The question of giving a machine the ability to rationalize and retain emotion and individual thought has been hotly debated in the scientific community for the past few decades. With greater advances in technology, especially Nano-technology, we have the ability to make a machine more and more human. To what end? While this speaks to the broader subject of artificial intelligence, there is a definite point in relation to translation which we’ll cover a bit further on.
Humans are flawed. Even the perfect biological specimen is flawed in that it is mortal. Humans are subject to diseases and illnesses as well as specific wants and needs which, on the whole, renders them inefficient and prone to failure at some point. Humans are unreliable in that they can be quite unpredictable. They are prone to boredom from repetition and a longing for change. Humans also need sustenance. Feed them a well-balanced diet and they are quite efficient until their energy levels drop and they need to be replenished. They also need rest and adequate sleep. This makes them good for roughly 8 – 12 hours of work depending on the physical state of any given specimen.
With the exception of diseases in the form of software viruses, the machine isn’t subject to any of these things.
Looking at things from this perspective, one might conclude that using a machine translation, or better explained software which can translate text from one language to another, might be the preferable and best choice. However, if we dig into the world of extremely strategic technical translations or the highly regulated and equally strategic medical translations, there is more to be considered. One of the key components I mentioned was the idea of emotion. As humans, we have the ability to see emotion through words and writing. This is a major advantage the human retains over any machine still to this day. We have the ability to discern and convey sadness, happiness and boredom throughout written word. In addition, we have the ability to choose the most fitting word choice for the proper context of very complex and high-level text.
While a machine has the ability to efficiently translate a sentence into hundreds of languages at the click of a mouse button, it doesn’t (yet) retain the ability to discern the emotion context of what is written. While this may not apply to translations involving operating manuals and schematics, it very much applies to books, lectures, even lyrics. Through the use of translation memory, the machine has the ability to provide an exact translation into hundreds of languages within seconds. It does not however have the ability to pick up the subtle nuances used by a given culture.
When dealing with very specific and very unique terminology, as in many high-tech or medical fields, machine translations through software have its limitations. Certified technical translations and certified medical translations with the industry experience and education can accurately translate the technical glossaries and medical terminology vital in the documents and software GUI produced by manufacturers. Incorrect translation, word, or phrase selection can result in the misuse of equipment which could cause injury or even death to technicians, operators, nurses, physicians, and patients.
Therefore, when dealing with high-level and complex documentation and software requiring translation, it is best to engage a certified translation company with the proper industry experience and background of their linguists, engineers, and project managers. This personal touch is vital to the accuracy of these types of strategic translations.