Machine translation service VS. professional translation. Who’s gonna win?
Technology advances by leaps and bounds. News about machine translation service vs. professional translation flood the web. Now, are we facing a paradigm shift in terms of translation services for flesh and blood professionals?
The development of artificial intelligence attempts to eliminate existing linguistic borders. That is why language translation and interpretation services are a daily reality necessary for the advancement of globalization.
Before getting into the subject, it is important to clarify some concepts to understand how the development of artificial intelligence can affect the translation sector.
What is AI? What is a machine translation service?
Artificial intelligence is the combination of systematic operations that allow the creation of machinery with capabilities and behaviours similar to those of human beings. In other words, artificial intelligence is the endowment of human thought to a machine.
The operation of this system consists of analyzing large amounts of data to identify patterns and trends. This is how a machine translation service can make automatic predictions with great speed and precision. So, can a machine replace a meat-and-bone translator?
“Perhaps we should associate artificial intelligence as a tool and not as a substitute.”
Machine translation services facilitate your daily life
There are many machine translations services that facilitate the daily life of many people in daily or professional matters since they solve small linguistic doubts and thus help communication with the rest of the world.
Leaving aside the emotional part
Until now, these systems have been capable of automatically translating any type of text in a mechanical and technical way. The problem? They leave aside the emotional part. For this reason, a machine translation service can act as a lifesaver in some situations that do not require formal communication.
Google’s machine translation service was phrase-based, meaning the software looked for the best match for each phrase in dictionary terms.
At the end of 2016, a new method called Google Machine Neural Translation (GMNT) was created. It was based on artificial intelligence and therefore capable of reducing errors made with the previous system used by up to 80 percent.
The system is made up of an artificial neural network. It assumes each phrase as a translation unit, thus creating an automatic phrase-by-phrase context. In addition to the comparison between the translation databases already created, this machine translation service also uses a self-learning mechanism that allows you to deduce the language rules independently. That is, the neural network develops its own language by forming equivalences between phrases and words from different languages creating a much more human conceptual-semantic representation. In this way, the system creates a much more fluid translation, similar to that of a flesh and blood translator.
Language combination that works best: English to Spanish
The language combination that works best under Google Translate is English <> Spanish. This is due to the fact that the applied neural translation is much more advanced and therefore the quality of the service is much better.
It is clear that the automation of any process represents a great challenge for companies, when it is not a direct threat for those translation and interpreting companies that do not anticipate events and specialize in post-publishing.
Machine translation services not to replace translator – Proof by example
In conclusion, an automatic machine translation service can help translate but will it replace him/her entirely? Not just yet as can be seen from the example below.
Naz Mila, an Instagrammer from Turkey with nearly 900,000 followers used Google Translator and end up writing something on her body that didn’t make sense.
Naz wanted to write in ink on her skin something that had a deep meaning. She chose a well-known phrase i.e. “Only God can judge my mistakes and truths”. But things did not go as she expected.
Using Google translator, Naz translated the phrase from Turkish to English without being aware that the result that the machine translation service was giving her was not correct. “I can judge a single God with my mistakes and errors”.
Fortunately, the person responsible for making the tattoo was able to fix the error. Thank goodness!
This shows that literal translation does not take into account the context or intent of the phrase immersed in the cultural setting in which it is applied. This way, we obtain a totally erroneous translation, requiring the supervision of a human translator to review the final translations created by a machine translation service.
A Human Translator Interprets All the Possible Meanings of a Sentence
When a human translator receives a text that he must translate, he must interpret through a previous analysis all the possible meanings of each of the sentences that make up the text in a meticulous and exhaustive way. In order to carry out this work, the translator must be trained in the source and target languages to control the semantics and grammar of the text. He/she must be able to adapt it within an appropriate cultural framework.
Normally when a translator faces a text, he must know how to solve some complex problems such as:
- Grammar problems: The grammar of the languages with which we work will be our main resource to know how to properly construct each of the sentences that make up a text.
- Semantic problems: Those referring to the meaning or interpretation of linguistic signs such as symbols, words or expressions.
- Cultural problems: They are problems related to expressions and vocabulary typical of the country of the source and destination language, such as festivals, cultural references, etc.
- Syntactic problems: It refers to those concordance and hierarchical relationships between words when they are grouped and make up simple sentences or compound sentences.
- Intentional problems: The intention of the text that is translated to interpret the text, for example, before an ironic phrase.
- Language problems: Whatever language we immerse ourselves in, we come across words or expressions from a different language. The mix of languages means that the translator has to know the intention of the author and keep the expression in the chosen language.
What will happen to the translation industry?
What the future dictates is that machine translation services will continue to improve. They will allow the use of this work system in language translation and interpretation companies, as this is happening now with computer-assisted translation tools.
It is not a question of rejecting this work methodology, but rather of adapting it as best as possible to the processes of each of the companies creating cohesion between the machine translation service and human translation.
Although machine translation shows signs of constant improvement, it does not mean that the end result is better than that of a human translator, especially if heterogeneous samples are taken to generate patterns and create the final translations.
It is important to know that if the automatic methodology is used, the reworking and subsequent revision by a professional are essential to unify concepts and solve those mistakes made by artificial intelligence.
Consensus needed between AI and the translation industry
From the point of view of many professionals in the sector, we agree that we must create a consensus between the world of artificial intelligence and the world of translation to turn a machine translation service into an interesting work tool, but in no case conceive it as a substitute for the translator.
We still do not know how human intelligence works, so there is still a long way to go before affirming that the neural networks of artificial intelligence processes will replace human work.