In a time where software is used to streamline workflow in a variety of ways, how do software translation tools stack up against experienced, specialized human translators?

Software or Computer Aided Translations (CAT) offer up some benefits. However, what seems at first glance to be the wave of the future in language and translation services, needs closer examination to reveal that in fact, the attention and expertise that a human translator brings to the table cannot be replaced or substituted.

Many software translation tools have customizable dictionary memory banks, in other words, they can be altered and tailored; in theory providing better translations and options the more they are used. The feature is a necessity. This is how the software “mimics” the human translator that is using the software to begin with. Software translation is often referred to as “Machine translation” or “MT” for short. On a basic level, MT uses a simple word substitution from one language to another. This presents a challenge to the linguist or translator using the software. The customization of the software can be an effective tool when formal or formulaic language is used but challenging when “looser” more poetic, literary language is used.

The quality of output can be aided by human intervention. For instance, once the MT is completed, for a professional translator to proofread and make corrections in the system that can be globally implemented or project based. Ultimately, it would be a high risk to utilize MT tools without human supervision or quality control. This brings us back to our initial question, are Computer Aided Translations going to replace the human translator? Certainly not any time soon as even with MT tools, to provide an accurate, quality translation, professional human translators are still essential.

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