasons why a human translator is preferred over a machine translator. The most common reason is for our hard-of-hearing and deaf patients. Sometimes patients feel more comfortable when they have the option of reading lips, in addition to hearing the translations. Some patients feel more calm and comfortable if the translator is next to them in person, rather than just a voice on the phone.”
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“In spite of the constant developments in machine translation technology, I prefer to write original and fresh content, instead of providing rigid translated materials. Regarding my experiences with machine translations, this tool only works for very basic sentences. Each time that I try to translate a more elaborate text, the results are still ludicrous. I contribute regularly to Google Translate whenever the resulting translated text is not appropriate, and Google Translate thanks me every time.”
“When a client doesn't understand what they are signing, we will hire a translation company to translate the document to the client's native language. This is to make sure the client is aware of what they are signing so it doesn't lead to disputes later on. We also translate contracts for our international clients. If a US business is dealing with a Chinese business, there has to be Chinese translations of contracts to make sure everyone is on the same page. We get birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce certificates translated for our immigration clients at least once a week.
Machine translation is good if you just want to have a general idea of what a document is about. For example, is it a scientific piece about earthquakes? Is it about World War II? Is it about the benefits of drinking tea? We would never use machine translations for our firm because we require a higher quality than what a machine can produce. A machine will never translate as well as a human. At best, a machine translation will make "some sense" and at worst, it will either make no sense or it will be all wrong.”
No matter the industry that your company conducts business in, humans always win over automated translators. As business professionals stated above, no current technology can match the personal touch of a human translator and their ability to determine context and emotion. With that being said, human translators give companies a competitive edge.
Using programs like Google Translate to conduct conversations with someone in a different language is a huge risk, and can result in misunderstandings that can easily damage an important relationship.
The same can be said for online transcription services. If you rely too heavily on robot transcribers, you are running a risk of major inaccuracies. So the next time you need translation or transcription services, be sure that your work is being handled by trained, US based human professionals.