On 4th October 2017 Google announced the launch of its new translation tech headphones, Pixel Buds, which it claims can simultaneously translate spoken language into the ear of the listener. There is much hype around this new technology.
Technology which reminds me of the Babel fish from Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which excreted simultaneous translations directly into its host’s ear canal.
According to Google, the Pixel Buds can translate 40 languages using Google’s existing Google Translate technology.
But could this technology be more dangerous than useful, after all how can technology understand context, syntax, grammar, not to mention accents and dialects. Language is complex; there can be multiple ways of saying the same thing in another language, making the potential for mistakes, huge.
Have Google thought about this?
Googles Pixel buds use Googles translation software which is already available to use online and does not therefore take into account any of the above. So in order to prevent insulting a potential customer by translating any advertising or copy into a foreign language, I would still highly recommend using a real person who has good knowledge of the language to translate for you.
Even people that should know better get it wrong, take the team behind Donald Trump last year who at the Republican National Convention, attempted to combat the impression that he did not have a high approval rate amongst US Hispanics by having members of the crowd hold up signs that read “Hispanics for Trump.” In Spanish.
The campaign team utterly botched the translation. Out of the three words on the signs, the only world they got right was “Trump.” “Hispanics” should have been translated to Hispanos. And while “para” could be translated as “for,” it’s used in a different context. The sign should have said “por.” Going to prove that you can’ always rely on technology to get it right!
Computers and technology have been designed to help us speed up tasks and processes, save us time and make our lives easier. But there are significant differences between what computers/ technology can do in comparison to humans.
When looking for translation services you will see many translation software adverts all highlighting that they can translate many words quickly, can make grammatical changes as the basic rules of translation and grammar are embedded in its programming. You might think good, problem solved, it’s easy to install and cheaper than paying a human to do it, however, translation software lacks one key ingredient to making it the next best thing. It cannot express the meaning of a sentence, because machines can’t understand context, they run on a strict set of defined rules.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of software translation vs human.
The advantages of machine translation:
- Price – Many translation tools are available free of charge such as; Google Translate and Skype Translator
- Fast – Get your translation as quickly as you can type (or copy and paste) your document into a translation tool. It can take minutes rather than hours or days.
- Multiple Languages – You can translate to more than one language using one tool
The disadvantages of machine translation:
- Quality and Accuracy – Generally the level of accuracy of these online tools is very low and often inconsistent across different languages. There is also no quality control process, so unless you have a reader of that language you won’t know if there are any mistakes until you publish the document
- Context – As I have said previously translation software cannot translate context
- It can be dangerous – There are just some things that you would not want to be translated by software without being checked by a human. For example: Translating instructions for medical equipment and aviation manuals would require 100% accuracy as mistakes could cost lives!
The advantages of human translation
- Context – Humans can interpret context, humour, and irony, capturing the same meaning, rather than simply translating words
- Quality Control – Human translators will review their work, proof-read for accuracy and if you use a professional translation service there is likely to be a quality control process in place
- Understanding – Humans can understand the idiosyncratic differences between languages, the use of puns and slang, whereas machines cannot
- Alternative Language – Sometimes the literal translation isn’t possible, a machine would not be able to find a suitable alternative
The disadvantages of human translation
- Cost – Unlike the free software there is a cost associated with translating documents.
- Slow – The turnaround time for translation is longer, but this is because there are often quality control processes in place
Of course, there is always a time and a place for both human translation and translation software for example:
When to use software translation:
- Bulk translate large documents ready for a human translator to improve upon
- You are translating for internal use and 100% accuracy is not required
When to use human translation:
- When accuracy is important
- If your document is to be read by a consumer audience
- When you have a duty of care to your reader e.g. medical manuals
- When translating marketing material and context is important
How to choose between human translation and software translation?
Ask yourself these simple questions:
- Do you care about how my content reads, does it flow well, did you want to use humour or do you want to get the basics of the documents content across as quickly as possible ?
- Are you precious about accuracy or can you live with a few errors?
- Does this translated content reflect my company’s brand or messaging?
We hope that this article gives you some something to consider when it comes to translation services and software.
For more information about the Translation services offered by Fingertips Typing Services click here