Machine Translation or Human Translation, Which Route is Best?

Looking at it, technology has become pretty advanced. We have wearable devices that can talk to us and we can communicate with people thousands of miles away. Conflict may arise when communicating with those who speak a different language. Though this scenario doesn’t happen too often in a normal life, if you have a business and are seeking clients overseas, then having the tools to talk with one another is a must.

Machine-based translation has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings, we now have the power to translate words and phrases into whatever language is needed. With as convenient and cost-effect as this service is, when is the right time to use a human translator?

An online transcription services company, wanted to find out when you should or shouldn’t use a human translator using typical scenarios most people do everyday.

Verbalink used two of their Spanish translators, one as a judge, the other as a competitor, to determine when it’s the right to use a human translator or machine translation. For the machine translation, they used the popular Google Translate.

Two tests were performed, the first was document translation. For this, Spanish text was put into Google Translate. This resembles how an average person would use Google Translate, take a block of text, and paste it into Google Translate.

The results found the human translation was the most accurate representation of the text. Google Translate provided a literal translation to the text. In some cases Spanish text literally translated into English can jumble up word order. So in this case, the text’s headline in Spanish was “El Consejo Nacional Apícola” which translates to “National Beekeeping Council”, but Google translated it as “National Council Bee”.

The second test was single speaker audio translation. For this part of the exam, clean pre-recorded audio is spoken into the mobile Google Translate app, the app transcribes then translates it. The audio was in Spanish, and the speaker had a neutral accent.

The human translator was able to accurately translate the audio, and they stuck with the original meaning of the speaker. Google translate heard words which were mistaken for other words. When the speaker said “buenas,” Google Translate heard “wenas.” There were even some parts of the text which weren’t correctly translated.

The problem that Google translate had, according to professional judge, was “Google Translate uses word-by word translation.” It gets the gist, but it doesn’t recognize the subtleties in the language.

Google Translate does have its place. For non-complex text translations, such as words, names, menu items and road signs, Google translate is a viable option. For important business documents, medical, commercial, financial and legal work as well as content seen in the public eye, it’s probably best to hire a professional translator.

1 Comment

  1. Janet W.
    April 20, 2016 / 9:58 am

    I've never had to use an online transcription service before. Great information!

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