Why we will always need human translators

International Translation Day was born out of a desire to recognise and celebrate the incredible work of professional human translators, interpreters and linguists around the globe.

Although the localisation industry is changing and evolving at a rapid pace due to artificial intelligence, machine learning and new technologies, it is important to remember that we will always need human translators, and here’s why…

The limits of machine translation

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bit of machine translation – when it’s used in the right circumstances of course! – but it’s going to be a while before the machines are even close to producing human-like translations.

When machine translation is used for a project, the role of the linguist changes from translator to post-editor.

A good post-editor possesses the same skills as a translator, as well as a thorough knowledge of and appreciation for machine translation, particularly the benefits it can bring.

The definitions below are taken from the official documentation of the international standard in post-editing of machine translation output (ISO 18587:2017):

  • post-edit: edit and correct machine translation output
  • full post-editing: process of post-editing to obtain a product comparable to a product obtained by human translation
  • light post-editing: process of post-editing to obtain a merely comprehensible text without any attempt to produce a product comparable to a product obtained by human translation

We can see from these definitions why it is so important for professional human translators to be involved in machine translation projects. Without them, we end up with content that is not fit for purpose and could be damaging for your brand.

Creative content marketing

Finding new, innovative ways of reaching your global audience is vital if you want to stay ahead of the competition. Video content, influencer and user-generated content, infographics, augmented and virtual reality, you name it!

We’ve all heard the expression “content is king”, but have you ever heard this version? “If content is king, then context is queen”.

It’s all well and good developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy, but if you plan to cut some corners by putting it through machine translation then you’ve got another thing coming. Unfortunately, it is still to be proven whether any neural machine translation engine is ready to produce content on par with its human counterparts.

What’s more is, that even if a machine could handle creative content, it still doesn’t understand the context or the audience of the text, and that is why marketing pieces should not only go through a professional human linguist but may also be better suited to multilingual copywriting or transcreation. Read more in our blog, Mastering Marketing Translation.

Literary works of art

The global translated fiction industry is on the rise, helped by The International Booker Prize that, since 2016, finally and equally rewards the professional translator as well as the original author.

There is something wonderful about being able to access a fictional world that has been so lovingly taken from one language, and rewritten in another.

Academic researchers have attempted to use machine translation engines to translate some of the most loved and respected works of literature with varying degrees of success.

It takes a very special translator to be able to convey the same emotion, humour or sarcasm as the original author; a very special human translator.

Machines may one day be able to mimic literary translation to a near-human level but it will be nothing more than a hollow, empty shell of the original.

Join us on September 30th to celebrate International Translation Day and share the love for our linguists.

#ITD #LoveYourLinguist

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