There is no doubt that tech firms have made great strides in automated language translation in the last decade. Advances in processing power, algorithms, and voice recognition are now providing almost seamless communication between humans and machine, yet human-to-human communication using a machine interface is still fraught with difficulties and dangers.
To make the point, if you visit any web based automated translation service, all will have a disclaimer telling you that they are not responsible for providing accurate translation in situations where correct translation is critical to successful outcomes. Google Translate for example states “… we don’t make any commitments about the content within the services, the specific functions of the services, or their reliability, availability, or ability to meet your needs. We provide the services “as is”.” They then go on “…Google, and Google’s suppliers and distributors, will not be responsible for lost profits, revenues, or data, financial losses or indirect, special, consequential, exemplary, or punitive damages.”
Dept. of Justice Guidance January 7th, 2015
We are tempted to use these services because they are easy to access and free, but we need to be aware of when and where to use these services. If you are engaging in services or activities that are critical, such as in medical or legal situations, you would be best to avoid automated translations. In addition, if you are work for an agency, corporation, or institution that in anyway receiving funding from the federal government, you should be aware that on January 7, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released Guidance that states that:
“Internet translations should NOT be used without the review of a trained, qualified HUMAN translator”. The Department of Justice Guidance on federal law interpretations are legally binding and should be viewed as applicable to all federally subsidized organizations, including local and state governments.”
Those of us responsible for translation and interpretation will continue to look for easy, cost effective ways to get our jobs done. Machine-base language translations will continue to get better and more accurate, however, human language also continues to evolve and change as well. There are nuances of language, idiosyncrasies of use, and syntax that may never be able to be accurately translated by machines. An example of this is the Spanish word, “intoxicado” that has different meanings and can easily be misinterpreted/mistranslated. Many people use the word intoxicado to say that someone is drunk or extremely intoxicated, however, intoxicated is also used to refer to various types of poisoning, for example food poisoning. In a situation that is critical to the well-being of a person, it is best to rely on a qualified person to translate or interpret. Using a trained human interpreter will ensure the best chance at communicating the correct information and for creating the best outcomes.