Software Translation Tools vs. Accredited Human Translation

Software translation tools have come a long way since their inception. Although they are no replacement for accredited human translation, these tools can be helpful for personal use in situations where accuracy isn’t the primary goal. For instance, an individual may wish to translate an old family letter or contact a distant relative who lives abroad.  Machine translation software is helpful for these personal documents and correspondence, but accredited Translation Professionals offer the best accuracy when it comes to official document translations like immigration paperwork or global business communications.

Unlike many of our competitors, ASTA-USA Translation Services, Inc. does not lean heavily on software translation tools to translate important documents. This is because human intuition is a valuable asset that software simply cannot replace. This is why each one of our projects receives a thorough human touch from the start and undergoes rigorous proofreading and editing throughout the lifecycle of the translation project. 

The White House Warned About Machine Translation Software

The following is a news release issued by the American Translators Association. The release warns the US White House about the risk of using software translation.
 
American Translators Association Cautions White House on Future Language Policy
 
11,000-member Association’s Letter to Obama: Technology alone is not the answer
 
(Alexandria, VA) October 19, 2009
The American Translators Association (ATA), the largest Association of professional translators and interpreters in North America, issued a pointed response to a call for “automatic, highly accurate and real-time translation between the major languages of the world” in the White House’s recent Strategy for Innovation policy paper.
 
In a letter dated October 2, ATA President Jiri Stejskal urged the Obama Administration to “take a long-term approach to language security by investing in human skills and promoting greater awareness of and expertise in foreign languages.” “Are we against technology? Certainly not,” continued Stejskal. “Most translators use computer tools to speed up their work.” Yet, both translation software and qualified human translators are vital to language security,” he noted. “Today, all the leading proponents of computer translation recognize that human beings will always be essential, no matter how sophisticated translation programs become.”
 
The stakes are high: translation errors create unnecessary hazards and diplomatic embarrassment. Misunderstandings can diminish prestige and goodwill in international relations. Miscommunication harms national security and global commerce.

It’s Not as Simple as Us vs. Them

Press coverage of the Obama initiative has confused the issue. A false narrative implies conflict between humans and technology. “This approach misses the point entirely,” noted Kevin Hendzel, national media spokesman for the Association. “Translation software and human translators simply have different capabilities,” he said. “Software is indispensable for ‘gisting’ – translating large volumes of information in cases where immediate access is more important than accuracy – but only an experienced human language translator has the skill and cultural awareness to convey every nuance when you get it right.”
 
“The challenge for translation consumers lies in understanding the proper application of each,” Hendzel noted. “Translation software is like a chainsaw. It’s an invaluable tool when you need to chop much wood in a hurry. You need the skill to use it, and surgery is not recommended. When you need precision and sensitivity, you need a human translator. “

Limitations of Software Translation

There are risks in relying on machine translation software such as translation memories. One of these is the tendency to recycle translations. Translation memories can be beneficial for consistency across larger  projects, but they
 
However, with context considerations, reusing a translated string in a document is almost impossible. This does not mean that every phrase needs to be retranslated. Translators must ensure the most accuracy possible.
 
The size of a document adds to the complexity of translation. Consequently, professionals pay close attention to the details of all-size projects. At ASTA-USA, every text goes through a 3-step translation, editing, and proofreading process.
 
Tone and formality are critical in business correspondence, customer service, marketing, and advertising. Therefore, a computer program cannot do this level of accuracy. It requires thought and in-depth knowledge of the source and target culture.

Why Human Translation Reigns Supreme

Clients sometimes ask for a “quick and easy” translation of their documents. It may be because the text seems short, or the subject is pretty straightforward. In professional translation, projects can become quite complicated. Above all, professionals need time allotted for activities such as terminology research and translation revisions.
 
Professional translators analyze all documents before they commit to a deadline. For example, a short complex text can take as much time to translate as a much longer piece. Professional translation teams draw from their experience to identify potential challenges when establishing timelines.
 
ASTA-USA Translation Services, Inc. and our team of professional translators complete every project with uncompromised dedication to quality and customer satisfaction.