While robots and A.I. might take over the world someday, we’re not there yet, which is why human translations are still an essential ingredient for effective foreign translations. Undoubtedly, the rise of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, translation software, online translation platforms like Google Translate, and the basic machine translations you find when reading posts (in a foreign language) on Facebook, have all changed the nature of translation, and how we interact with foreign languages on a daily basis.
Until the late 20th century, translators did not have access to these wonderful computer-based tools. What they did have (the good ones) was an understanding of how a mixture of education, practical language experience and translation methodologies, brought accuracy to the field of foreign translations. Despite the massive leg up technology brings to the discipline now, human translations are still needed to do the job right, especially when looking at translations from a professional standpoint.
Computer Translations versus Human Translations
When you need to shoot off a quick note to someone in a language you don’t know, computer-assisted translations will serve you well in most cases. The basic message and basic communication can take place with relatively few hiccups. However, when you need to hone language to fit business and technology needs — from complex engineering diagrams or complicated software manuals to nuanced localized marketing campaigns — simply chucking your content into web-based translation programs or using translation software and hoping for the best could spell disaster.
For instance, Italian translation services and Swedish translation services (or any translation service for other major European countries), although target similar people from the same continent, evolve differently! Each should take into account that languages are “living” things that are constantly transforming, adding nuances, slang, idiomatic expressions, double entradas, technical lingo, grammatical variations from standard forms of the language, regional variations, borrowed words and spellings, alternative spellings, taboo words and topics, cultural sensitivities, honorifics, generational differences in speaking, cultural-based terminology, historical context … and the list goes on.
Furthermore, human translators immersed in the local variations of a target language, be that Portuguese translation services dealing with the Portuguese of Angola, Brazil, Mozambique or Portugal (regional Portuguese varies widely), can take a raw translation (computer or human generated), and adapt it to the specific geographical location a particular translation is meant for. This human element helps build more accurate and effective translations, which machine-based translation, no matter how good, just can’t touch.
That “Je Ne Sais Quoi” Factor of Foreign Translations
While study and scientific methodology support language translations, you’ll find an awful lot of “art” as well. By this, we mean aesthetic choices, phrasing (selling aggressively calls for different language choices when compared to trying to be gently persuasive), the shifting idiosyncrasies of the field you’re working in, what words have fallen out of fashion or sound cliché or archaic to native speakers, and more.
Digital dictionaries, glossaries, vocabulary and keyword databases, online translation management systems, translation memories, the ability to collaborate online, and other machine-based translation tech make the job of translating much easier. Any translator surveyed, whether working for Italian translation services, or digging into foreign translations in a domestic market, would likely tell you that technology has augmented their translation abilities, and that they’d probably be very unhappy about giving up their fancy digital tools. But these tools complement human translators; they don’t substitute them. For up-to-date, creative and natural-feeling professional localized content, human translations are definitely still the way to go.
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