Machine Translation vs Human Translation


With the development in machine translation technology, questions about the future of translation have started to be raised. Is it possible that the machines can do what we, as translators, do exactly what we do right now? Will we be unemployed in the future? Will the job description of the translator be reduced to “translation editor”?

While I was reading blogs and articles to find out what’s going on in our field, I came across this interesting article. Here are some parts from it. I think we all share the thoughts of “patenttranslator”:


“In some ways, computers changed the translation universe beyond recognition as cheap or free machine translation became as ubiquitous as advertising. Just about everybody (at least everybody in the non-English-speaking world) is using machine translation to find out more about the world around us.

But seen from another perspective, you could also say that real translation, the kind that is produced by humans who understand and translate languages, has not really changed that much since the time of Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators and librarians who lived about fifteen hundred years ago. It all depends on what your view of translation is. If you see it as mostly just moving words from one language to another, the future of translation is in memory tools such as Trados and more and better machine translation, while the only future available to translators will be human editing of the product of these computer editing tools and of the machine translation product. That is certainly one school of thought on the future of translation.

The way I understand translation – it is mostly about what things said in one language really mean in another language. Computer tools and software can be programmed by human programmers to look for meaning. Meaning is a category that can be simulated by software, but simulation is almost never a substitute for the real thing. Meaning is a category that is not and never will be accessible to machines, regardless of how powerful they may be by the time everybody who is reading these lines will have been dead for decades.”

For the full article, click here.



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