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One day, computer translation will replace human translation, BUT NOT TODAY!


As a translator, you often meet people who look at you goggle-eyed and ask, “Aren’t you afraid that your job will soon be performed entirely by machines”? Hilarious, right?

Call me naive, but I’m fairly sure that such a thing will never happen, and for the simplest of reasons.

First of all, computers can only produce word-for-word translations. They are unable to identify context, search for more appropriate synonyms or find ways to handle cultural differences. There is therefore a certain rigidity in their approach.

In addition, while a computer will translate the French “cher” by “caro” in Spanish or “expensive” in English, a translator will try to put the word back into context and see if “querido” or “dear” would not be more appropriate. Computers do not understand idioms, let alone slang. Human translators on the other hand, will pick up nuances, replicate with style, tone, and find a way to put some life into your text.

The debate is groundless, so let’s cut it short: as long as machines translate like … machines, translators have nothing to worry about. Let’s see what Google translate has to say on the matter:

Google translate: Ce débat est sans fondement, alors allons-y couper court. Tant que les machines vont se traduire comme … machines, les traducteurs ne devraient rien avoir à s’inquiéter.

That’s what I thought ;) .

  Oumou C.

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