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Man vs Machine
24.11.17

The technological revolution is upon us – there’s no denying that technology plays a pivotal role in pretty much every aspect of our lives now, from how we communicate to how we socialise, relax, work and play.

The translation world is no different. Where previously, businesses relied on finding multilingual individuals to communicate in other languages, now content can be translated online instantly at the click of a button.

Of course, it’s not been without its issues; for a while Google Translate’s reputation was on the line when inaccurate translations deemed it more of a joke than the respected translation alternative it was aiming for.

But things are changing…and they’re changing quickly.

Stiff competition

Where online translation software was regarded once as limited, perhaps even laughable, this isn’t quite the case anymore.

Predictions of how the translation world could look by 2022 include game-changing neural machine technologies that have the capacity to translate monolingual and bi-lingual text, as well as identifying new terminology and decoding semantic text.

In the past few years alone, a host of new technologies have been introduced that challenge the way in which we translate, including a device that can make announcements in multiple languages, and wearable technology that translates English into Japanese.

So, does this spell the end for linguists and the role they play in business communications?

Where machines fall short

Technology may be transforming the way businesses can communicate, but there are limits to its scope. Machines work by gathering data to then make predictions – being able to create from scratch is an obstacle that robots will always have to overcome.

It’s not just a case of accuracy either. Unlike a maths question with a simple correct or incorrect outcome, translation will so often require an altogether more elusive answer. Where humour, context and engagement are concerned, machines don’t yet cut it. While they may be able to use the information given to discern the most grammatically accurate translation from an original text, they aren’t able to think outside the box like humans can.

These days linguists are expected to take on various other roles too, on top of translation; businesses require their translators to also be marketers, talented writers and sharp creatives to get the most from their communications…all of which requires imagination, intuition and the ability to trigger an emotional response.

Let’s not forget too, the part that errors and glitches in the system play. Sometimes minute, at other times catastrophic, translation mistakes can be costly and damaging. So, when things don’t go as planned, and you’re in need of that extra support and guidance, who would you choose to turn to – man or machine…?

If your business could do with the help of a language service that provides a little more of the human touch, talk to us here at Sally Walker Language Services about how we can help.