Why Machine Translation Will Never Replace Human Translation

Why Machine Translation Will Never Replace Human Translation

Why Machine Translation Will Never Replace Human Translation

A world full of languages

There are thousands of different languages that are being used by people of this world to communicate with each other. When we come across a language that is alien to us we could seek a translator to help us out. Translations are required for economic, political, business, social and every other branch of human activity.

Without translations, it would be quite a task to communicate and complete human interaction successfully which could leave a void and most of all unfinished business, whatever that would be. Perennially it has been professional translators who would either be employed by the respective entities or freelancers who would help out for a predetermined fee. This practice has not abated and continues to this day.

Even leaders of two countries who would sit down to discuss important global issues would need translators to convey to each other what they would want to say. Hence translations are an important and integral part of all human activity and would remain so, probably till eternity.

Would machine translation succeed?

In such a context there is a huge market for machine translation or automated translation that could be employed to do what humans are presently executing. Whether this would be possible is the big question on everyone’s lips. Would machine translation replace human translators?

Machines and robots have replaced humans in many areas and one area that would stand out significantly would be assembly lines in various industries. Robots without any doubt are definitely doing a better job than humans and would go on doing their delegated tasks without taking breaks to answer a call of Nature, consume food and water, or take a rest. Robots in industrial assembly lines would work 24 x 7 without any complaints. No labour issues or stoppages for various reasons.

Could this come to pass when we need translations too, which would be needed immediately in some cases. Having seen the technological advancement that we have experienced over the last few decades it may be difficult to write off such a scenario. It may be too early in the development, to see a machine that would come out with a flawless and quick translation which humans could achieve. But we have a future that is uncertain in many ways and if technology could take precedence then anything could be possible.

In the present context, we could conjure that it may not be possible for machines to take over translations based on the following.

#1. Understanding human culture would be beyond machines

The complexity of human culture would be a major drawback for machines to overcome. The words spoken with a different tone could be entirely different from what it really means. A machine would not be able to determine it in its exact sense. The same word in a specific language could mean differently within the same language but as used in different cultures. This would be difficult for the machine to determine.

In addition, there are idioms, slang and other relevant words which only a human mind with experience in that language and culture could determine and provide the appropriate translation. There is also the effect of culture on many words which a machine would find difficult to decipher on the spur of the moment. On the contrary, a human translator would be able to assimilate and provide the most appropriate translation instantaneously.

#2. Coining words to content, machines would be at a disadvantage

This is another area where machines are at a very distinct disadvantage because it would be constrained to coin the content to the word and vice versa. Some words in most languages would mean an entirely different aspect which the machine translation would be unable to comprehend. Translations done by a human would take the whole sentence into consideration and then provide the correct response.

In a translator machine, things would be different as the process would take in the spilt out words and execute a continuous translation response. If some words are difficult to understand the machine would provide the closest word to it and provide the result. It would not be able to take it in a complete context and provide an answer.

#3. Machines may find it difficult with multiple languages

The available technology is at its nascent stages and is still a long way to go. A machine translator may not be able to provide translations in more than one language. It would confine itself to one language because building a machine to use multiple languages is still a dream.

Humans are multilingual and could adjust quickly to the words spoken and take corrective action and provide the correct result. There would not be any breakdowns in human translations which would be a recurring issue in machines. 

#4. Style and tone may be beyond a machines purview

Determining style and tone would be difficult for machines, unlike human translators. This is because when tone and style are changed it could invariably change the meanings or the context in which it was said. Humans would be able to dissect it but a translator machine would find it difficult to comprehend.

A machine would generally translate on one wavelength and if this is changed understanding the meaning would be difficult for it, hence could provide confusing results. 

#5. Would a translation be possible without human touch?

A machine translation would use Artificial Intelligence or AI which is being popularly proliferated. But how successful it is in the present context is food for thought. AI has still not been able to match good old human intelligence but whether this equation would change “Only time will tell”.

We are a long way from developing many technologies and one that is being vigorously pursued among many others is machine translators. Whether there is a future for it we cannot pass judgment in the present age and time. There is a special element that human translations deriving from human interaction comes to the fore, whether machines could take over that function would be difficult to imagine.          

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