Machine vs human translation: are humans better than machines?

Machine vs human translation: are humans better than machines?
machine vs human translation

Machines are more and more replacing human workers due to the industrial revolution. Machines are generally stronger, faster and more efficient than humans. A lot of people are thus living under the fear that their jobs might one day be replaced with machines. What happens when it comes to translating languages? Machine vs human translation, which is better and what is the future of translation? Let’s find out.

machine translation is faster

Machine vs human translation

When it comes to automation, amazing developments have being witnessed in the translation industry. Machine translation is being widely used by a lot of people and have proved to be useful. Some translators are scared that they will one day be replaced with machines. Presently, this is not possible yet, because the technology still lacks on quality and a lot of post editing is required, for it to be perfect.

This bring us to the question: will machines be able to defeat man or not? In the end, it’s all about quality in this machine vs human translation debate. Based on the quick rate technology is advancing, there is a high probability of machine translation getting more popular as the days go by. Accuracy and quality of automated translation has improved rapidly in the latest years, but will it reach to a point when it could be used in life and death situations? Until then, we’ll have to rely on professional translation services.

Considering the future

It is possible that one day, languages might seize to exist as humans might just communicate through telepathy. Even though this might seem impossible at this time, so many of the things we see today including Wi-Fi would have sounded impossible just 50 years ago. Also, the world may start to use one single language in the future so the machine vb human translation debacle will be just a thing of the past.

The fact that the brain of humans functions through electrical impulses implies that it is possible to collect the impulses from one person and transmit them to another, without the person altering a word. This could be invented if more efforts are put towards achieving it. If this happens, then humans can be said to be the winner.

future of translation

Some more arguments?

human vs machine

The Human Element

If you look at the benefits of human vs machine translation, any decision is heavily weighed down by the human element. Even though there is the advantage of quick translation and even using grammar and translation rules to arrange sentences, based on the programming of the software, the machine cannot best express a sentence’s meaning the way a human can.

For now there is little understanding of context in machine’s output, since their rules are strictly defined. A computer is limited by its programming and does not understand a people’s culture who use a particular language, neither can it understand other nuances including anecdotes and dialect. All of these combined reduce the accuracy of machine translation.

When it comes to industrial fields where machines have been introduced in order to replace humans, the difference is worth noticing: machines are much faster at doing repetitive tasks. When it comes to our field, machine vs human translation, human still wins the battle.

How are we affected by machine translation

If you look at the subtitles of a movie, for instance, you can see different language subtitles if you are watching over the internet. Sometimes, the subtitles are translated by a machine in order to cut down costs. You would have noticed that such translations sometimes contain unrelated words, you just see the basic meaning of the words, and sometimes you’d want to cut off the subtitles and try to translate it on your own. This is just a day-to-day, basic thing that annoys us, but worth mentioning in our machine translation vs human translation article.

We can also take a look at any free translation tool, including our own. If it is based on machine translation, it won’t be 100% accurate. While such a tool can aid one to roughly understand the meaning of a document, it won’t be as good as human translation.

machine translation vs human translation
translate by humans

Translate by humans

The truth is, there are instances where machines are useful, even in translation, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so many apps out-there. Even we have created our own free translation tool which you can use on our website or you can download as a Chrome extension or as a Firefox plugin. Such tools are great to use when you need to understand the basic meaning of a phrase if you travel for instance and don’t know the language.

You could use such tools to create a first draft translation and then have a human linguist correct it. Some do just that, yet the translators are not happy with such jobs as there is simply to much work involved in correcting the translation, while they are only being paid for editing and proofreading.

Leaving that aside, if there is something you need to get the gist of it, you can use such an app. If it is meant for business or other important purposes, translate by humans.

Machine Translation Software

Machine translation software executes the process of translating content from one language into another. The most basic machine translation software relies on a word-for-word replacement. Some software adds the rule-based or statistically-based translation for more precise outcomes.

Machine translation software translates content without human intervention so in the machine vs human translation it is a clear opponent. While accuracy is most of the times way off, such translations can be used when businesses or individuals need quick, one-off translations and precision is not of value.

Where can such translations be used? Such output is sometimes used by translation service providers so when you need highly accurate document translation services, you’ll need to ask whether machines are being used in the process or not.

While we never use such tools in common projects, there may be clients that would want us to use such a pre-translation and have human linguists correct it. We review such cases one by one, as editing and correcting machine translation is most of the times harder than actually translating from scratch.

machine translation software
machine - human combined

Machine vs human translation? Why not a combination?

Except for the world-known machine translation software like Google Translate or Bing Translator, there are other tools which are aiding translators in their work, tools that combine machine translation with human editing. Here are some of them:

  • Linguee

A crowd favorite, this unique translation tool combines a dictionary with a search engine, so you can search for bilingual texts, words, and expressions in different languages to check meanings and contextual translations.

  • SDL Trados Studio

The most recommended computer-assisted translation CAT tool by most linguists, SDL Trados is a wise investment for full-time translators. This software features TM, terminology, machine translation and software localization.

  • The Free Dictionary

It is available in a broad class of languages; this site is a dictionary, thesaurus, and reference in one. Get a free way to medical, financial and legal glossaries, an extensive collection of phrases, acronyms, quotes, and various languages.

  • MemoQ

A translation software designed for freelance translators, MemoQ offers many powerful functions that enable you to reuse previous translations.

  • MemSource

A Translation Memory database combined with Gengo to gain efficiency, Memsource is a cloud-based translation setting that offers a useful project management tool.

  • Magic Search

For quicker terminology searches, Magic Search is a multilingual search engine that offers one-page search results of multiple dictionaries and other sources for different language pairs.

Machine translation cannot currently replace human translation completely as such translation will be prone to errors. For now, machines can never translate any documents the way a human would. That doesn’t mean that the machine vs human translation battle is over, it’s only the beginning, we’ll have to live and see it evolve.

If we can help you with any questions, please feel free to contact us
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