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Will machine translation replace human translators?

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


Machine vs human translation
According to Google, the Google Translate app reached a new milestone of more than 1 billion installs in 2021. Is machine translation set to replace human translators in the near future?

The rise of machine translation technology has sparked a debate as to whether it will one day eventually replace human translators. With the increasing accuracy and speed of translations, many are asking if machines can now do the same job as humans with more efficiency and reliability. This blog post will explore both sides of this argument, examining the pros and cons of using machine translation versus hiring a professional translator. We’ll look at how far technology has come in terms of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, scalability, and user experience to determine whether or not machine translation is a viable replacement for human translators in certain situations.


How accurate is machine translation compared to human translation?


When it comes to accuracy, there is no doubt that human translators can provide more accurate translations than machines. Humans are able to use their cultural knowledge as well as an understanding of context and syntax to interpret meaning accurately, something that machines don’t yet have the capacity for. However, machine translation technology has improved dramatically in recent years and is now capable of providing reliable translations in many situations.


For example, Google Translate uses sophisticated algorithms to enable real-time conversations between people who speak different languages. Despite this progress, human translators still offer a higher degree of accuracy in situations where precision is essential, such as legal or medical documents.


A case study conducted by Lars Ahrenberg at the Linköping University in Sweden, revealed that machine translation creates a translated copy that is significantly more similar to the source than the one produced by a human translation. However, it is not accurate enough or suitable for publishing purposes. They discovered in their research that the machine translation required an average of three edits per sentence, so they couldn’t be considered as high-quality translations.


Another research by the UCLA Medical Center shows that the accuracy level also depends on the translated language pairs. On average, the accuracy of Google Translate was 82.5%; however, that number improved significantly when English was translated to Spanish (94% accuracy) and decreased drastically for other languages like Farsi, where the accuracy was only 67.5%.


Which is more cost-effective?


When it comes to cost-effectiveness and scalability, machine translation has the clear advantage over human translators as it uses artificial intelligence (AI). Automated language solutions can rapidly process large amounts of text with minimal costs — something that would take a team of human translators days or even weeks to do. Furthermore, machines are able to provide translations faster than humans, meaning you don’t have to wait days for a document to be translated.


This makes them ideal for use in business settings where time is of the essence. However, Machine translations can be highly detrimental to businesses and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Machine translations are not always accurate or reliable. In addition, these translations may fail to capture the nuance of the language and intent behind each word and phrase, leading to misinterpretations or misunderstandings. Furthermore, translations conducted by artificial intelligence do not take into account cultural context, meaning the message may come across differently in a different culture. This can ultimately lead to brand confusion or miscommunication with customers and potential partners.


Conclusion: Machine vs Human Translation


All things considered, when it comes down to machine vs human translation it appears that machine translation is a viable option for certain situations that require a quick turnaround and cost-effectiveness. However, when precision matters most there is no substitute for the expertise of a human translation — something that machines cannot yet provide. Ultimately, each situation will require its own unique solution — whether that be machine translation or a professional human translator, only you can decide what works best for your needs.


In conclusion, while AI and machine learning have the potential to replace human translators in certain situations, they still cannot offer the level of accuracy that professional translators provide. Some professional translators have chosen to use translation technology to make their process more efficient, a practice known as computer-assisted translation (CAT).


Will AI replace human translators then? For now, at least, it appears that machines and humans will continue to work together to enable people from all over the world to effectively communicate with one another. So don’t fret -the rise of machine translation doesn’t mean the death of human translators just yet!


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