Do I really need a translator if I can get my document Google-translated?
I am sure this question plays in a lot of people’s minds and most of us may have wondered what translators really do and why do they need that “unreasonable amount of time” if help is available in form of tools like Google Translate especially when you want a document as of yesterday :)
Google translation or Babelfish are examples of Machine Translation Tools that can be used by anyone absolutely free of cost and in its most primitive form these tools simply replace words from one language to another. So it works quite well if you have random disconnected words, you have no idea what on earth they mean and want to figure it out yourself by putting 2 and 2 together. In fact, here’s a classic scenario where you can use such tools. You just received a letter in Spanish from a friend and quickly want to know the contents of the letter in a jest. While you may not understand several individual sentences in the letter, you still will get a general idea about what your friend has to say. In a nutshell, the use of machine translation or (MTs) is not all that bad and quite useful, but you need to think twice before you adopt it at work.
The translation industry is growing by leaps and bounds and for those who are looking at investing in machine translation tools, it is surely a huge money-saving option even if one may have to pay a bomb as a one-time costs to develop these tools. These paid tools work very differently from Google Translate. While the basic idea is the same, I think the similarity ends there. The tools are much more sophisticated and more importantly, the user has the power to define the domain and customize it as per the required requirements during the development stage of the tool. For instance, if you are working extensively in the Automobile domain and foresee the requirement of translating huge volumes in this domain for a specific language pair, say German-English (DeEn), for the next 5 years, you may want to consider this option. Having said this, one still cannot do away with translators who in this case act more like reviewers or proofreaders. But yes, the turnaround time and the effort will reduce drastically.
One will have to keep in mind that this is most useful for only technical domains, where sentence meanings are pretty straightforward and there is no room for any misinterpretation. For domains that require certain amount of creativity and interpretation at the translator-end, it’s imperative that one seeks the services of a professional translator or a translation company.
Here’s the best way I can summarize this blog: it may seem very exaggerated and irrelevant to some but I really like to think of the whole situation this way: while we do feel blessed to have that coffee machine in our pantries that can fix us a cup within seconds, we still would not want these machines to replace those thousands of coffee shops, and do away with our luxury of giving specific instructions to that ever-smiling guy behind the counter. So enjoy MTs for their “quick-n-dirty” service. But still go to translators when you can for that “human touch” :)