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AI vs. Human Translators: Who Will Win the Translation Battle? Millions of people use AI daily to translate various texts, but can AI capture emotional nuance and replace human translators?

By Lilia Stoyanov

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Large-scale technological developments over the last few decades have completely changed many facets of our everyday existence, here in Europe and abroad. Interestingly, the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has fundamentally disturbed language translation, an essential communication tool in today's interconnected world.

A significant concern that comes to mind with AI's quick growth is this: Can AI translate better than human translators?

A synopsis of the translation industry.

The translation market is expected to reach a valuation of USD $96.21 billion by the end of 2032, from its present startling USD $60.68 billion. Globalization is the main cause of this increase since it makes multilingual communication essential. Translators would frequently have to manually translate content from one language to another using labor-intensive, time-consuming traditional translation procedures.

But when computer-aided translation (CAT) techniques were available, things were different. Reportedly, over the last two to three years, 52% of language service providers have reported a rise in overall income, which they attribute to the efficiency that CAT technologies have brought.

What does AI mean for translating languages?

Language translation is one of the many industries where artificial intelligence, or AI, has made substantial progress. AI in language translation is the process of translating text or speech across different languages using neural networks and machine learning algorithms. Tech behemoths like Google and Microsoft are leading the way in this quickly developing industry with their cutting-edge translation services.

Every day, approximately 500 million people use AI-powered translation services like Google Translate, which offer fast translations for a large number of languages.Based on user input and usage, they employ machine learning to continuously increase the accuracy of their translations. A survey found that 75% of translators were freelancers/independent contractors.To manage the ever rising number of freelance translators, most translation agencies use contractor management software and billing and payment automation provided by companies like my company, Transformify(TFY). AI-integrated translators claim at least a 30% increase in productivity. Some of the popular AI translation tools include Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and DeepL, to name just a few.

Although AI in language translation has created new opportunities, there is still much disagreement on the topic. The question emerges: Can artificial intelligence take the role of human translators? Or is it merely a translation-assistance tool? To answer these questions, we need to understand the role of human translators in the language industry.

The role of human translators in the language sector.

For centuries, the core of the language industry has been provided by human translators. Their responsibilities extend beyond simple word translation; they also interpret meanings, comprehend cultural quirks, and make sure the translated material is appealing to the intended audience. AI is now unable to duplicate this human touch in translation.

Experts in their respective languages and fields are professional translators. Grammar, syntax, idioms, and cultural allusions are all areas of expertise for them. In order to translate material without changing its original meaning, they must possess a solid understanding of context. Additionally, sophisticated translations such as those found in technical papers, literary works, legal documents, and more can be handled by human translators when precision and context are essential.

AI is becoming more and more necessary, yet the demand for human translators is still expanding. Employers of interpreters and translators are expected to have 20% growth in employment till 2032, according to U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. This is a significantly quicker rate of growth than the average for all workers.

The disagreement between human translators and AI.

A dispute between people and technology has arisen as a result of the application of AI in language translation. On the one hand, there are scalable, rapid, and effective AI-driven translation systems available. AI's cost-effectiveness is still another advantage. AI translation typically costs roughly $0.10 per word, whereas human translation costs $0.22 on average.

On the other hand, human translators can handle complex translations and offer a wealth of linguistic knowledge and cultural sensitivity.

AI has drastically changed the translation industry because of its ability to process large amounts of material quickly and efficiently. It's an excellent tool for businesses who must translate a lot of content rapidly. However, AI translations frequently lack the contextual awareness and cultural sensitivity of human translators. Idioms, analogies, and cultural references could be difficult for them to translate, which could lead to inaccurate translations.

On the other hand, correct translations that suit the context are superbly produced by human translators. They understand the language's nuances, the intended meaning, and the cultural implications. However, AI is able to translate text more quickly and in greater volume than human translators. Furthermore, compared to AI translation systems, the cost of human translation services is often higher.

AI's advantages and restrictions in language translation.

Although AI translation offers many advantages, there are drawbacks as well.

