Why Language Professionals Will Always Be Essential

By: Cheryl

Written by: Ashley Tulio, Communication Specialist

With machine translation and artificial intelligence (AI) improving day by day, we wonder what place human translators and interpreters will have in the future as digital alternatives grow more robust and more efficient. While tools like Google Translate and equivalent software allow for a rapid job, there will always be challenges for AI to become perfectly accurate.

In-person Interpretation

There will always be a need for humans to interpret a conversation between individuals. Interpreters are trained and have invaluable experience when it comes to interpreting human-to-human interactions. They can capture feelings, various meanings, idioms, and paraphrases to make the other party understand what is being said. In addition, they can detect any underlying emotions and consider that when interpreting. The importance of what interpreters do on a daily basis cannot be underestimated.

Translating Written Documents

Although AI would be great for translating texts, as translation software can translate thousands of pages within minutes, the quality of that translation might differ compared to a human translator.

When translating intricate documents, such as legal, engineering, and medical papers, a translator needs to know specific information and abbreviations that AI might not accurately translate. This is especially important because there are many complex documents where people’s lives depend on the accuracy of the translated information.

Furthermore, sometimes it is extremely challenging to understand what has been translated and the actual meaning the source document writers have expressed. On the one hand, this is true in literature because many authors try to encompass their emotions and cultural aspects in their work alongside many different ideas that software cannot translate. On the other hand, humans can read books, process them, and gain perspectives and experiences different from others.

Interpreting Video/Audio

Human interpreters are also extremely valuable when interpreting video or audio files. Once again, due to AIs inability to integrate emotions accurately, the tone of a person and certain colloquial words can drastically change the sentence’s meaning. For example, if someone makes a joke and says, “You are killing me,” while dying of laughter, it might be interpreted word for word, suddenly changing the mood completely. And another example is while Google has implemented live subtitles and closed captions on their videos, they lack accuracy, and most videos have to rely on the channel’s community or the creator themselves to provide subtitles for their videos. In addition, while the software would interpret as is, an interpreter will find more effective ways of communicating what is being said by providing more context and reinforcing the emotions that the original video or audio was trying to convey. This includes altering what the person says or means, as it is crucial to capture the idea and not necessarily what is being said verbatim.

The Creation of New words

The creation of new words heavily relies on language professionals as they collaborate with researchers, experts, linguists, and terminologists to aid the development of new terminology in various fields. And what would a machine do if it encountered a word that could not be found in any database to which it had access? Millions of words are stored in their databases, and not one matches the one it is supposed to translate. This can happen to words invented by authors for their novels or new technological terms that have not been adopted yet or appeared in any sort of dictionary. A human translator though, will understand the context of the words and translate or interpret them so that individuals can understand even though they have never heard or seen that word before.

Language professionals will always be needed in various fields, as they provide immense value that machine translation and AI cannot provide. Language professionals have the kindest hearts and will always provide their best services through careful listening, patience and understanding, in order to build a connection.

To read more about language professionals and machine translation, please see some of our other blogs:

Struggles Only Language Professionals Can Relate To

COVID-19 and the limits of machine translation