Why human translation is irreplaceable

Nowadays, machines play a crucial part in helping human perform their work. In some typical fields and technical tasks, machines have become inevitable and even irreplaceable. There have been multiple reports claiming that automation and machines will replace human workforce in the future. Can artificial intelligence really replace human intelligence? The answer might be yes to some certain fields but not translation industry. And here are the reasons why human translation is irreplaceable, at least for now.

Machine translation is still not perfect

It took 50 years to develop machine translation (MT) to reach this current level. And even after half a century of improvement, it is still not perfect. Creating a MT system that can cover all exist languages is a massive task. It is estimated that there are about 7,000 languages in the world, which makes creating a corpus text with proper grammar and context-accuracy seem out of the question.

Besides the diversity nature, language evolves from time to time.  This means that translation machine has to grow constantly and be updated regularly. Unless there is an unprecedented leap in neural technology, it is impossible to create a perfect machine that can totally perform the translation work as effectively and accurately as a human.

Translation requires interactive communication

A machine translates documents by rote and its performance completely depends on how it is programmed. Meanwhile, translators do the job with their skills which have no limitation in development.

MT can do some of the work all by itself but fail at other interactive tasks. The translation process requires other steps which involve consultation and recommendations based on each typical type of projects. Therefore, until the artificial intelligence can reach the level that allows insightful thought process, linguists are the ones who make executive translation decisions.

Human’s ability to think critically and creatively is the asset that a machine lacks. And when it comes to translation, without the ability to communicate and interact, a robot can only perform just a part of the process.

Industry expertise is important

Native translators who have deep knowledge of a certain industry cannot be replaced by machine. A machine might be taught and programmed to leverage a corpus but cannot learn to become an expert in a certain field like law or medication.

Until there is a machine that can think and analyze like a human, we will still need professional translators to handle industry specific materials.

So will machine translation ever replace human translation?

It’s not certain that MT will entirely replace human in the near future. Even when technology evolves to an unbelievable level, it will take a while before MT can reach human fluency and accuracy. In the meantime, translators should prepare themselves with proper knowledge and continuously update the new machine translation programs to master using them. The more they excel in their translation work, the more likely they will be chosen over MT now and in the future.


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