Machine vs. Human Translation: What does the future hold?

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop, more and more translation work can be done through machine translation. At the same time, we have all seen the AI translators fail. Some type of human review and editing is necessary to ensure that translations accurately reflect the original content. If you doubt it, simply perform a quick Google search for “funny machine translation errors” – I dare you not to smile (maybe even laugh) at some of the results you find.

Unfortunately, some translation “companies” tried to market themselves and make easy money while relying solely on machine translations, with little or no human translation. As a result, in April 2017, the ISO published ISO 18587:2017: “Translations services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements.” 

This standard provides requirements for the process of full, human post-editing of machine translation output and post-editors’ competencies. It is expected that all translation services providers (together with their clients and post-editors) will apply this standard when using content that is originally generated by machine translation systems.

The Need for a Human Touch

With the issuance of this standard, the ISO confirmed what translation providers with integrity have known since the beginning. Accurate, effective translations will always demand a certain level of human interaction.

Even if the content were so clearly written that a machine translator could create a “perfect” translation, that translation would still need a human touch – even if only to review it and confirm that it doesn’t need any post editing. Realistically, however, no machine translation will be perfect. Even the best machine translations can benefit from a personal review, for various reasons.

First of all, only an analysis by a quality linguist can fully ensure that the content incorporates any subtleties or nuances, also known as localization. Therefore, only a human translator can effectively evaluate the style, tone, and intellectual level of the original content. This ensure that the translation reflects the same style, tone and intellectual level.

ISO Compliance

Although the ISO itself does not provide certificates of compliance, certification bodies exist around the globe. These bodies evaluate organizations and certify that they are operating in compliance with the ISO standards. Such certifications must be renewed regularly to ensure continued compliance. Hiring a human translator is a “must” if you want to ensure you are getting the highest quality translation work.