Close this search box.

Language Translation: Man versus Machine

As a project manager at ALTA, I’ve seen my fair share of proofreading requests from clients. Sometimes the text has changed slightly; other times, clients just want to double-check on the quality of the translation. Frequently, though, a review of the translation finds the document was generated by some sort of translation software. In my experience, these documents have to be re-translated by a human every time.

Technology has come a long way, but translation software still has far to go before it could be deemed anywhere near trustworthy. Granted, if it worked well, I think I’d be out of a job! But I’m not alone in my opinion.

A recent article reviewing translation software suites agrees, and the title pretty much says it all: Translation Software Still Fails – Badly. Even though the point of these products is to save you money, their poor quality, incorrect terminology, and the myriad of other issues plaguing machine-generated translations can end up costing you more in the long run. The bottom line is that translation software is currently incapable of deciphering the cultural and linguistic nuances of a typical business translation.

One example often referred to by my colleagues is how to get a machine to understand and correctly translate text such as “a drug-free workplace?” More often than not, the language translation software will spit back a translation that actually reads, “free drugs in the workplace.” Not exactly what you want in your employee handbook.

That being said, there have been some significant strides in translation software to aid human translators. Many translators utilize computer-assisted translation (CAT) software tools in order to speed up their translation and maintain consistency throughout documents. These tools search for repetition within or between documents, cutting down the time and cost of translation where applicable. And for upcoming projects with anticipated repetition, a memory of the initial translation can be leveraged against future documents.

Overall, though, I think the score reads, machines: 0, humans: 1 (take that, Terminator).

Other Resources

The Role of Certified Translators in Medical Document Translation Accuracy

Certified medical translators play a critical role in ensuring accuracy when translating medical documents between languages. Inaccuracies can have serious consequences for patient care and outcomes. Certified translators have extensive medical knowledge and adhere to strict quality standards to produce...

Learn More

Bilingual Pay Differential Benefits

In today’s globalized world, the ability to speak multiple languages has become increasingly valuable. Businesses and organizations of all kinds are expanding their operations internationally, often partnering with companies abroad or marketing products and services in overseas markets. Additionally, in...

Learn More

How to Build a Language Strategy for Companies Expanding to Canada

Companies expanding to Canada must be aware of the country’s linguistic requirements. Both French and English are official languages in Canada, thanks to the Official Languages Act of 1969. This Act meant that federal agencies must offer services in both...

Learn More

Contact Us

Get Started Today

Interested in our language services? Complete the form or call us during business hours (9 AM to 6:00 PM ET) at 800.895.8210.

Preparing for your test?

View our test prep materials or FAQ’s for common questions about taking a test.