By Melissa Mora Carvajal - School of Education Student

Is technology smarter than human beings? Can it translate better than a qualified person? Although technology has come a long way in adapting people's daily work, and more specialized document translation websites are being created, a person has that special sense of perception and knowledge, which a machine cannot capture, thus making people better translators than a CAT tool. When it comes to translation, it is not just a literal translation, which is exactly what you get from an automated machine, it is also about capturing the essence of the author in the new language to maintain the direction of the writing. Therefore, this paper overviews the cultural understanding, translation process and grammar as the main factors those places an expert translator better than machines to do literary language translations.

First, certain characteristics within culture-understanding cannot be imitated by machines, such as the transition of feelings throughout written words. For example, humor and idiomatic expressions are cultural factors that cannot be captured by a program, this requires prior knowledge of the subject, cultural understanding of the input language and the target language in order to provide sense to the paper for the readers. Moreover, when translating, the CAT tools use the first word that comes out for that translation, and that is where the meaning of the sentence is lost, since it could be that a synonym of that word fits better for that specific phrase. This is called a poor quality of translation by specialized software for these particular tasks. For these reasons, it is said that machine-translation generates a loss of authenticity and reality from the intended ideas given by the author in the original language.

Secondly, the translation process when it is done by humans it is more reliable since a human may provide specific emphasis to the original ideas of the author through different methods. It should be noted that the programs are not entirely bad because they have come to be a great advantage for humans to save time and get faster ideas at the time to do any translation. A person can rely on these tools when translating. It automates a lot of the translator's work, for example by translating repeated sentences in a document by itself. It also helps to keep a more visual control of the translation by highlighting if a sentence was missed. However, this means that machine-translators are just tools, yet not the best or most accurate translation method. Therefore, a translator may utilize these tools yet not exclusively rely on them, because of the flaws in personification and contextualization that only a human being can detect.

Third, the unsolved problem of the machine-translation grammar mistakes. Nowadays, none of the developed programs can fully carry out the task to follow the target language sentence structures and rules. Therefore, it is still not possible for machines to provide an exact translation by considering the word positioning and punctuation marks factors. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the professional translator to verify the sense of the translated ideas by checking words selected and the sentence structures to convey the ideas according to the complexity of the written work culture and context for the reader to deliver precisely the ideas provided by the author.
In conclusion, machines are not smarter than humans, they are simply tools that a translator may take advantage of to carry out any translation faster. When translating any written work machines cannot replace that detail-oriented skill that professional translators possess, a skill which is fed by the three factors previously analyzed. Because translation is not just a mechanical task, it requires the human-translation to draw and capture the authors’ essence in the target language words.

MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (, producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas.  Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.