4 Reasons Why Computer Translators Cannot Replace Human Translators

It’s fair to say that computers form part of most people’s lives and we rely tremendously on technology and software to run our businesses and lives in general. Whether our chosen profession is accountancy, architecture, broadcasting, media, education or medicine (to name just a few), it’s very difficult to imagine how we would deliver good quality products efficiently without the use of computers.

International culture has now passed through and enormous transition period where we all converted from using pen and paper to digital communication. However, communication is complicated – but is it too complicated for artificial intelligence?

When it comes to translation in the form of writing and speaking, the big question is could computers do the job of human translators? Absolutely not. Translation is communication in its rawest form and although artificial intelligence sometimes is mind blowing, it’s not sensitive enough to replace the brilliance and the human mind.

1. It’s Difficult to Create a Top-Quality Translation

Firstly, it is very difficult to create a top-quality translation even if a human is a bilingual perfectionist. Translation requires more than just a word for word recognition and good working knowledge of two languages. To get it right you must recreate and craft word combinations, grammar and sentences so that a translation has the reflective impact of the original text or speech. This is no mean feat and is something that a computer cannot successfully articulate.

2. Human Translators Produce Differing Language Conversions

Secondly, humans are all different by nature and therefore human translators will always produce differing language conversions. There are many factors that affect their work such as emotional context and expression. Given this level of complexity you may receive many different versions of a translation if you were to ask a number of qualified and competent translators to perform the same piece of work. Although computers can learn, it’s thought to be near impossible for computers to generate such an understanding of human emotions as there are too many variables. As a result, a computer generated translation may appear flat and lifeless thus losing the intended message.

3. The Volume of Languages is Simply Too Large

Thirdly, there are an estimated 7000 languages in use across the globe. If you consider the combinations that are possible, the sheer volume is enormous and something that would take hundreds of years to develop and test successfully.

4. Computers Can’t Understand Context

Lastly and most importantly, the context in which a word is used is incredibly important. Let’s take the word ‘run’ as an example. Peter Gilliver, an Oxford Dictionary lexicographer states that this single word has 645 distinct meanings. It’s doubtful that any computer could learn these meanings and translate to another language accordingly. However, context is embedded into the human mind.

In conclusion, computers and software are indisputably useful to us and although we could use machine translation tools to help us, it’s very unlikely that they could never replace human translators.


Written by Robert Morgan of www.bubloos.com
I have travelled the world with work and for pleasure. I am a professional consultant, entrepreneur and business owner working with SMEs delivering innovative, cost saving initiatives.

About Aaron Houghton

Aaron Houghton is the CEO at a Co-founder at BoostSuite.com. Aaron is passionate about building software that helps make small business owners more successful. Before BoostSuite, Aaron was a co-founder at email marketing leader iContact.com.

  • Joe

    It’s funny how people often talk about the future using present technology as a reference. That’s very narrow minded.
    Most of the things you said AI can’t do will probably be possible in 10 or 20 years, let alone in 50 or 100 years. Especially when it comes to analyzing a great number of possibilities in language context.
    When we reach singularity that will be ridiculously easy so using the word “impossible” when it comes to computers is temerarious to say the least.

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