With the evolution of technology, machine translation has greatly evolved. Due to its low cost, accessibility, speedy nature and the availability of multiple languages using one tool, individuals and companies prefer to use it rather than contacting a human translator. The question is, can machine translation replace a human translator? Are human translators expendable? Are machine translations reliable? In this article, we will focus on culture, context, style and tone to show that it is impossible for machine translation programmes to replace human translators.
Different cultures in the world have different lexical items that are unique to that specific culture. Machines will not easily understand or recognise slang, puns, idioms and in some cases names. This is a challenge machines have never been able to overcome and it will be extremely difficult to. Some cultures have words or expressions which mean one thing to them while the same words or expressions will have an entirely different meaning in another culture. Only a human translator can make the difference because the machine translator will simply do the direct word for word translation.
Machines cannot relate words to their context. A word may have dual meaning in different languages and this is another challenge for the machine translation because such words must be related to their context when being translated. For example, in English we have the word “nails” which either refers to the hard parts on our fingers or the thin, sharp metal pieces used in construction. This becomes problematic because the machine may not relate the word to its appropriate context. The human translator will easily identify and relate words to their contexts.
- Style and tone
Machines translation programmes cannot replicate style and tone as every document has a specific style and tone depending on the purpose for which it is written. A document may have a poetic, a funny, an argumentative or a persuasive style and tone and when translating, the machine will not reproduce the style and tone. Some documents will require that specific style and tone to be easily be understood by the reader and only the human translator can replicate that similar tone and style. Machines will never be able to understand tone and emotion, and convey it appropriately.
A research was carried out by the Sejong Cyber University and the International Interpretation and Translation Association of Korea in order to give answers to give answers to the introductory questions of this article. In the exercise, they made use of 3 machine translation programs: Google Translate, Systran’s translation program, and the Papago app from Naver against four human translators. Both the translators and the machines had four texts to translate. Based on accuracy, language expression and logic and organization, the research revealed that, though machines are faster, they are not efficient in communicating the source language message because they still make absurd mistakes.
Though machine translation has greatly evolved, it cannot and will never replace the human touch. After using a machine to translate a text, the text must be reviewed to ensure that the text is grammatically correct, has the appropriate style and tone and is comprehensible. Moreover, languages develop and evolve every day and machines cannot pick on this evolution as fast as human translators. According to Saltlux VP Shin, today’s event is more about how much humans can benefit from using these machines and boost work efficiency of professional translators.” the future is about humans and machines working together and not machines replacing humans. Though machine translation improves, some text may always require a human touch.
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