nmt vs human translation

Will Machine Translation Replace Human Translators?

Translations are popular and required more than ever. As more businesses expand internationally, more companies consider translating their materials into different languages to cater to their worldwide audience. As a result, the need for high-quality translation services is increasing. This is when companies need to decide which direction to choose: go for human translation or trust in machine translation. Deciding whether to use human or machine translation may be a challenging task, especially considering how available machine translation has become in the last ten years. As a matter of fact, some people believe that as technology advances, AI-based technologies will eventually replace humans. So, is machine translation to replace human translators? AI has come a long way machine translation still struggles in some areas of translation where human translators excel. Let’s talk about the challenges that machine-based translators face and should overcome before they can be at par with human translations.


Will Machine Translation Replace Human Translators?

The conversation about whether machine translation is going to replace human translators has been actively debated since the 50s. People consider machines and AI the future and are afraid that AI will cause a lot of jobs to become extinct resulting in people losing their jobs. This is also relevant to the translation industry. Since the 1950s machine translation has drastically improved to the point of changing the translation industry. The impact is so big that the argument about Machine translation replacing human translators has been a thing for a while. This is because machine translations are fast, efficient and cheaper than human translation.

So, is machine translation going to replace human translation? The answer to this is -not for a long while for sure. Today’s machine translation cannot entirely mimic what human translators do. To understand the matter better, let’s dig into 5 key reasons why machine translation cannot replace human translation.


1.    Idioms and Expressions Need Cultural Knowledge

The translation is not only about transferring words from one language into another. Most translations also require a high level of intercultural and cross-cultural knowledge to convey the right message to the target audience. That is why cultural sensitivity is one of the most important factors to consider while translating text. Each language has expressions and idioms that make sense in the context of the specific culture while having no value in another language if translated word for word. Professional human translators with background and knowledge in both the target and source language cultures are able to translate this type of information because they are aware of cultural conventions and values. This is why human translators make the translation sound natural. Machine translation tools, on the other hand, are likely to miss cultural cues and implications, failing to interpret the text appropriately.


2.    Industry Terms Require Human Touch

This also goes for industry-specific terms and words. Each industry has a vocabulary that an outsider with no industry knowledge fails to grasp fully. Some words and phrases are used with totally different meanings within the context of a certain industry. And the main flaw with machine translation is that they translate everything literally. Literal translation usually results in miscommunication with the target audience. It might be so poorly translated that the whole process of translation might be totally in vain. On the other hand, human translators identify the correct word application based on the text context and their industry knowledge. As human translators think critically about the context of the content, they are able to correctly translate the industry terms. This results in a high-quality translation that communicates the right message.


3.    Correct Word Choice over Hundreds of Synonyms

Choosing the correct word is one of the main struggles of translation. This is because there are plenty of words that do not have just one meaning or there are words that have a similar spelling with a totally different meaning. As machine translation tools lack critical thinking skills, they are frequently fooled by such homophones. Most of the time machine translation tools pick the word randomly. Unlike machines, professional translators know how to handle this due to their linguistic sensitivity and manage to choose the correct word or phrase depending on the context. And as humans have the ability to do research, even if they are not sure about the exact word choice they can either advise the dictionary or ask other professionals for help.


4.    Accuracy in Syntax and Grammar

Grammar evolves in sync with language evolution. This means that constructions, words and grammar rules that might not have been popular, accepted or did not even exist some 20 years ago have become part of the language. We as humans naturally learn these grammatical and syntax changes in our native languages as they are a normal part of our lives. And when it comes to our learned languages, professional translators always stay up to date with these kinds of changes and nuances.  While at the same time machine translation does not always keep up to date with the latest changes in language. This is why human translators are more competent than machines in accurately translating grammar.


5.    Constantly added New Words and Expressions

Languages continuously evolve, adding new words to the language or changing the initial meaning of the word. As the technologies evolve new ideas that did not even exist 10 years ago are now required to have their wordy expression in the language. So either new words are invented or new meanings are added to already existing words. Also, a lot of words have changed their meaning not being used in the old sense anymore. As humans evolve along with the changes, human translators are more aware and adaptable to these linguistic changes than machines.


Though machine translation could not really replace human translators, it is worth mentioning that machine translation has its advantages over human translation. Learn even more about human translation VS machine translation to see which one is better for your business.