Robots and computers are fixtures in many of today’s highly industrialized production facilities, taking over jobs that exclusively belonged to factory workers that have long since vacated their posts for metal employees that never go on break, never get sick and never form unions. For companies, it was an easy call – machines were faster, stronger and more accurate than humans when it came to repetitive tasks and mindless grunt work.
Human Language is for Humans
The world of linguistics is a different beast altogether. Despite the best efforts of tech behemoths Google and Microsoft to provide us with exceptionally accurate (and free) automatic translation tools, computer based translation is still many years away from replacing human translators and becoming a game changer in translation and linguistics.
In business, one word translated in error can spell disaster and embarrassment that can suck valuable resources just dousing all the negative PR flames. Thats a major reason why even Google advises everyone using the free Google Translate service to use it with caution and to know the limits of what the technology can do.
The advice is spot on, because as the algorithms have become more sophisticated in recent years and the massive database of everything that Google Translate can tap into continues to grow, the program is limited to basics. It’s accurate enough in translating a word or two, but ultimately needs work when trying to translate whole phrases because of the many complexities different languages have.
Menus and Road Signs
While this is great for travelling and translating menus or road signs on the fly, the program simply can’t be used to translate entire documents because although it can get some of the things right, it would ultimately fail to make any sense because the program doesn’t know what to do with colloquialisms and euphemisms. There’s also the many regional dialects to consider.
Spanish is not entirely Spanish everywhere and there are different iterations and quirks per region. Same goes with Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese and even Parisian French and the French spoken in other countries such as Quebec, Canada. While perfectly comprehensible when spoken face to face because of the visual benefit, the use of facial expressions and hand gestures, it’s a lot different in print.
When a printed document is translated, it needs to be highly accurate and it must convey the original message in it’s purest form. This is where many businesses trip up, hiring students, using free translation apps or getting the services of bilingual freelancers with no professional training in linguistics and translation whatsoever, just to save money.
It always pays to Go Pro
Western consumers have seen their fair share of translation fails online and printed on actual products imported from the East. Some products are downright funny, translating descriptions word for word and coming up with gibberish. Hiring a professional linguistic services company like Textualis will ensure that your brand doesn’t piss off and insult a whole culture due to sloppy translation.
Professional translators will also help you bridge the cultural gap and allow you to think outside the box. You can now think of more creative ways to speak to your audience with regional references that make sense to them and only them. Linguistic services companies also have a deep pool of experienced translators, so you won’t have to worry about quality control and project completion failure.
Robots and computers have come a very long way, from the assembly line to helping doctors perform remote surgery to beating Chess Grandmasters at their own game. AI is here, and it’s only getting better and better. When it comes to languages though, no machine can come close to a human speaker. This is a field where man will continue to dominate until the foreseeable future.