Human expertise still provides more value in the world of translation
by Gunilla Huddleston
Companies are increasingly looking to expand on a global scale. As a result, many are looking to reach a wider audience than they ever have before, and this means adapting their content to users in new markets through translation and localisation. Whether that’s in terms of language, device capabilities or tone, making sure that you reach people in the way they expect to be spoken to has never been more critical for business success on a global level.
Language is irrefutably a critical factor in the increasingly global business world. Even for English speaking companies, remaining purely native in language terms means only being able to reach around a third of consumers online. The Common Sense Advisory says that to be able to reach the widest audience possible would mean opening up a global spending power of more than $50 trillion.
However, it also says that to make this a reality, companies need to be translating their content as widely as they possibly can. It means taking your original content and translating it into 48 languages just to reach 98 per cent of the consumers online. And that’s before you even get into the business of selling.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why businesses will turn to machine translation as a way of translating at least some of their content. There are time constraints when it comes to expanding into new markets, and for some decision makers, employing machine translation, particularly when it comes to free online versions, may seem a cheaper and quicker alternative to using a professional translation solution.
Of course, in the modern world, translation software and machines will have a role to play in many translation efforts. When we’re dealing with a business sector that has the potential to require 450 billion cross-border transactions by 2020, it’s clear that hybrid translation is the future. But it’s those that are paired with, or dominated by human roles, which are still the most successful when it comes to translating business content.
Even as large companies like Google start to advance machine translation technology with inventions such as the Pixel Buds – devices that can translate 40 languages on the fly – there is still a massive role for humans to play in translations.
Why a human translator is still number one
While many people concede that Google’s technology for translation is ambitious, there are still many things that it cannot compete with human translation. For example, industry knowledge is a huge advantage to have when dealing with a translation expert in a niche field, and it’s something that technology will always struggle with. If you’re selling niche products or working in a technical field like oil and gas, then chances are you’ll be working with an expert who has knowledge of that industry as well as being fluent in both languages.
Phrases that may not compute with translation technology will make perfect sense to someone well versed in the subject, making human translation the only viable option. Not only do you get something that is correct, but it will retain its expertise across language barriers in a way a machine may struggle to do so.
We also have to consider other things that technology can never quite grasp in the way the human brain does, such as tone of voice. In business meetings, it could well be the case that a machine can take a conversation and effectively translate it word for word, but what would be lost in that process? Even if it understands the words, its inability to grasp the true meaning could still see AI misinterpret what is being said.
Generally speaking, experts believe that any time a translation is due to get technical, require real accuracy or industry-specific knowledge, the fact will always remain that the power of the human brain is irreplaceable. And while there is a place for tech in the world of simple translations, when it comes to anything in depth, it will always be hard for machines to take over.
“I think they will be useful for tourists, but when it comes either to technical stuff (and I’m not talking about aeronautical engineering or something of the sort, but about just a plain cooking recipe, for example) or to aesthetics (a play, for example), AI still has a long way to go before it produces decent results,” Vane Ortiz, a professional translator, told Business Insider.