Salvador Ordorica is the CEO of The Spanish Group LLC, a first-class international translation service that translates over 90 languages.
Translation plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between different languages and cultures. Traditionally, human translators have been the go-to choice for accurate and nuanced translations. However, AI translation, a blossoming subfield of natural language processing (NLP), claims to bridge language barriers and promote global communication. This new world of automatic language translation begs the question of which is preferable: human or AI translation services?
To help answer this, let’s dig deep into these two modes of translation by looking into the benefits and challenges you may encounter while using each kind.
Human translation involves the process of translating text from one language to another through the expertise of trained professionals.
Skilled translators possess an in-depth understanding of both the source and the target languages, including their cultural nuances and contextual subtleties, which helps the translator ensure that the literal, emotional and cultural contexts of the message are conveyed to the target audience. For instance, imagine a business owner wanting to expand into a foreign market with a marketing slogan that relies on wordplay. A skilled human translator would have the cultural knowledge necessary to adapt the slogan, preserving its intended impact and resonating with the local audience. A famous example is Coca-Cola’s “Taste the Feeling” campaign, which required careful localization to maintain its impact across various markets.
Human translators can also employ contextual judgment to handle complex texts, such as legal documents or technical manuals. They can interpret ambiguous or idiomatic phrases by considering the wider context, resulting in a more accurate and faithful translation. This is particularly important for businesses that deal with intricate contracts, patent filings or regulatory documents where precision is paramount.
Translators, like all humans, can make mistakes, especially when dealing with tight deadlines or large volumes of work. Even highly skilled professionals can occasionally overlook or misinterpret certain phrases, resulting in inaccuracies. To avoid these mistakes, it’s important to include a proofreading phase in the translation process. A proofreader reviews written materials for errors, clarity, consistency and overall quality to ensure consistency in language usage, formatting and style throughout the document.
Another potential limitation is cost. Human translation services typically cost more than AI translator tools, so small businesses with a limited budget can sometimes find it challenging to contract a professional translator service.
AI translation, also known as machine translation, relies on algorithms and computational models to automatically translate text from one language to another.
With the ability to process massive amounts of data in seconds, AI translation platforms can deliver near-instantaneous translations, enabling real-time communication across languages. In scenarios where speed and scalability are paramount, such as translating user-generated content on social media platforms, AI-powered solutions can efficiently process vast amounts of text with minimal human intervention.
Also, once the initial development and training costs are incurred, the ongoing use of AI translation tools is typically more affordable. This accessibility can empower individuals, small businesses and organizations with limited budgets to bridge language barriers without breaking the bank.
AI tools can have difficulty capturing context and producing translations that convey the full meaning of the original text. Language is complex, and culturally specific expressions such as idioms and metaphors, as well as ambiguous or ungrammatical sentences and other context-dependent word choices, can be challenging for AI algorithms. In some cases, such as contracts or legal documents, relying solely on AI translation could introduce errors and legal complications.
Cultural sensitivity is another area where AI translation can fall short. Translations involve not only the literal meaning of words but also the cultural implications and social connotations attached to them. AI often lacks the ability to recognize cultural subtleties, which raises the risk of creating insensitive or controversial interpretations.
Ultimately, the choice between human translation and AI translation depends on the specific needs of the business and the importance of linguistic accuracy and cultural sensitivity in the given context. One way businesses can strike a balance is to leverage a hybrid approach, combining the strengths of human translation with the efficiency of AI translation. By using AI to handle routine, high-volume translations and by relying on human translators for complex or culturally sensitive content, you can potentially achieve accurate and culturally relevant translations while also optimizing time and cost.
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