Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Human translation simply explained

Why do we need translators? (I mean those of the human type, not computer programmes, by the way.)

And why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?



What exactly is it that keeps human translators so busy? This is perhaps a futile discussion as so many people wouldn’t get it anyway. Perhaps because they’re too simple-minded, too lacking in the understanding of the workings of language, or simply too young, to understand.

It is typically sophisticated people, with a certain level of education, who are very surprised when I tell them: yes, there are people out there who do believe translation nowadays is (or should be) carried out by Google Translate or similar tools.


Why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?

No doubt translation is a matter of huge complexity, and explaining to others what translation typically involves is complex, too. Why is the demand for human translation huge? Simple answers, in my opinion, are best. For example:

I translate texts that are too difficult for Google Translate.

Try translating a complex technical text using Google Translate, and you’ll see it won’t work.

Machine translations often look correct at first sight, but when you look more closely, they aren’t.

The texts which I’m given to translate are confidential and mustn’t be fed into Google.

Most translations need a human touch, and my job is to put this human touch to translations.

A computer isn’t particularly good at producing natural translations. In the end, even very technical translations need to sound natural.



Translation is a hugely complex matter, yet sometimes we should avoid complex words to explain translation to others. Explaining translation simply often is best!


(A German translation of this blog article is available here.)