Have you ever gone on to Google Translate to quickly translate a few words? Most of us are guilty of doing this, with some of us receiving the correct outcome, whilst the rest of us receive a disjointed sentence in the target language.
So, should we ever rely on Machine Translation?
What is Machine Translation?
Machine Translation, also known as Automated Translation, refers to when computer software is used to translate a piece of text, without human intervention.
How does it Work?
There are three types of Machine Translation systems:
1. Rules-based system: This type of system uses a combination of language and grammar rules, as well as specialist dictionaries, to produce translations for specific industries and disciplines. This system is said to deliver consistent translations with accurate terminology.
2. Statistical system: Within this type of system, there is no previous knowledge of language rules, so the system ‘learns’ to translate by analysing large amounts of data in both the source and target language. Additional data is required if the system needs to be used for specific industries or disciplines. A fluent-sounding translation can be expected, but it will be less consistent across multiple translation projects.
3. Neural Machine Translation (NMT): This system learns to translate through multiple processing devices that have been modelled on the brain, known as a neural network. This approach has become increasingly popular amongst researchers and developers as NMT systems have higher performance rates compared to statistical approaches.
Will Machine Translation ever take the place of Human Translation?
Whilst artificial intelligence and technological innovations are on the rise, there are several aspects of translation that computer systems cannot understand and will be unable to detect, without the assistance of a human translator.
This is a key aspect of translation as different cultures around the world possess different lexical items, such as idioms and slang, that are unique to that specific culture, which need to be understood and recognised in order to be translated in an appropriate manner. In the same way translators must update their knowledge and terminology databases, Machine Translation systems would require continuous updates and more sophisticated algorithms in order to deal with modern day vocabulary and cultural references.
In many languages, there are words with dual meanings, which can cause significant problems for machine translation. Without human intervention, sentences could lack logical meaning, making the translation incomprehensible for the reader.
Style and Tone
Whether you are looking to translate a poem, a persuasive piece of text or an argumentative essay, style and tone can pose challenges for machine translation.
Whilst a Machine Translation system can translate a document, it cannot identify the purpose of the document. A Human Translator, on the other hand, would be able to identify the style and purpose of the text by looking closely at the language and format of the document, and replicate this to make their translation fit for purpose.
A company will have a translation revised or proofread by another linguist to make sure the translation contains accurate information, and to ensure there are no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Whilst computer software can pick up on these types of mistakes, it is unlikely that it would be able to provide a professional editing service.
Machine Translation, whilst it is quick and often consistent, is intended to help Human Translation, rather than force them out of the field. Human translators could not produce a perfect translation without CAT tools and online research, in the same way that a Machine Translation would not be able to produce a perfect translation without human intervention. Linguists must continue to develop their knowledge in order to become better translators, so for now, machine translation will require further innovation that can provide regular updates in order to have a higher performance rate.
Prime Production Ltd is a one-stop language service provider based in the United Kingdom and Asia.
With clients ranging from multi-national organisations to private individuals, our translation service is available 365 days a year.
We have over 1000 professional translators based in different time zones who combine academic qualifications with practical experience, offering a wealth of expertise across various specialisations.