Benefits of AI Translation:

  1. Economical: Artificial intelligence translation systems almost never experience additional costs for a translation after training.
  2. Speed: Machine translation produces translations very instantaneously.
  3. Accessibility: Anyone with an internet connection can utilize AI translation systems, which are widely available.
  4. Scalability: AI translation systems can handle enormous volumes of material without compromising quality or incurring additional costs.

Drawbacks of AI Translation

  1. Accuracy: The translation algorithms used by AI are not immune to errors and imprecisions.
  2. Contextual Understanding: Machines are unable to fully grasp the context and broader meaning of a document.
  3. Lack of Human Touch: Machine translations are impersonal and indifferent to cultural variances.

The benefits and drawbacks of human translation.

In spite of some challenges that they face, human translators are nevertheless quite valuable.

Benefits of Using Human Language for Interpretation:

  1. Accuracy: Human translators are capable of accurately understanding and conveying the content of a document.
  2. Comprehending Context: Human translators possess the necessary contextual experience and cultural understanding to translate idioms, slang, and other deeply ingrained parts of culture.
  3. Nuanced Interpretation: Human translators are capable of accurately capturing the nuances, tone, and style of the source text.
  4. Quality Assurance: As a kind of quality control, translations can be examined and revised by human translators.

Drawbacks of Human Language for Interpretation:

  1. Cost: The cost of human translation may be higher than that of AI translation.
  2. Time-consuming: Human translation needs to be done by humans and takes time.
  3. Availability: Depending on language pairs and subject matter knowledge, different competent human translators may be available at different times.

A case study of AI and human interpreters.

Let's examine an example to better grasp the differences between AI and human translators. Skype's real-time translation capability, which use AI to interpret voice instantly, was introduced in 2014. This feature changed the game in terms of removing obstacles to communication by enabling smooth multilingual conversation.

Real-time translation is a useful function of Skype, however it is not without limitations. Accents, dialects, and background noise are common issues with it. Moreover, idiomatic expressions and cultural allusions could cause it to falter and produce inaccurate translations.

In contrast, qualified human translators have years of experience translating difficult texts successfully. For instance, consider translating literary masterpieces. Respected for his ability to express not only the words but also the emotions, the cultural background, and the author's meaning, Gregory Rabassa is a prominent translator who translated Gabriel García Márquez's writings into English. AI currently lacks the ability to translate at this level.

How AI and human translation can work together.

The debate of AI vs. human translators often overlooks an essential point - the possibility of AI and human translators working together. AI might be viewed as a tool to improve the work of human translators rather than as a threat.

AI is capable of handling initial translation, swiftly and effectively processing vast amounts of text. After that, the AI translation can be reviewed and improved by a human translator to guarantee accuracy, context, and cultural appropriateness. By combining the language knowledge and cultural sensitivity of human translators with the speed and scalability of AI, this partnership has the potential to improve the efficiency of the translation process.

The future of language translation: AI, human translators or both?

The future of language translation is not a battle between AI and human translators. It is the combination of collaboration, technology and human expertise that could revolutionize the translation industry. AI has the potential to handle large and fast translations, making language translations easy to use and affordable. However, high-quality and contextually accurate translations require a human touch. The future of language translation is likely to see artificial intelligence and human translators hand in hand, complementing each other strengths and overcoming their limitations.

To sum up, there are a lot of interesting prospects for the future of language translation. AI's arrival has completely changed the sector by providing scalability, efficiency, and speed. Notwithstanding, the significance of human translators persists, considering their proficiency in many languages, understanding of cultural nuances, and ability to handle complex translations.

Who will replace whom is not at issue in the AI vs. human translator war. The focus lies in collaborating to enhance the effectiveness, precision, and ease of use of language translation. Language translation in the future will be a cooperative endeavor that uses the advantages of both AI and human translators to overcome communication barriers and promote understanding among people worldwide.

Lilia Stoyanov

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

CEO and Angel Investor at Transformify. Fintech Expert.Professor.

Lilia Stoyanov is a chief executive officer and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.
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