With all of the advancements in technology today the question needs to be asked – can a computer replace a human translator? Ask any professional interpreter or translator working in this industry today and the answer will be a resounding “No”. With the influx of news reports predicting the end of certain jobs due to the rise of automation and computerization, one thing remains unchanged – certain jobs must be done by an actual person for them to be done right. Interpretation and translation fall into that category.
The latest announcement from Google Translate is that they are expanding their language library, and providing a greater amount of accuracy using their neural machine translation software – a system based on the human brain. Although there have been some huge advances in “machine translation”, where computers learn from already translated databases to make better guesses about rendering groups of words as a whole rather than focusing on translating individual words, translating the actual meaning through intonation, language style and nuances of the source text cannot be achieved using just software.
We conducted a mini experiment using available online translators, to prove whether or not a computer can deliver accurate results. Our plan was to use a general statement that could be used in an insurance document, enter it in English and have it translate to French. Then take the French result and re-enter it back into the same online translator, to see what the result would be French to English. A full 360-degree view of machine translation skill. Skipping the paid ads, we entered “Online Translation” into the Google search page. Not surprisingly, the first hit was Google Translate, followed by several others. We chose the first 5 links. Our sentence was this:
“This assignment does not in any way change or affect the interest of the beneficiary.”
Here are the English to French translation results from the following online systems:
- Google Translate: Cette affectation n’affecte en rien le bénéficiaire.
- Online-translator: Ce devoir ne change pas de toute façon ou affecte l’intérêt du bénéficiaire.
- Collins dictionary: Cetteaffectation n’aucunement modifier ni affecter les intérêts du bénéficiaire.
- Promt – online: Cette attribution ne change pas ou affecte les intérêts du bénéficiaire.
- com: Cette affectation n’aucunement modifier ni affecter les interest du beneficiaire.
Then we took the results of French translations above and entered each one back into the same online system and to have it translated back to English:
- Google Translate: “This assignment does not affect the beneficiary in any way.”
- Online-translator: “This duty does not change in any case or affects the interest of the beneficiary.”
- Collins dictionary: “Thisassignment does not alter or affect the interests of the ”
- Promt – online: “This allocation does not change or affect the interests of the beneficiary.”
- com: “This assignment does not alter or affect the interests of the beneficiary.”
It won’t take any reader more than a few seconds to spot the differences between them. Ignoring any grammatical mistakes, and keeping in mind that these are free online tools, its surprising that all of the programs came back with a different answer. While the tools do provide a rough translation of the text, if this were a true insurance document that needed to be translated for business use, only a human translator would be able to provide accurate results.
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