How Close Are We to Good Automatic Translation?
Over 60 years ago scientists successfully translated multiple sentences from Russian to English using a computer. Researchers claimed then we were only a few years away from having most translations performed by automatic translator machines. Now, more than 60 years later good automated translation has yet to become a reality. Every so often, somebody will announce a breakthrough in machine translation and their certainty that automated translation services are about to become a reality. The reality is that despite advances, good automatic machine translation won’t be available anytime soon. Some of the reasons for that include:
1) Translation Quality Is Subjective
If you give the same text to 50 different translators, you would get back 50 different translations. This is because translation is subjective. The 50 translations will all vary from each other, yet they can still all be correct. It is similar to listening to different versions of the same song. Some people will prefer one version of a song while others will prefer another. Neither is more right than the other. With translations, which version do you decide is the correct one that a machine should produce? The diversity of human language expression makes translating difficult and at the present time is still far to complex for machine translation.
2) Language Word Choices
Words have the power to anger, annoy, and offend among other things. Translation must take into consideration the different cultures as well as the different languages involved. Advertisers are very aware of the power of words to drive human emotions. People often choose to buy products as a direct result of the words used to market them. The words used in advertisements are carefully chosen to elicit a certain response. Translating marketing material should consider the culture being marketed to. Words that created the desired response in the original advertisement may not be as effective when translated, and they could even anger or offend. It is difficult for humans to always know what words will bring about what emotional response, and impossible for a machine to know. Word choice in translations is too important to leave up to a machine.
3) Conquering Context
In the English language a single word can have many different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Many other languages are like English in that respect. When people determine a words meaning, they don’t just consider the word, but also the way the word relates to the other words around it. Possible word combinations are practically limitless and are constantly changing. Current technology has not yet been able to produce an automatic translation machine that can keep up with all the different contextual meanings of all the different words in one language, let alone two or more different languages.
4) Even Bilingual People Often Don’t Provide Good Translations
Just because a person is fluent in two languages doesn’t mean they will make a good translator. Translation involves more than just knowledge of two languages because it isn’t just a one to one swap of word equivalencies. Translators must be familiar with both cultures involved in order for their translation to have the same impact and meaning as the original. They may have to come up with a completely new way of saying something to convey the correct message in a translation. Part of their ability to do this come from their experience of living in a particular culture and the knowledge gained from that experience. Cultural experience isn’t something that can just be programmed.
5) The Majority of Languages Are Spoken or Signed
The majority of the world’s languages don’t have a written form. They are either spoken or signed. With the way online communication is changing, not having a written language isn’t the barrier it was in the past. More and more, communication online is via audio and video as opposed to text. Tablets and smart phones with visual, audio and tactile inputs make text less important than it once was. Text translation will still be important but video and audio will replace it in some areas.
6) Too Many Languages
There are over 6,000 languages alive today, with approximately 2,000 of those being languages that are considered endangered. That leaves over 4,000 languages. There are around 80 languages currently supported by Google Translate. If Google adds 10 languages a year it will take 40 years to support just 10 percent of the world’s languages. The odds of most of the worlds languages being supported by machine translation in our lifetime appears to be very slim.
The idea of an auto language translator that you can just enter any text into and receive an accurate translation as output is appealing, especially if you have to deal with translations on a regular basis. Until that time, for important translation jobs, its a good idea to use a professional translation service rather than depending on machine translation like Google Translate. Translations for business, medical and legal purposes as well as in many other fields are too important to leave up to a machine or to inexperienced translators. If you need a translation, our professional translation service is among the best translation providers available.
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We provide translation services in many different languages for a wide variety of fields and industries. Our professional translators come from many different backgrounds. The translator assigned to your project will not only be well versed in both languages. They will also have a background in the field your translation pertains to. Advantages of using our service include:
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Contact us if you don’t rely on automatic translation and strive for for high quality services at affordable prices. You won’t be disappointed.
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