Is it time for the machines to take over?

Published 19th October 2017

For quite some time, companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple have been diving into the world of translation, with their machine translation tools. The most famous (or infamous, depending on what you think) of these is Google Translate.

Google Translate no-machine-translation 318 × 292

In ten years of Google Translate, the programme has gone from supporting two languages to 103. More than 500 million of us use Google Translate which translates more than 100 billion words a day. The main languages translated are English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian. Brazilians are known to use Google Translate more than any other country.

Who uses Google Translate?

Based on Google Translates figures, half a billion- that is an insane amount of people! Google Translate has become our online bilingual dictionary- finding words, phrases or even an entire page of text.

Can you trust Google Translate?

Yes and no. You cannot deny its ability to translate.

But a machine can not physically understand the meaning of a sentence. It can translate it word for word- but would the translation flow with the same effect as it would in its source language?

The simple answer is NO. Word for word translation is like Joey writing Monica and Chandler’s adoption letter in Friends:

“Monica: Alright, what was this sentence originally? (shows the sentence to Joey)

Joey: Oh, ‘They are warm, nice, people with big hearts’.

Chandler: And that became ‘they are humid prepossessing Homo Sapiens with full sized aortic pumps…?

Joey: Yeah, yeah and hey, I really mean it, dude.”

What do you think? Sound the same?

But Google hasn’t stopped there!

They now have a Neutral Machine Translation (GNMT). The programme is trained with translations in the hope that it’ll eventually bring out perfect translations, or as close to a human translation as possible. Google translate works on a piece by piece method as I said earlier. So, it will see a whole sentence and translate word for word, rather than looking for the meanings behind the sentence (as a human would) and translate to the best of their ability what the source text means. This new version works on huge volumes of human-translated text- it learns from what it has been taught.

Impressed? But would you want this programme to translate important documents? Sensitive, legal documents? I think not…

So, what about Google’s competition?

‘iTranslate – Your Passport to the World’

iTranslate is an app that works just like Google Translate. The online website states that ‘With iTranslate you can translate text or websites, start voice conversations, lookup words, meanings and even verb conjugations in over 90 languages’. Who wouldn’t want that on their phone?! It would be an ideal travel companion. Able to recognise your voice, translate offline to save on roaming charges. iTranslate also gives you access to previous translations.

Well, on the whole, this sounds great. Does exactly want someone would want – quick and easy translations direct to your phone. You don’t even need an iPhone – Works with various Android and Windows phones as well.

But, do you trust it? This would be ideal if you wanted to go on holiday and didn’t know certain terms or words. Would you really allow this programme to translate your website? Maybe not….

Maybe trust a trained translator writing in their own native language with experience and qualifications to translate some of the most important documents you could have!

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TUI TRAVEL GROUP

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

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