In April, Global Market Insights Inc announced that the machine translation market is poised to be worth $1.5 billion by 2024. Indeed, machine translation has achieved this success with businesses and individuals alike because it’s both cost effective and convenient.
However, despite the time and money invested in machine translation technology, there are still large doubts over how useful machine translation actually is to businesses and to people.
The rise of machine translation
Google Translate and other online translation apps have long been used by holidaymakers when ordering papas fritas or cerveza. But due to the steady advancement of the technology, there’s been a growing interest from businesses looking to implement these systems to reduce costs of hiring a professional translation service.
Machine translations were first pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s but it’s only recently that machine translation has been freely available to use by a significant number of people.
The machine translation market size is primarily driven by the rising demand for automated translations to eliminate repetitive tasks, and companies’ escalating need to better serve their global customers. In addition, several companies are deploying the technology to deliver multilingual content for their global websites. Newswire adds that “In addition to being cost effective in nature, the technology is capable of performing at much faster speeds than human translators.”
A recent article in the New Scientist discussed the research conducted at Google Brain, which could revolutionise translation and make it easier for people to communicate in different languages in real time. Whereas machine translation currently works by transcribing speech into text and then translating that text into text of a target language, new developments could allow them to forgo this process and potentially make machine translation far more accurate.
The system could be particularly useful for translating speech from rare languages, says Sharon Goldwater at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. It is hoped this technology will be put into practice during disaster relief missions involving local dialects and tribal languages. One thing is for certain, this new type of machine translation will be huge, but perhaps asking whether this will replace human translators will be doing a disservice to both man and machine.
Machines translation still needs the human touch
Quicker doesn’t necessarily mean better. Professional translation agency, London Translations, argue in ablog that machine translation “can provide an effective way of getting rapid results. However, translation of sensitive documents – for which both the meaning and accuracy are essential, and an error could lead to high financial or other costs – is still likely to require significant human intervention.”
Although the advancements in machine translation have made computers more valuable, both for businesses and users in general, the complexity of language means human beings will continue to play a valuable role in the future.
It’s unlikely that machine translation will replace human translators, but machine translation could play a huge role in helping translators. This is possible with CAT, or computer-assisted translation. Whereas machine translation is completely automated and involves no human input, computer-aided translation involves one or more people in the process.
This technology can help translators maintain consistency, reduce costs and work quicker. CAT tools help do this by creating and managing a Translation Memory. Translation Memory allows translators to reuse existing text which has been previously translated, enabling them to maintain consistency in translation of things like abbreviations and product names.
Rather than translation being completely machine based in the future, it seems like CAT may well be the future. Robots aren’t taking the jobs away from humans just yet, and that’s because, despite backing from tech giants and government organisations, the ability to guarantee an accurate translation depends on professional translators.