To say that we’re far from perfect would be the understatement of the century. We leave the stove on, we trip on flat surfaces, we call our teachers moms, and we don’t like sharing cookies. And these are far from the worst possible qualities we, humans, possess.
So, the cleverest among us have come up with different, tech-driven tools to solve our various problems. For example, we use chatbots instead of agitated customer service reps to avoid customer complaints, and we’ve automated a range of mathematical processes that eliminate human error from the equation so that we can send exact invoices, and use our time on other, more creative processes.
Translation software tools that keep the process fast, reliable, and accurate. However, software solutions still haven’t mastered the beauty of idiomatic expressions as well as their cultural relevance, nor can they incorporate puns in all of their poetic glory and transform them from one language to another. There’s still so much we as humans know, feel, and understand that cannot be conveyed through simple machine translation, hence the need to combine the two for better, more accurate, and more soulful results.
Nuances that only humans can see
Whether you’re translating from English to Spanish, or from Arabic to Russian, chances are that you, as a human, can see the wordplay, the idioms, the slang, and other finesses used in the original, that need equal attention as the actual meaning of the words used. This is how engaging storytelling happens, not simply by replacing words in one language with another, but by preserving these nuances in a way that makes sense for the target language and audience.
As a human, you know when to replace the original allegory for something more suitable for the target reader, and when to translate directly while providing ample explanation to the reader.
Conveying cultural context
Whether you’re translating blog posts on your site to expand to a new demographic abroad, or you want to translate your entire web presence to reach your new audience – you cannot expect software tools to understand, let alone incorporate cultural relevance in their end product. Even the finest machine translations need that final human touch, to be ready for the new audience based on their culture and preferences.
That is why comprehensive English to Chinese translation services include an aspect of transcreation, which allows expert translators to retain the original meaning of the text while putting it into a culturally-relevant context for the target audience. Perhaps the tone of voice needs some adjustment to mimic the level of politeness preferred by the new audience, or maybe a single text can have different translations depending on the regional dialect used.
Combining sense with meaning
The capacity for quirkiness is something each and every language inherently contains, but software can hardly recognize the curiosity or the intricacy of “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.” Can a tool translate such a sentence, retain its seeming senselessness while conveying a clear message and the structural play? Hardly.
Machines can never compete with our brain’s capacity for humor, poetry, and sense beyond grammatical meaning. You’ll often find that some software translators will easily put together a meaningful sentence that still doesn’t make any sense to the end reader, because it doesn’t understand that a single word can have a multitude of refined meanings, one of which fits the context, while the other dozen don’t.
Preserving sensitive data and security
When it comes to translating sensitive information and confidential documents, we can safely say that machines and software tools can certainly find fitting technical terminology that will preserve the legal relevance of the wording. However, much like any business invests in WordPress security to always protect their visitors’ most private details, your translation tool may be inherently safe, but it can still contain a leak that will disclose some of the document’s private information to the public.
This is especially true for tools with few built-in security measures, and for people who utilize free or poorly-scrutinized translation tools with little to no security assurance. Humans dealing with sensitive information, on the other hand, know and are obligated to protect it during the translation process. Yes, it might take more time for a person to complete the task, but it will certainly be in better hands.
While greater automation and our increasing use of digital tools have their place in the realm of modern translation, we need to remember that humans remain a key piece of that puzzle if we want to convey the right message and preserve the tone of the original, while making it relatable in the target language, too. That is precisely why the intersection of human and software translation is still the perfect match, and the best of both worlds can only be achieved when we enlist our own creativity while we boost it with powerful software.
Lauren Wiseman is a marketing specialist and contributor to bizzmarkblog.com. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in the fast-changing and demanding market, strongly believing in a holistic approach to a business.