Online AI-based translation software, such as Google Translate, is becoming increasingly prevalent.  And it’s probably fine if you’re sending an email to an international colleague or checking the meaning of an unfamiliar phrase or getting the gist of a short text.  However, it’s a far from perfect solution if what you require is an accurate professional translation.

Here are five reasons why you might want to consider getting a qualified human translation service to carry out your translation job, rather than relying on automated engines.

  1. Humans understand nuance. Subtleties of communication like irony, humor, or sarcasm may be missed by an AI-based translation system.  By their very nature, computers are very literal in their translations and such nuances are liable to be lost, as this article (“Beam Me Up … Communications That Are Lost in Machine Translation“) published a few years back in The Guardian illustrates.  Even machine learning systems, such as those used by SDL Trados, will only know to make suitable substitutions if they have them in their phrase databases.
  1. Good translations include style and idiomatic knowledge. The way a writer constructs a sentence is part of their idiolect, or individual style.  This too can be washed out from an over-literal translation.  Culturally specific idioms such as “part and parcel” or “in the nick of time” can produce hilariously inaccurate results if simply transliterated.  A translation company will have professionals who will be well-versed in such idioms and who will find a comparable phrase in the target language.
  1. Errors can be avoided. If you don’t speak or read the language you are having a text translated into, how can you be sure that the system got it right?  The short answer is that you can’t.  Using a professional translation service with experience and qualifications, as well as testimonials, will give you the confidence that their translation work is of high quality.
  1. Double-checking is possible. A translation company team with account managers, project managers and human linguists will come back to you with queries, including ambiguous word usage, stylistic anomalies, repetitions, factual errors, or grammatical and spelling mistakes.  You won’t get this level of service from a machine, no matter how well-programmed.  For instance, a machine translation system may ignore your use of the wrong noun (e.g., ‘cord’ instead of ‘chord’) because it cannot apply context.
  1. Editorial input is invaluable. A professional translator will appraise you of any problematic cultural assumptions or mistakes you may be making. They may be able to suggest an alternative approach that ruffles fewer feathers (now there’s another idiom Google Translate will miss!)

All in all, if your translation is the least bit important, don’t trust it to an algorithm and go with a professional translation company. That said, if a tight deadline or budget are critical factors pushing you to use machine translation, then you could always add human post-editing to improve the quality.

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