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AI Translators: the despair of human translation?


It is undeniable that technology is making everything more efficient and dynamic, and that it has the power to reduce time and costs of almost every field it is used in.


Specifically speaking, when it comes to translating machines, we are well aware that the technology that powers them will only improve further in the short time. Translating processes will be faster and more affordable, and its quality may as well increase. But, even if machine translation gets better by leaps and bounds, we have to admit that we are not even close to the creation of the perfect AI translator.


Using machines to translate does have a lot of advantages: translations can be almost instantly created, and large amounts of information can be handled very quickly. Translation machines are easy to use and can be able to translate from one language into many others at the same time. And, perhaps, one of the most important advantages for translators is that, when properly used, machines can automate the first stage of a translation, easing the “drafting phase”, improving the redistribution of effective working time and turnarounds, therefore reducing rates and increasing quality. Definitely, a win-win for translators and clients.


But, on the other hand, as far as technology has come, not even the best AI translation machine has matched the work of a professional translator. Even though AI technology has incredibly improved contextual understanding, algorithms still can´t match human ability to understand language nuances or complex linguistic or grammatical systems.


Another important feature machine translation lacks of? Human creativity. Machines can only produce literal adaptations. Professional translators can create translations with the correct style, tone, mood, color, and even find the best expression and adapt it to the original intended message in cases when there are no exact or direct words to match phrases of the original language.


Machines are still not able to learn and differentiate specific sectors language. Translation software and machines are uncapable of giving the right sense to medical or technical terminology. Only specialized professionals can recognize the sense and meaning of specific terms, and therefore produce the required precise translation of certain areas of expertise.


Furthermore, machines do not have the cultural knowledge as a professional translator does. A human translator is able to adapt a translation to make sure it is sensitive and appropriate for the cultural context for which it is intended. Irrelevant, offensive, confusing, or other cultural elements that may vary among languages, can´t be modified or adapted without human work.


But let’s don’t misunderstand everything just said. The point is not that humans are better than machines, or that machines can deliver a better translation than a professional. Common media narrative may drive us to believe technology is competing against human translators, but in fact, this is untrue.


The point from where we are standing right now, makes machines and professional translators allies, not enemies. The strengths AI Technology has, are not making it replace human work nowhere in the near future. If well understood and used, those advantages are helping professional translators to improve their work in terms of speed, flexibility, and scale.


And even if machines improve their translation quality in less time than expected, there is still a window of opportunity for human translators. Time and costs will be reduced, but professional translators will still be needed to revise, adapt and certify the machines output, and put the final touches on the fine points only humans can grasp such as cultural adaptation, tone adjustment, fact checking, bias removal, and linguistic adaptation, among others.


So, if you are a professional translator, or are on your way to be one, do not feel beaten. After all, AI Technology is not the despair of human translation (or many other professions), but the ultimate tool to help us improve times, costs, and quality for the benefit of all of us who professionally translate, and our clients.

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