Human translation is one of the oldest professions dating from ancient times.
Both individuals and businesses deserve the best rendering of their documents from Spanish, French, and Portuguese to English (my three language sets!).
Indeed, the historical record reflects the rendering of Buddha sutras into Chinese in the mid-second century CE.
The oldest surviving translation of the Gospels into the English language dates from the 10th century.
In the 21st century, computers increasingly play a role in our daily lives and help speed up the translation of documents.
Like other professions, translations intersect with technology in both good and bad ways.
The risk involved for companies who use MT for documents is great.
Even powerful Google is trying to make its translation module more powerful based on the human brain, not a computer memory bank.
While companies need quick turnaround for their translations, the pros vastly outweigh the cons of machine translation (MT).
In short, while technology can complement translations, four strong reasons argue for using a human translation over a machine.
4 Advantages of Human Translation
Four words sum up it up – context, culture, cost, and competence.
Human translators can discern the context of your document to produce the best text in the target language – the language in which you need for your project.
In my case, I translate from Spanish, Portuguese, and French (the source languages) into my native tongue and target language (English).
Your translator should only render documents into his or her native language as well!
Context is linked to the consumer of the translated text.
Will the general citizen on the street read the translation or a middle manager in Sao Paulo or a baker in Tallahassee?
Only a human can use nuance to accurately select le mot juste (right word) for the best translation possible – never ever a machine.
Language is culture.
Translation involves a cultural de-coding, re-coding, and encoding of a text.
A translator acts as a sort of cultural arbiter transferring the meaning of one document in Spanish, French, or Portuguese to another like English.
As a cultural bridge, your human translator determines what is the appropriate meaning of your text.
Machines cannot soak up the culture in a country and use that knowledge and feeling to promptly and precisely render text to produce a culturally-appropriate translation.
Until now at least, only a fellow human can study Spanish (in Spain), savor tapas and cañas in Madrid in a local tavern, and chat up the locals about the next victory of Real Madrid on the weekend.
Machines lack the cultural skills, finesse, and nuance to make a judgment for appropriate phrases and vocabulary in your document.
There is no substitute for human feelings, knowledge, and cultural literacy to render a proper translation of your documents.
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Tell Professor Winn about your translation project.
Machine Translation (MT), in the long run, could be costlier than a human translation.
Is money the only factor?
Perhaps you are in a high-stakes gambit against a rival for market share or to protect a client from irreparable harm.
No amount of dollars, euros, pounds, etc. can sometimes salvage a company’s public reputation for professionalism and seriousness.
Machine translation – without any human supervision – often produces texts output lacking the two ingredients mentioned above – context and culture.
Can you risk a bad translation when precise, prompt, and professional translations by Professor Winn are available?
Right now, MT produces inferior texts without the “touch” only a human translation can encompass.
Plus, MT is incapable of interpreting accurately idioms, metaphors, and puns, and mimicking the tone and style of documents.
As part of my 9-Point Translation Diagnostic, you should expect a mirror copy of the original document.
In sum, heed the adage – pennywise and pound foolish.
Skip low-budget machine translation and instead opt for trustworthiness, accuracy, and cultural literacy – hallmarks of a human translation any day.
Human translation at its essence is all about writing.
Who can write (in my case) English better – me or a machine?
Writing is an art form that can be learned with practice (sometimes painful), experimentation, and by executing flawless word choice (as referenced above).
Your documents in French, Spanish, or English need to be well-written in English to properly convey the meaning of the original text.
No machine can even approach the university-level competence a native English speaker has to produce such a text.
While computers are useful for human translators at the controls, the time to release the helm for machines to write translations is not near.
Computers help human translators to quickly access information (like glossaries and dictionaries), synonyms, or other highly specialized terms.
The human-machine struggle continues, but in the end, human translation triumphs still.
The machine age so far cannot substitute for members of one the world’s oldest professions.