Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Future employment is at stake after years of education, training, researching, and yes, rendering documents on time for clients.
End for human translators?
Despite decades of advances, one field where technology still trails humankind is translation.
Computers are marvelous in assisting translators in managing glossaries, TMs, and making the final document appear as mirror image of the source text.
However, when it comes to the intellectual firepower to apply the correct term and register, our faithful friend has not yet delivered.
So, I decided to test Google Translation, Babel Fish, and Reverso to satisfy a curiosity.
I copied and pasted the title of a section of a collective bargaining agreement from a recent Portuguese to English translation.
The phrase in Brazilian Portuguese is: GARANTIA AO EMPREGADO EM VIAS DE APOSENTADORIA.
Google: GUARANTEE THE WAY IN EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT
Babel Fish: GUARANTEE TO THE EMPLOYEE IN RETIREMENT WAYS
Reverso: GUARANTEE TO THE EMPLOYEE IN RETIREMENT WAYS
Humble Human: GUARANTEE TO EMPLOYEE NEARING RETIREMENT
The computer does not know the type of document. That is important because of the context and sometimes (many?) because of the vocabulary.
The computer is able to isolate the keywords correctly like ''guarantee,'' ''to employee,'' (except Google) and ''retirement.''
However, the humble human rendering the document knows ''en vías'' is in no ''ways'' in the document.
Experience, familiarity with labor contracts in Spanish and Portuguese, and outright knowledge lead the humble human to render the whole phrase to its acceptable translation.
The humble human's translation was submitted to Reverso as a suggestion for improvement.
So while the three computer translators above perform their functions to a point, the humble human still has the edge on acceptable translations while the debate rages on the need, efficacy, and of course, accuracy of machine or computer translation.
Companies and individuals who need an accurate translation without embarrassments still need to rely on the humble human.
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