Launched for the first time in 2006, Google Translate is now used by over 500 million people all over the world.
This automatic translation program is capable of translating a text virtually instantly thanks to the use of an analytical, statistical system based on neural networks. Google Translate draws on an enormous, interactive database and employs deep learning principles to find the most appropriate translation possible for a term in a particular language.
The database used by the system is known as an engine and features millions of documents that have already been translated by translation professionals. The documents mainly come from authoritative sources such as the United Nations or the various bodies of the European Union, as these institutions already translate their official documents into multiple languages. Yet the database also features “second-hand” documents generated by machines as by-products.
Google Translate was created to provide a tool to make life easier in everyday settings and facilitate communication between people who speak different languages. All you need to do is write or dictate a phrase and — in the space of just a few seconds — you’ll see a translation in your selected language.
It’s a simple, intuitive and instant service.
Initially, its launch triggered confusion and worry within the translation industry. Fears spread that these programs would render expert translators obsolete, revolutionizing the entire translation industry in the process.
Over time, however, it’s become clear that — although it’s an incredible tool — Google Translate is unlikely to replace the professional translator.
By carefully analyzing the differences between Google Translate and the way a human translator works, we can gain a better understanding of why this is. Let’s take a look together.
One of the biggest differences between the two is the cost and accessibility of the translation service.
Google Translate allows anyone to access a completely free service at any time, which is not the case when you use a professional. Not everyone is able to use a professional translator when they need a translation, and when they do, they certainly don’t get an “instant” translation like the service offered by Google.
However, though these are two points in favor of Google Translate, it’s important that we shine a light on the service’s weaknesses.
Though the ongoing innovations in machine translation at the heart of Google Translate have led to a huge increase in the quality of the translations it can provide, it’s fair to say that the program can’t always ensure adequate translation quality.
All languages have their own idiosyncrasies, expressions and neologisms — it’s what makes languages dynamic and the reason why they’re constantly evolving. Google Translate can’t pick up on these nuances or allow exceptions to rules, so it often generates incorrect translations. Though they might appear to make sense, Google Translate’s translations can be unpredictable and may often include mistakes or gaffes that could have serious consequences, depending on the context.
Human translators, by contrast, have extensive linguistic and cultural understanding and can pick up on subtle linguistic nuances to produce a text that both faithfully reflects the meaning of the original and incorporates all the linguistic details that ensure adequate comprehension on the part of the reader — with no misunderstandings.
The final key difference is in the quantity of languages that can be translated by machines versus human translators.
Google Translate only works well with a few languages, most notably English. This is because the documents contained in the engine are predominantly written in the official languages of the United Nations (English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic).
If you want to translate something into a language that is less widely spoken around the world, such as the Indian dialect of Bhojpuri, or a language with very specific structure and syntax such as German, there is a much higher probability of mistakes in the translation.
However, this is obviously not an issue when you use a professional translator.
Though professional translators generally only know a few languages on top of their mother tongue, and can therefore only work in a limited number of language combinations, they do have professional-level knowledge of this select group of languages — so there’s no risk of the meaning getting lost in translation.
Why choose a professional translation?
Though Google Translate can come in handy in some circumstances, such as when you’re abroad and you can’t speak the local language, there are other times when there’s simply no beating professional, human translation.
Professional translators have the advantage of being able to pick up on all the elements and nuances that make a language rich, multi-dimensional and alive.
Any written text carries with it a wealth of factors that are far more complex than the automated process used by a machine working from a database.
Our culture, customs and habits all influence our lives and have an impact on the way we express ourselves.
Wrapped up in our languages are our values, our beliefs and our emotions — aspects that are difficult for a machine, however sophisticated, to understand, let alone translate.
To become a professional translator, you have to dedicate a lot of time not just to studying languages but also to exploring everything around them — you have to immerse yourself in the culture behind a language, then specialize in specific fields such as finance, law or medical.
Every specialty has its own terms and expressions, so the only way to ensure you get a translation that achieves its core goal of facilitating communication between people is to turn to somebody with extensive knowledge of both linguistics and culture.
The ability to convert a message from the source context to the target context adequately and faithfully is a talent that only human beings possess — and that’s why professional translation is undoubtedly the superior option in terms of quality.
It’s also important to consider the additional assistance we might require when we have a text to translate. With Google Translate, we’re interacting with a computer and therefore don’t have the option to discuss the reasoning behind specific translation choices. By contrast, when we choose to use a professional translation service, translators are always happy to work collaboratively and provide explanations for their decisions.
Opting for a translation from a professional agency also means that you’ll have a project manager overseeing the entire process. This individual will have a wealth of experience and skills and will be able to advise clients on the most appropriate solution for them, as well as identifying and coordinating the most suitable translators for each project, based on the languages and specialties involved.
Way2Global: the perfect combination of man and machine
Way2Global draws on the best that people and machines have to offer.
Though our start-up mentality means we’re passionate about adopting and optimizing the new technology taking hold in the language industry (machine translation, neural networks, artificial intelligence and deep learning), and though professional translation tools based on neural networks are gaining momentum all the time, we’re committed to ensuring that people are at the heart of everything we do.
We’re convinced that new technology represents an extension to the capabilities of human beings — and that’s the approach we want to take as we embrace technological innovation.
Leading studies predict that use of machine translation tools will continue to grow in the future, with some suggesting that these new digital tools will soon be used by 90% of the global translation industry. It promises to be an all-out revolution in the language industry, and — if managed properly — it will not only boost productivity but also improve the quality of the service offered.
To ensure that new digital tools are used correctly, the industry has created a special certification (ISO EN 18587) which includes stringent quality standards.
As a future-oriented company, we’re proud at Way2Global that we’re one of the first translation companies to have obtained this certification — and that we actually served on the panel of experts that helped to draw up the standard.
To protect client data and documents, our certified approach sees us use professional translation engines that are stored locally on our servers, thus ensuring privacy and confidentiality for sensitive data.
Whenever a client specifically asks for us to use new digital technology, they know that optimum quality is assured. Why? Because the entire process is overseen by our team of native-speaker linguists and translators who have been trained on how to use these cutting-edge tools, but who nonetheless keep their hands firmly on the reins and stay in control of the machines and their processes.
Last but not least, the delicate nature of the documents we’re typically entrusted with means that we incorporate multiple checks and balances into the system whenever machine translation is requested by the client, in accordance with ISO EN 18587 certification. These include review by a subject matter expert, review by a third-party translator, proofreading and quality assurance.
There is no doubt that new technologies — and the digital transformation in general — are revolutionizing many sectors, including the language industry. Yet at Way2Global, as a company firmly focused on the future and on innovation, we’re ready and waiting with all the tools we need to embrace this change, as passionate believers in the power of the alliance between man and machine.
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