Language translation is a delicate process. In a world obsessed with technology, native speaking human translators are still the gold standard when it comes to document translation services. While there are various computer aided translation programs available today (commonly referred to as ‘machine translations’), they typically offer a subpar end product that can result in translation errors and lost business. This is why here at TSI, we only use translators who speak the native languages specific to their jobs. We take this role seriously and it sets us apart from other translation service providers.
Most common computer translation programs cannot distinguish between a document whose final destination is France versus French speaking Algeria or many of the other countries that include French as an official language. Each language has its own variations from region to region, as we’ve discussed in previous articles.
2. Words With Multiple Meanings
We encounter this often, especially with English into Spanish translations. There are many English words, spelled exactly the same, that have different meanings. A professional translator will read the words in context and understand their precise meaning. However, machine translation programs, although having made great strides in the past several years, are not nearly as effective as humans. For example, let’s look at wind (to turn) and wind (flowing air). The main issue with these examples is their counterparts in other languages are not identical. To ‘turn’ in Spanish is enrollar and flowing air is viento. Machine translation programs cannot always differentiate words like this in context. Native speaking human translators are far superior in this scenario.
3. Machine Translations Lack Human Touch
In addition to just completely getting definitions wrong, computer translated documents often read dry and stilted. Reading is one of the most essential forms of communication. Anyone who has read a best selling novel understands that good writing can evoke true emotion from the reader. Some are so powerful that they bring readers to tears. While this may not be the goal of your business document translation, HR document translations or legal translations, it’s still essential that your company can connect with your target audience on a personal level.
4. Humans Excel at Technical Terminology Translation
If you think a computer can decipher hundreds of parts that make up modern medical instruments and devices, think again. You need a human translator who specializes in precise terminology associated with this field. Terminology that is industry specific does not typically exist in most dictionaries. This means computers can’t correctly process these terms. Even most human translators cannot accomplish this. For this reason, we are sure to pair our projects with native translators who have a robust understanding of the industry in question. For example, when we are dealing with architectural document translations we assign the project to a translator with a degree and several years experience in architecture or structural engineering. A similar rule applies to technical operating and maintenance manuals, to HR and OSHA regulations and legal briefs. Understanding how to properly pair a translator with a job is akin to casting the right actor in an academy award-winning movie. There are hundreds of actors available and eager for their next big role, but it’s the subtle details and demands of the part that makes their role really shine on the silver screen. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Johnny Depp are both great actors, but would never be up for the same role.
5. Human Translators Lead to Cost Savings
One myth is that using computer software to translate documents saves customers a lot of money. This is not necessarily the case, for a few reasons. The actual translation procedure from one language to the next is merely one step in the translation supply chain. Due to the increased errors when using computer software, it requires more detailed rounds of revisions (assuming companies even do them to begin with). This additional proofreading and revising adds up. Machine translations do not eliminate the project management costs or graphic design costs, which leads us to our next issue…
6. Improper Formatting for Internationalization
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, internationalization is the design and layout of a document or product so that translation and localization can be easily implemented. When using computer aided translation software, there is no way to know if the final translation will fit within the allotted space on product packaging or pages. This can lead to even more unforeseen costs, like having to send the translated document back to your graphic design team to reformat the file to conform to the layout of the original document. Human translators can make these formatting adjustments while they are working on the files and avoid these additional costs.
At TSI, we ensure that our professional translators are made aware of spacing and other formatting issues before they even begin the job. This means that they occasionally may have to substitute words that are shorter or more concise to reflect the correct layout of the document. Machine translation programs cannot do this.
If you’re searching for a translation company or online translation services, please contact us for more information or a free quote on your project. Human translations are the correct choice.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.