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On-the-table: Machine Translation vs Manual

On-the-table: Machine Translation vs Manual

Date : 2021-01-17

When it comes to translation services, there has long been an argument over whether Machine Translation can replace (or outsmart) Manual (human) Translation someday. As an in-the-making Reviewer based in Hansem Vietnam, I have come to realize that one cannot underestimate the advantages machine translation has over its manual counterpart and that both kinds deserve their credibility and recognition.

No one can deny the convenience of having Google Translate while travelling to a country whose language you do not speak. With a few touch and swipe, one shall bear no trouble understanding street signs, restaurant menus, simple instructions, and even product labels. This e-benefit is undoubtedly helpful, comparing to the burden of having to carry a dictionary in your suitcase.

What contributed to this convenience is that Machine Translation is being trained with new contents by seconds. Nowadays, it can provide somewhat-correct translation in both informal or formulaic contexts such as emails and business contracts. In other words, the fewer ambiguous sentences (sentences that can be understood in two or more ways) the source has, the more accurate the target would be.

Also, human’s insubstantial memory storage cannot compete with Machine Translation and its ability to store one’s unlimited target text. Storing the translated text can be beneficial not only to the amount of time and effort spent on the work but also to the quality of the future translation.

With all the above advantages, machine translation also comes with an unmatched rate and speed, which means this is the best option when you want to prioritize rapidity and budget. Google Translate can help you with a tremendous amount of word in almost any language in the blink of an eye, for free.

Still, even the most perfect thing has its flaw. Machine Translation can lead to unnatural target text or also cancel out the literary air of the source.

With all these mentioned pros and cons, a question arises: “When speed and money are not the main concerns, what option can you consider to have a better final product?” The answer, once again, can be either manual or human translation for the following reasons.

Some languages, especially English, use a lot of figurative, symbolic, or indirect ways of conveying a meaning. In some cases, slangs are also involved. These kinds of texts are where human translation can surely surpass machine translation by far. Despite its fast-growing pace, the machine’s ability to understand metaphors, jokes, sarcasm, or irony is still questionable. Let take some English idioms in the table below as examples.
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