Advantages and pitfalls of machine translation

Machine translation (MT) has been in use for years, and its advantages and disadvantages are well known to industry professionals.

It can save money and time for translations of simple texts bound to internal use, that do not require accuracy and consistency. Even so, they require a time-consuming editing process (the «post-editing») by a person who is proficient in the source language, the target language, the subject matter, and the organization’s style guide (or has its own standardized style guide). The post-editor checks that the translation is complete and does not add content (the so-called «hallucinations» of the AI), systematizes the terminology, adapts it to the context, corrects any concordance and numbering errors made by the AI, optionally improves the syntax, etc.

Regarding the formatting, only the paid versions maintain a more or less similar presentation to the original. The free versions only provide plain text

For more demanding uses, it can be more of a hindrance than a shortcut

In technical, scientific, artistic, communication and marketing texts, as well as in strategic documents defining policies, programs or projects, etc., the use of MT can have a very high cost in terms of image, accuracy and efficiency, because AI systematically copies previous texts and translations, with their faults, misinterpretations, barbarisms, typos, etc. On the other hand, the continuous recycling of translations that may have been incorrect from the start compromises the quality not only of the machine translation, but also of the reference texts available on the Internet that could help clear doubts.

Communication and marketing texts, on the other hand, require going far beyond simple translation: copywriting, to convey the original message as a native speaker would, and not literally. Here, AI is of no use – quite the contrary, since this type of text does not cope well with the impoverishment of language caused by the cascading use of AI-created or AI-translated texts.

As for video games, software, etc., literal translation is not enough either. They require localization, i.e., adaptation to the culture, uses and specificities of the local market. Although AI can provide some useful suggestions, it is generally more painful to try to take advantage of it than to create the local version directly from a human translation, relying on the expertise, knowledge and creativity of the specialized translator.

Translation for dubbing or subtitling of films, series, documentaries and other audiovisual products is also a particular field. It follows strict rules of synchrony, duration and, in the case of subtitles, specific ortho-typography. It also requires special attention to coherence and context. Attempts at AI subtitling, whether of audiovisual products, conferences or lectures, are currently too disappointing.

Finally, literary translation requires a linguistic and cultural richness, a sensitivity and emotional intelligence, and a creative capacity that, for the moment, machines are far from reaching.

Respaldo works with specialized linguists with expertise in post-editing, translation, transcreation and subtitling in all sectors and in all major languages.