Google Translate – Can it Fully Replace Human Translators?

Living in a world that is constantly embracing technology can be difficult sometimes, especially when there is that nagging suspicion, in our minds at least, that machines are being designed to one day replace us.

With the news that Google is developing artificial intelligence that will vastly improve speech-to-speech translation into its own Google Translate service, dubbed Translatotron (really?), are we entering uncharted waters of translation?

Well, yes and no; as with many translation apps and programs over the last decade or so, it’s hard to see how much advancement this will create. The main question is, will the technology ever reach a point it could feasibly replace human translators? To that question, it’s a realistic no – not for the foreseeable future at least.

According to Dr Siu Sai Chong, Director of Deep Learning Research at Shang Seng University of Hong Kong, the reality is that AI still lacks the ability to imitate the way humans read documents, suggesting that “current AI doesn’t have the ability to really think.” However advanced the translation technology becomes, it still has its limitations, mainly because it will always lack being human.

“Humor, puns, and wordplay are very difficult to translate. […] It is really challenging to have [that] kind of information that has high density within a few words and it’s difficult for computers to capture the real meaning behind [them],” Siu added.

The Human Element of Translation

The complexities of language and its many forms, dialects and interpretations mean it will be almost impossible to imagine a world without translation having the human touch. The problem will always be the natural side of language, the very obstacle that takes time to overcome when learning a new language.

Being able to talk and interpret like a native speaker of any language is an organic process that involves someone being fully immersed in it, living and thinking in that language. Using an app or AI enabled device to do the work is not an equal substitute, more a tool to help. These tools may be great to translate a word or short phrase, but to actually trust them to accurately translate marketing content for example, or workplace manual, is an entirely different matter.

For now, at least, it’s better to leave this to the dedicated humans among us that can give clear, natural and efficient translation services. To find out more about how we can assist with translation services, contact us today.

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