domingo, 1 de abril de 2012

Translation Vs Machine Translation

Until now the idea of machine translation has always been an impossible challenge. But the urgent need to reduce costs and personnel in Companies has developed the idea of using tools not only to help, but as a substitute to translation professionals. It is true that Companies working in the same industry might share similar vocabulary, and even virtually identical texts under certain circumstances. In such cases, it is certainly useful to have a tool available to remind us of those similarities and to provide us with possible answers to the same kind of questions. In other words, technology is a really useful tool in assisting a translator in his/her task. Problems arise when cost efficiency and saving go beyond this concept and get people confused about the meaning behind the process.

The need to perform an easy task quickly has hidden, if not devaluated, the true nature of translation. It is indeed a historical career very restricted to illustrated people with special abilities. These abilities include interpreting and communicating one concept in different cultures or to generate an identical reaction against a similar situation. Nowadays, the belief that speaking several languages means that you can transfer those ideas in a proper way, as well as the exponential development of machine translation software, have degraded the laborious process and the extraordinary skills required to finish a high-standard translation job. The aid to translation provided by technology has been spread so widely and uncontrollably that no limits have been established. And due to that lack of restrictions, no full definition has actually been implemented into society. Naturally, nobody would call a robot to perform a cabinetmaking or plumbing job. Well, translation is craftwork too. Then, why should we use a robot to translate for us? Because the less important or difficult, the cheaper the job becomes. That is the crux of the matter.

Unlike web browsers and websites where for example a parental control can be fixed, as far as translation aid machines are concerned there is no limit. Everything can be added or implemented into their "brain". Excellent and poor translations, one interpretation or another, one meaning of a word or the opposite... No restriction but the common sense and experience of a human being who decides whether a result retrieved is helpful or not. The concept of machine translation has developed from the basis of making a task easier for a professional, to a point where the image of the translator would be that of an administrator – simply verifying the output from the software. Would that be true?

To begin with, in a translation project –at least the first part of it– the text, sentence, even word, needs to be understood in a larger context. Then, the correct strategy must be defined: ‘is the text going to be read by general public or other professionals?’

And to wrap up, the correct words in another language must be used to express a totally different word in an unparallel world. Do we really think a machine would ever be able to do all of this on its own?

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