Why There’s Room for Both MT and Human Translation
A Case of David and Goliath: Freelance Translation Versus Translation Agencies
January 5, 2018
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Introduction:

The battle between human and machine translation (MT) rages on. Every time the newcomer hits the mat, laid low by another multimillion dollar scandal, it bounces right back. Thanks to the ever-changing world of technology, MT just keeps getting better. But, it’s not important which of the two win the fight. The true winners are the company who realize that the dichotomy is a false one. Successful companies make use of both. The trick is knowing when it’s time to hire a professional.

The Rise of the Machines:

Computers have come a long way in the last fifty years. A cheap smartphone can now easily do what once took a supercomputer. Technology has also found a way to trounce the world’s trivia and chess champions in unarmed combat. Remember WATSON? The power of MT has also grown by leaps and bounds. Google Translate, for example, grew the number of available languages by 800 percent between 2001 and 2017. The accuracy of MT translation has also risen drastically. One study saw a “10-point improvement to state-of- art machine translation between 2007 and 2012.”

But, the main reason companies want to gamble on MT is simple: money. With many free machine-based translators out there, businesses often see it as the easiest way to cut localization costs. But, improper translations can lead to lawsuits, mockery, and a loss of customer trust. So, at the end of the day, the potential savings rarely justify the risk.

There are also a few limitations inherent to modern MT:

  • It cannot determine the context and purpose of a piece
  • It’s programmed to give preference to popular words and phrases
  • It stores and learns from your information, confidential or otherwise
  • It cannot comprehend idioms or creative word use

While perfect for the one-off user, MT translation’s lack of accuracy and confidentiality makes it unsuitable for long-term business use.

When It’s Okay to Use MT

  • When you just need to understand the general meaning of a document
  • When the translations never reach end consumers
  • If the document is just going to be used internally
  • To translate large pieces of content for a human translator to improve upon

The Power of The Human Mind:

In February of 2017, Sejong Cyber University decided to test claims that modern translation algorithms had finally eclipsed human translators. Out of the three MTs tested, Google Translate did best with 46.7 percent accuracy rate. The professional translators, on the other hand, walked away with an average score of 81.7 percent. It’s pretty obvious which one came out on top.

Companies who rely solely on professional translators do so for one reason: accuracy. They want to dazzle their customers with easy-to- read and accurate texts that truly reflect the soul of the original. Thirty to fifty an hour is more than worth the peace of mind that a human translator can bring.

When Businesses Should Rely on Professional Translators:

  • When quality matters
  • If peoples’ lives depend on the quality of the translation
  • When your documents are full of jargon and creative language
  • If the finished content goes to consumers

Conclusion

The future is a bright one for translation. As globalization trends continue to grow, the demand for accurate translation will increase. But, there’s no need for MT and professional translators to remain at odds. There’s plenty of room for both. As one professor said, “It is likely that the human translators and interpreters will become editors who supervise and post edited translations that AI programs created.” MT isn’t an end to the translation industry. It’s a new beginning.

If you’re just in the market for a professional, Swedish translator, please contact Tess Whitty at
tess@swedishtranslationservices.com

Tess
Tess
Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.

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