By definition, translation is the process of changing written text created in one language into another language. It does involve interpretation because it is not possible to translate the source document into the target document word for word, as this will change the whole meaning of the source document. The key to document translation is to communicate the same message contained in the source document into another language.
What is human translation?
Although there are machines that can do translations, human translation is still the best form of translating any written document, be it books, legal documents, manuals, product information, websites, personal documents, magazines, letters and advertisements. It means that human translators carry out all the processes involved in the translation of written text.
Machine translation could only translate the texts from one language to another. It is not able to do what a human translator could do, which is to take into account the grammar, idioms, conventions and most of all, the context of the original language while translating it into the target language and preserving the meaning as close to the original as possible.
Translation is a complex process that only humans are able to do, because it is not a scientific calculation or a mathematical equation that could be programmed into an intelligent machine. The process involves the work of a professional linguist/translator, usually a native speaker or one who has studied the target language extensively. The translator will translate the original text into a version that captures the spirit and meaning of the original using the right tone and style suitable for the target reader of the translated text.
The second step involves a professional editor whose job is to revise, refine and make the first translator’s work perfect to fit the technical expressions of the subject matter and to make sure that proper punctuation, use of grammar and other elements of the target language are met.
The third and final step is for a professional project manager to review the final work to ensure that it is in the correct format and ready for delivery to client.
The three-step process for translation is to ensure that the precise message, style and tone stays faithful to the original and closely depicted in the target language.
Intricacies of human language
Human language does not resemble mathematical equations. Human language involves expressions and in translation, the meaningful context and sense of the phrases have to be considered when writing them in another language. Most words have several connotations and various senses and these are to be considered when choosing the best style and word choices for the translation to be effective. Even in English, there is a difference between scarlet and crimson and gray is not simply a mixture of black and white.
The options and intricacies of the English language is the same as in other languages. It is the job of the translator to choose the right words that will deliver the message in the best way possible, which means that the translator must possess a combination of extensive training as well as creativity. There is no such thing as a single translation format for a document. It is up to the translator to make a decision that would ensure the accuracy of the translation, which must always be subject to professional and expert consideration and review, which means quality control. The accuracy and quality of human translation is impossible to achieve using a machine. It is a product of a systematic process and the application of the professional and specialized skills of the human translator who is capable of choosing the right alternatives.
Demand for human translation
Debunk the misconception that translation is a straightforward mechanical process. It is still not possible for machines to take over the work of human translators. Even if there is a high demand for professional translation services today, using a machine should not be an option. Mistakes in translation have the potential to seriously affect the reputation of a company and could even result in hefty financial losses.
Most industries around the world have a need for language services. Law enforcement may need statements translated, just like how the medical field requires some medical notes and records translated. Court proceedings, court records, petitions and depositions may be needed by people in the legal field. Media, insurance companies, financial companies, and companies with web presence all need translation work in one form or another. Individuals, especially those thinking of migrating to another country where their language is not spoken, need translation of their passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, and other personal documents.
In conclusion, it is very easy to see the difference between machine translation and human translation and why the latter is very important. While machine translation is cheaper than human translation, machine translation is not able to grasp the true meaning of a document. It cannot convey the feeling, and the ingrained culture that is conveyed by the original writer and the intricacies of making the translation fit into another culture. This depends on many variables, not only based on language and grammar but also based on taboos, traditions, customs and beliefs that only a professional and expert human translator would understand.