Are Human Translators Going to Become Obsolete?

Will humans eventually be replaced by machines? What was once relegated to the realm of science fiction is now something quite real. The future is now, as the saying goes. In our daily lives, artificial intelligence is now capable of performing increasingly complex tasks, from making phone calls to performing medical procedures. Some claim that computers will one day be able to do all the tasks a human can do, but is that just an exaggeration? And in the world of translation, will human translators ever be replaced by a computer?


First of all, it is important to understand that automatic computer translations already exist and that we human translators love to use them, such as Google Translate. Machine translation is based on machine learning, where the computer examines multiple translated texts and makes informed decisions about how to translate a future text based on the previously examined texts. So-called CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools allow translators to create a glossary of texts they have previously translated and, for highly repetitive documents, automatically translate segments that have already been translated by a human. This increases consistency and reduces the amount of time spent, as the translator no longer has to translate these sections by hand.

So if machine translation already exists and is used, will it replace a human translator? The answer is maybe, but not in the foreseeable future. As good as computers can be, they still have many limitations and need to be supervised by a human. Machine translation can give a general overview of the original document, but automatic translation is still not good enough to catch humor, innuendo, or even misinterpretation of statements in the original document. In situations where the stakes are high, machine translation could be used - if the technology is good enough - but still needs to be confirmed and approved by a human professional.

There is no reason to completely reject one or the other - neither 100% machine translation nor 100% human translation is the right answer. By harnessing the power of machine translation, translators can produce better texts faster and with less effort.

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