How artificial intelligence revolutionizes the translation industry

How artificial intelligence revolutionizes the translation industry

Many companies now rely on machine translation (MT) to save costs and time. Online tools and websites such as Google Translate and DeepL Translator are often used to translate texts of all sorts.

Have machines advanced to the point where they can completely replace the human translator?

Digitization and therefore also artificial intelligence (AI) are advancing worldwide and are spreading across industries. The industrialized economies are competing against each other to have the edge in technology. Of course, the ongoing development of technology and progress in itself do not stop at the translation industry.

Therefore, the question of whether human translators are going to be replaced is obviously not that easy to answer. The quality of MT depends largely on the type of text and its writing style. Documents and texts written in a neutral, simple or impersonal tone, such as those found in the legal, technical or medical fields, can often be better understood, analyzed and translated by machines than other types of texts. The translation is often quite useful or sometimes even good and accurate. However, caution should of course be exercised here as well.

Gross errors in machine translations

If the subject matter is highly technical and the text contains terminology that is very specific to a particular industry or subject area, machine translations can often contain major mistakes. Inconsistencies in the use of terminology are also not uncommon here, as the machine may use a different term depending on the sentence structure and context, whereas a human translator can ensure continuity more efficiently in this case. Moreover, machines do not always recognize standard industry-specific formulations. Likewise, the machine cannot take any necessary adaptations to country-specific particularities or standards into account or implement them. These are some of the "symptoms" of how translation programs work - it is true that while the machines may analyze the text, they end up translating it rather straightforwardly without further scrutiny or recognizing what may need to be adapted to the target market.

Machine translation of literary and marketing-related texts

Furthermore, there are of course also more freely formulated, literary and marketing-related texts. However, there is still significant room for improvement in terms of machine translation. Admittedly, machines often provide a thoroughly useful basic framework for the translation, nevertheless, the formulations here are very formal for the most part. As a result, there is often no fluid reading experience and no smooth transitions. Puns are also tricky to comprehend for machines and in most cases they are completely lost in translation. Translating such playful linguistic expressions into another language or finding an equivalent is only possible with the aid of a qualified translator.

Reality in economics vs human translation

However, we have to face the fact that the economy in general will turn more and more towards machine translation. This will inevitably alter the course of the translation industry. For example, the types of texts that are still translated by human translators will probably change. Translations of day-to-day documents, such as business and commercial correspondence, are already proving to be redundant. This will soon start to cover small documents and texts of lesser importance (e.g. for internal use only), as well. The main focus will be on texts in the field of literature and marketing. For the time being, machines cannot replace the ingenuity and linguistic skills of human translators. Especially advertising brochures, newspaper articles and books absolutely need to be translated by real translators to ensure that they do not lose their effect.

Technical translations of highly specialized documents and texts

However, even highly specialized documents and texts of greater importance and implication, such as package leaflets, (multinational) contracts, technical specifications and documentation, will not be taken away from translators by machines so easily. After all, should errors or inconsistencies develop in the terminology or meaning of the text, this will have far-reaching consequences. You can only be sure that everything is impeccable, when a real qualified translator with the appropriate background knowledge and years of experience in the field takes care of the translation.

Man will not lose so quickly against the machine

The art of translation will not die out so quickly, however, it will certainly reform. The translation industry is already changing, like so many other industries. Yet, the question remains: Will the machines make the human translator obsolete? In some areas of translation - yes, in others, for example when it comes to interpreting - no. Machine translation can help human translators, but it cannot completely replace them.