Post #01

Machine Translation Vs Human Translation

Have you ever thought why machine translation can never replace human translation? Well, this might sound a little exaggerating, but that’s a fact!

Here’s why…

It’s nothing surprising that humans are a way ahead than machines when it comes to analytical functions. Language is one, for that matter. Linguists have proven that humans are born with an innate mental “module” that helps us in mastering a language. For example, do you remember how you picked up your first words and mastered your mother tongue more or less by the age of six?

Do you think a machine can do this unless you feed it with an input of language components? How far machine translation can guarantee accuracy, authenticity and validity?

Humans are super-fast in acquiring language since their early childhood years. Children learn much of what they know about language from watching TV or passively listening to adults; immigrant children learn a second language to native speaker fluency in the school playground; and even very young children are capable of linguistic innovation, saying things undreamt of by their parents! Now, isn’t that interesting?

This initial state of language faculty in the brain gets better with exposure when we grow up. This means, language competence is a matter of time and innate contribution.

So where do machines stand?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had a big leap in natural language processing with the Stanford Engineering and the University of Montreal experimenting neural machine translation approaches which is now being utilized by Google, Microsoft and Baidu.

However, the analytical function of computers is based on pre-programmed data and it is the same with language. Take Google Translate for example. No doubt it has been a useful tool in day-to-day tasks, but there are certain undeniable dimensions to be taken into account.

  1. Accuracy

In translation it is imperative to maintain accuracy in language. Language consists of complex grammatical patterns which can only be analysed in a human brain. A professional translator dedicates years of their life to comprehending the subtle nuances of a language. In contrast, the lack of linguistic knowledge of Google Translate mostly leads to errors, unreadable sentences, and fractured syntax.

2. Context

Translation is not a word-to-word conversion of a text. It involves an understanding about the cultural and categorical context. For example Google Translate would not understand usages and idioms of different languages. Rather, it would generate a literal translation whereas a professional translator would find the right equivalent.

Eg: පුත්තලමට ලුණු ගෙනියනවා වගේ.

The right equivalent is: “Carrying coal to New Castle”.

3. Experience

The success of any field relies on experience. Translators can be diverse in experience with regard to different types of translation: legal, technical, business etc. For example, a legal translator owns the resources, knowledge, vocabulary necessary for translating a legal document whereas Google Translate would not.

4. Validity

Most translations need to be certified by a sworn translator having a valid seal which is impossible with machine translation.

Thus, the accuracy, authenticity and validity of a translation can only be achieved through a proper professional in the field which Subhasha can boast of.

So why get lost in mistranslations while you have professionals at your disposal?

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