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MT, The Demonized Help

Machine Translation (MT, hereinafter) has been an increasing computer technology interest and, from BabelFish to Intertran and from FreeTranslation to Bing Translator, it actually got better and better every year.

The best MT service available out there nowadays is –most likely- Google Translate. Why? Probably due to many reasons, but the most important one for the point I’m about to make is that, unlike the other previous MT services, the Google Translate does not match the source term with a corresponding one in the target language; instead, it just matches similar source sentences to similar target sentences online. That is to say, it is actually based on the genius principle that someone, somewhere, already said it before you. So the GT just goes to the most gigantic – potentially infinite, library out there, the Internet, and uses it as a database to look up the sentences it’s trying not to decipher, like the old MT engines, but to simply find and match. Pretty cool secondary use of the world’s most famous search engine, huh?

But of course it’s not all a bed of roses. Especially for human translators, who seem to be really worried about losing their jobs in a non remote future, over the goddamn machines. Because that’s exactly what many clients think, that soon they won’t need human translations, as they already have the Google Translate, and other MT tools alike.

Now this goes out to both clients and translators: take a deep breath y’all, people, and hold your horses! If that does happen someday, that day must be far and uncertain. The simple reason why no one should worry about –or celebrate- the end of human translations is at sight: Machine Translation tools such as GT do not offer translations a quarter as good as human ones, because they do not translate contexts. They do not know, nor understand, historical, social, emotional or logical contexts. So stop demonizing them, and start enjoying them, not to perfectly translate texts of languages you know or you can hire professionals for, but to get just an idea about something written in Basque, like a song you’re just curious about for yourself, let’s say. But don’t forget: to translate something a contract or a literary book from Basque to German… please hire a human translator. You’ll definitely need one.

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