How Does Google Translate Work?
Google Translate is a complicated system that seeks to translate 103 languages. It began in 2006 as a machine translator, taking one language and translating it into English before translating it again into the target language. The company decided not to hire any language experts to help with the grammar of each of the languages.
They decided that language changes too quickly to use humans in their translations. The system didn’t work well, though you could get a vague idea of the intent of the piece you translated. It was not at all the fluid translation that comes from using a human translator.
Ten years later, it was changed from the basic machine translation to what they called “deep learning.” This entailed using whole sentences to compare a text to so that it was no longer just a few translated phrases thrown together. It also started to translate sentence direction from one language to another without having to go through English.
However, there are a lot of pieces of language that are hard to translate with a machine. Every language has its own idioms, and these are not things that result well from a direct translation. There are also metaphors used in language that have a lot of meaning but that are difficult to translate from one language to another.
Google Translate still has a lot of problems with these areas of language, even with the software being improved regularly. It is getting closer to translating speech well, but it still has a long way to go to understand languages and the quirks that go along with them.
It can now be added to browsers and used as an app on most phones. It can sometimes help with the pronunciation of certain words it reads from text that has been highlighted by the user. It can also find words that are in a picture and let the user know what language it is. All of this is a long way from being a perfect translation, though.
Will It Ever Fully Replace Human Translators?
Google Translate is helpful for some small tasks, but it can’t be relied on for complex translations. A common activity for younger people is to put something through their translation to see the outlandish results they get. Even Google says that it shouldn’t be counted on for anything other than a translation of a few words. The behemoth company has said that its translations are not meant to replace human translators.
Language is too big and too complicated for a machine to be able to fully comprehend it. And, language largely comes from the culture that is speaking it. As the culture changes, the words used will also change to a degree. A machine, no matter how sophisticated it is, cannot understand the culture of a people.
It can’t make decisions about which words match the cultural meaning of a word or phrase. From idioms to metaphors to the newest slang popping up, a language is like a living being that is always growing and changing.
Translation Service Providers know their language intimately. They know what slang really means- not just the direct translation of these words. They understand proper nouns and names and how they belong in a sentence. They have the skills needed to translate the meaning of words instead of just the word itself.
If an English speaker were to call something “cool,” a translator would understand this meaning and choose the corresponding word in the other language. A machine translator would simply translate it as cold. The word “cool” could be an important part of the sentence and change the entire meaning of it when it is mistranslated.
Often, there are words that are spelled the same way but are pronounced differently. The poor pronunciation by a machine can lead to the sentence not being understood by the user.
Human translators know how to pronounce certain words because they are in a certain context. Machines can’t put meanings in a context and decide on the right word. It’s something that speakers understand how to do, but a machine would read these words the same way, botching their meanings.
There are so many nuances like this in language that we get used to them and don’t think much about the many ways we choose words to mean specific things. That nuance is lost in machine translations, and that can greatly change the meaning of the words.
Dialects are a common part of virtually any language. These dialects often change quickly or come with an accent that makes some of the words sound different. Machines are unable to understand the parts of a dialect that can be directly translated and the parts that need a more contextual translation.
Even when machines are fed new words from a language, they may not know how to use them or when they are necessary. A human translator understands dialect and how to translate their specific phrases.
The tone and style of speech is another human function that so far can’t be duplicated by machines. We speak with an understanding of the tone that our speech is creating. The wrong word usage can set a very different tone for a text. A translated text may have put on a playful tone or intended to be funny, but this can be translated without that tone.
The resulting translation can sound garbled as the machine tries to understand why those specific words are used together. When pieces like essays or poems are translated, they will lose much of their impact because of word choices that do not match the intended tone.
Grammar rules can be especially hard to understand for machines. There are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the rules are broken to set a specific tone. Human translators understand how to put translations into the proper grammatical form so that the words are used properly.
Get the Help of Professional Translation Services in Many Languages
If you want professional document translation services, or translations that are accurate and keep the meaning and tone of the words, you need a human translator. At Etcetera Language Group, Inc., our human translators can do your translations from a wide range of languages.
These translators know their specialty languages intimately, and they understand how it changes over time. You can expect a smooth, fluid translation that keeps the humanity in the words that are chosen.