Machine Translation


Machine Translation vs Human Translation

So much has been said about the availability and capability of machine translation and online translation tools that some people think that they can now replace human translation. Is this going to be the future of the industry? As translators and language service providers, should we be worried?

Viability of Machine Translation

Arguably, the industry shouldn’t ignore the fact that machine translation has an important role to play in translation. Some may not find it favourable, but it is likely here to stay and could happily co-exist alongside the linguistic endeavours of humans. It can help speed up translation work, but the involvement of humans will be an integral part of improving the quality of the machine output. Consider the following factors:

  • Translation has gone global and several language service providers sell translation online.
  • Clients want translations to be done faster; waiting is not in their vocabulary.
  • Clients will always look for cheaper alternatives. With cost reduction, the industry must devise new business models.
  • Clients are becoming more tech-savvy. The translation industry must embrace technology and use the tools available to speed up work and fulfil clients’ needs faster.

Machine translation and post-editing both have potential benefits and limitations, and it is up to human translators to understand them. There are language pairs that could be handled by way of machine translation, although this would still require stringent post-editing and quality assessment procedures. Nevertheless, machine translation could undoubtedly speed up the translation process and thus increase productivity and turnaround times.

Global business success is, to a large extent, dependent on quality translations and, therefore, the industry still has a very bright future. But with the speed of change the world goes through, the translation industry must follow and embrace change as well. Machine translation combined with post-editing might be here to help and support certain businesses, but it does not yet (if it ever will) have the capability to supersede the high-quality translations produced by human translators. At present, the imperfections of machine translation serve to reinforce the benefits of high-quality human translation. As companies grow and cross new territories, translation will progressively be integrated into their business workflows. Not only will embracing technology be beneficial to translators, it will also serve the industry in general.


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