Are computerised and online-translation tools better than human translators?


Online translation tools are very widely used by people all over the world for personal and professional use, and it's never been easier to use them.  They are available on our home and work computers, on our phones and on a variety of other electronic devices.  They can be really helpful in a number of situations, and many of them are free to use, which is super.


It would be true to say that there are definitely some good translation tools at the disposal of the general public, and I love the fact that I can instantly access and use so many different languages in a way that simply would not be possible without those tools. For a language lover, it's very exciting!


However, to my knowledge, there is no computerised or online tool that is 100% reliable when it comes to translating the trinity of words, meaning and tone completely accurately.


Language is so much more than words...

So much of language -- any and every language -- is about so much more than words, and this is one of the areas where translation tools really struggle to do as good a job as a person can.  As humans, we have knowledge, understanding and senses that these tools simply don't have.


There are often multiple possible translations for a single word, and there are so many words with similar meanings that translation tools might not be able to distinguish between the right and wrong word or meaning, because the context and intention is not understood by the software.


Human v computer

I happily advocate the sole use of translation tools when it comes to short, non-important, non-professional translations.  However, if you have text that it's important to get right, I would strongly advise that you get it checked by a person.


If you can't afford to have your whole document translated by someone, you could perhaps translate it using a translation tool and then have a professional check it at the end, to make sure that it's correct in terms of word usage, tone and meaning.


Reality check

But, as a note of caution, there have been times when people have come to me with text for proofreading that they have translated themselves with a "professional translation tool", and it took longer for me to correct the translation than it would have actually taken me to translate it to begin with.  The attempt at a shortcut actually resulted in increased costs in both time and money -- and stress levels...


Of course, it doesn't always work out that way; sometimes, it works out just fine, particularly if the original text is short and simple to begin with.  However, it is a risk, and it's your choice as to whether you take it.


Looking ahead

In the future, perhaps, even the not-too-distant future, it may well be that the human translator becomes obsolete with the introduction of a super-translator that we'll all be able to access and that's 100% free and reliable.  But, for now, humans still need one other, and I don't think that's such a bad thing.

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

- Beverly Sills


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