Ever since the mid 1900s, scientists and engineers have been interested in developing computer (machine) translation softwares. While we have certainly made great strides in terms of progression, we are far from perfection (and always will be). Computers can certainly help improve our efficiencies, but when it comes to translation, you should always put your faith in the hands of humans.
1. There Are Too Many Languages
In today’s world, there are known to be between 6,000 to 7,000 languages alive, of which about 2,000 are considered endangered. No software programs can account for all of them, and if they attempted to, many of these languages would be dead before the programs were updated. Also, many of these language are not actually written, rather they are spoken or signed. This greatly limits machine translation software.
2. Computers Often Don’t Account For Everything
The beauty (and difficulty) of language is that different messages can be crafted using the same or similar words. In order to truly understand another person, you need… another person. When comprehending written and spoken language, one must take into consideration the context (words have multiple meanings), emotion, cultural values/slang, and accents/pronunciation. All of these factors create the meanings behind the words which is something a machine simply cannot register.
3. No Excuse For Mistakes
Regardless of the purpose of the translation, mistakes can be costly. This is especially true regarding medical translations and legal translations. An error in these fields is much more than a slap on the wrist. For medical, it could be the difference between life and death. For legal, the consequences could range from a person being stopped at an immigration office to an organization losing funding. Don’t let a computer, or inexperienced human for that matter, cost you dearly.
4. Good Translation Is Difficult
No computer, machine, or average bilingual person can do the job of an experienced translator. Those with experience are able to comprehend all the factors at play. With this, they are able to provide an answer crafted from their years of knowledge, not just a generic dictionary-esque response that fails to convey the intended message.