in Language Technology, Translation

It is hard to ignore the increasing prevalence of machine translation, as technology in the translation industry is constantly optimizing. It also must be accepted that machine translation is now vital to the translation industry and a big part of its future. This makes sense considering the reams and reams of translation that must be done daily on a commercial level, but what are some of the limitations of machine translation? Today’s technology, despite its remarkable advances, is still unable to solve numerous problems that only a professional human translator can solve – machine translation services on the internet can seem more like dictionaries than translators. This can mean that relying on them solely can be reckless because an innate intuition of the language is lost, which can be especially true in a global business environment;  for example when translating articles like CVs, contracts and business documentation. The following are 5 points that explore some limitations of machine translation currently experienced by translators and clients alike:

  • It is important that translators understand the context of the text to accurately portray it; machine translation makes no consideration of the context, which may lead to the creation of unintelligible phrases on a constant basis.
  • There are inevitably a multitude of local terms and expressions and automatic translating services found online cannot translate them. For example, a language spoken in a country may differ in many ways from the same language spoken in its central or eastern/western parts, with many expressions, idioms and idiosyncrasies being unique to each region.
  • Translation tools that are automatic very frequently produce errors in specialized fields that involve technical writing in certain professions. It is very common that the word in question is not recognized, or a very approximate translation will be made which could produce a completely different meaning in the text.
  • Each language that is translated comes from a complex mix of culture and tradition which simply cannot be understood by computers at this stage. Human translators possess an awareness of the context and the target cultures in question, which is essential to faithful and accurate translation. Computers with their automatic processes will never have this capacity.
  • When machine translators use a pivot language, which is a language translated to form a more relatable language for the final, third language that needs to be translated (for example, translating from English to Spanish to Catalan), there are further risk of errors in translation. More so than just translating two languages

All of these 5 points help to illustrate the limitations of machine translation as it stands – limitations that businesses need to be aware of as clients or when providing a translation service. With this in mind, it is also important to understand why machine translation is becoming so prevalent, with its effectiveness in both price and volume. At CSOFT, we try our best to utilize the most state-of-the-art technology in machine translation with a view of being at the forefront of translation innovation. We also however pride ourselves on our talented and international team of talented linguists and translators, who use their experience and talent to give a human touch and perspective, supplementing in a variety of ways the limitations of machine translation.

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