Human versus Machine Translation


humanIt is becoming a bigger and bigger question as our machines get better at doing it. Which is better at translating, human beings or a machine? This is a question that many companies may find themselves asking as the concept of a global business becomes more common. With business stretching across the globe and goods and services delivered in a wide variety of ways, how do we communicate? To handle the newly discovered need for more translation services companies like TranslateShark have found ways to use the net to deliver human translation as easily as with a computer. So do we still need to use computers for our business translation needs? Sometimes the answer isn’t that clear.

A Question of Key Translation

While using your computer and Google’s translation services is fine for the occasional email or to understand a website you are looking over, real document translation is another matter altogether. While it may not be quite as convenient as pushing a button to have your document translated via a human at companies like TranslateShark, you can be assured that a key document will be translated correctly.

Human beings are much better at understanding the subtle differences in various words and how context drives meaning. For the kinds of documents where this could be vital, such as an agreement between companies or when presenting key evidence for an idea, human beings will do a much better job than just about any machine.

How Important is Language?

Sometimes the way we approach language in a document can change the entire meaning of it. Humor, for one example, is a tough thing to translate. If your document has local slang terms, humorous examples or expressions that don’t translate well, then using a machine to translate it for you may end up causing more trouble than it is worth.

Detailed medical terminology, specialized language for certain professions such as law and musical terms are just three examples of where machine based translation may fall short of the goal of truly understanding the document that needs translation. All of these are typical of the situations where a human being taking on the translation becomes a key ingredient to the entire enterprise.

Can Machines Understand Tone?

Another aspect of language that is difficult to teach a machine is tone. We all, as human beings, understand what tone means. It can define whether a document is a casual article for entertainment value, a business document for informative purposes or a scientific document for educational purposes. All three can be used for the same body of work, and the language used will define the tone.

But can a machine be made to understand the difference in tone and how to write for it when translating? While strict translation may be possible, it is doubtful that tone will ever be something a machine can deliver in a translation. Until such a thing is possible, it is also doubtful that machines will ever be able to deliver the kind of quality in translation, particularly when it comes to emotionally sensitive material, that a human being is capable of producing. It is simply the limitation of being a machine.