Why Human Translation Services Matter!

Quartz or Mechanical?

The case for human translation services

Wonder why human translation services will continue to be needed in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning? Here is a good analogy…

Introduction of the Quartz Watch

Seiko introduced the first quartz watch in 1969 promising more accurate and less costly ways to produce watches. Shortly after, the higher frequency crystal used in quartz technology allowed for a few seconds per month inaccuracy. This is compared to the few seconds per day of the best mechanical watches. Electronic parts were also much cheaper to produce than finely-tuned, hand crafted mechanical parts.

By the 80s, quartz watches overtook the watch-making industry. This prompted many experts to predict the end of the hand-made mechanical watch.

Introduction of Machine Translation

Similarly, in the 1950s and 60s, work began on developing computerized machine translation engines. Initial results looked promising prompting many to predict the near end of human translators. After all, if a 5 year old kid can speak multiple languages and interpret them, sophisticated computers can surely do the same.

More than half a century later, with phenomenal advances in computing technologies, software and mathematical algorithms, the best machine translation engines still cannot surpass human translation accuracy. They don’t even come close! Yet many pundits continue to predict the imminent demise of the translator and the translation industry as we know it today!

Yes machine translation technology has advanced and yes some solutions produce the gist of the meaning via rudimentary and often laughable translations. But what most forget is that often consumers are not just interested in getting the meaning. We are interested in the overall experience!

Human Translation Services Still Matter

To prove my point, take an online book in a foreign language in a subject that you care much about and run it by the best machine translation engine. Do let me know after how far you get into the book before giving up on it. My guess is that you will put it down after only reading the first few pages. Style, elegance, harmony, character, personality, spirit, soul, vitality and passion will continue to matter as long as human beings do the reading! Do you think a machine will ever be able to capture or depict that like humans can?

Additionally, transcreation techniques are essential to creating thrilling customer experiences.

Despite the huge success of the quartz watch and its hands-down more precise performance, today most Swiss hand-made mechanical watch makers still flourish. I own three mechanical watches, one digital watch and only one quartz watch. I wear my mechanical watches everywhere except when I am exercising. And that is mainly to protect them!


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