By Mariana Bolaños Corao - Student of English Teaching and Translation

Have you ever imagined a world where humans have been replaced by machines that do all the work? This is not such a foreign reality in many fields anymore. The translation is one example of how technology has come to a point where there is a discussion regarding if human translators are no longer needed. Nevertheless, the factor that will always make human translators superior to technology-driven translators is their ability to adapt the texts to better fit into the target culture and respect the idiomatic and grammatical requirements. This thesis will be further developed to justify why human translators remain indispensable.

The first premise that backs up the position of this paper is that human translators are necessary to produce a high-quality translation that pays a lot of attention to the syntactical, morphological, and accuracy aspects of the text. The languages, as stated by Nicholas Hartmann (2010), can sometimes have linguistic environments that are very controlled and possess a limited vocabulary (the automobile industry, for example) (Hartmann, 2010). This prevents mechanical- translation from turning out heavily inaccurate.
Most environments, however, are composed of languages that are not as controlled, which makes it harder for a computer to employ the correct words and grammar. Mechanical translators are not usually built up to translate more than just a gist translation of a big text in a small amount of time (Hartmann, 2010). This means more workload for human translators, for they must find the mistakes made by the incompetence of the machines in these scenarios. Furthermore, humans can give feedback to the clients and recommend word choices and styles according to the target audience and context.

The second premise is that human translators can better comply with the target culture and the needs of the client. As said by Hartmann (2010), translators tend to reject work for which they are not qualified. Tosun et al. (2014) stated that translators must be trained in several aspects, including cultural and specialization knowledge. Since this type of preparation is required, human translators have not only a more complete set of skills, but they also possess knowledge that is very specific to a field, which makes them very valuable and trustworthy assets.

Culture is also fundamental. There can be a huge loss in translation if the culture is not taken into account. Not only because words can lose their meaning, but also because there may be elements that resonate and are more or less acceptable within a specific culture. If, for example, a translation of a North American interactive poem about slavery were to be used by Costa Rican schools to teach students how to identify and fight against racism, the translator should have specialized knowledge on the cultural and historical differences between countries, poetry, and translations that serve educational purposes.

Despite what was said above, there are still translation jobs that do not have such a specific target audience nor contain very culturally charged elements. As explained by Biau & Pym (2006), mechanical translators come in handy in regards to memories, because their programs create databases that can later be reused to translate segments. This helps save time and resources. It is true that Google Translate produces a billion translations per day (Li et al., 2014); nevertheless, human translators are still needed to overlook the programs and correct aspects that computers can’t always pick up, like tone, idioms, and slang.

It has been proven that, although languages have a set of rules, they mostly work in unexpected ways according to different situations. The ability to relate to people, their emotions, thoughts, and intentions is the strategy that keeps human translators from being overridden by computers. Human translators should learn to embrace the help from machines, making them more tedious part of the job faster and easier.


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  • Biau, J. & Pym, A. (2006). Technology and translation (a pedagogical overview). Translation Technology and its Teaching. Pym, A., Perestrenko, A., Starink, B. (eds.). Intercultural Studies Group, Universitat Rovira i Virgili.
  • Hartmann, N. (2010). Real voices: What translators do and why we need to keep doing it [Conference Keynote presentation]. Ninth Conference of AMTA, Denver.
  • Li, H., Graesser, A., Cai, Z. (2014). Comparison of Google Translation with Human Translation [Conference]. Twenty-Seventh International Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society Conference, Florida.
  • Tosun, M., Akin, A., Simsek, F. (2015). Courses On Specialized Field in Undergraduate Programs of Translation & Interpretation Departments in Turkey: The Importance of Courses on Specialized Field in the Specialization Process of Translator Candidates. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 192, 4-10.