The Importance of Humanity In Translation

There has never been a time where accurate translation across the globe has been so important. Diversity, social media, and the globalization of business have increased communications ten-fold in the past decade alone. The sheer volume of worldwide communications means that people often turn to machines to get a gist of what’s going on. However, these machines just don’t have the skills to understand human context and culture, which can lead to dire consequences.

When Computers Make A Mistake

Computerized translation services have become commonplace in the hopes of assisting with communication. How accurate are they? For simple or very structured texts, they can provide a good idea of what’s going on. But that’s not always guaranteed.

According to Alex Hearn, a construction worker in the West Bank was arrested and questioned by police for “hours” after Facebook’s computerized services mistranslated his post and picture; in a picture of the worker standing next to his tractor, what was originally captioned in Arabic as “good morning” ended up being translated into English as “hurt them.” The Israeli Defense Force uses algorithms to look for terms on social media that could imply an attack, so the police force took no chances once this term was incorrectly translated and posted.

Tough Languages For Any Machine

Though Facebook has apologized for this mistake, they issued a statement saying that their “translations are getting better each day;” though one wonders how true this can be when the fact remains that Arabic is “very difficult for many machine translation services due to the large number of dialects in use around the world.”

This is not an isolated incident of artificial intelligence (AI) using the wrong word in the wrong way. Though not all mistranslations lead to arrest, some can lead to insults and embarrassment, such as when Chinese social network WeChat had to issue an apology after it translated a “phrase meaning ‘black foreigner’ as the n-word.”

The Human Touch

Without computers, would there even be such far-reaching diversity and understanding of other cultures?

Without computers, would there even be such far-reaching diversity and understanding of other cultures? There are, however, areas that are best left to humanity. Human translators are the first and last line of defense in any situation; they can not only explain the simple meaning of words, they can use emotional logic when it comes to the explanation. This is why professionally trained human translators should be available more often than a computer.

A Smart Business Move

When it comes to your business, the wrong words can lead to a loss of a partner, an account, or a good reputation. Though explanation and apology can follow a wrong word or phrase, it can never completely undo what was done because right or wrong, people never forget.

Public relations in business is what makes or breaks your success, so having a human translator that works directly with a company’s management team who ensures accuracy and consistency is a smart business move. When it comes to addressing the media, or clients, the wrong word can cause an uproar. Why trust that to AI?

Contact ITC Global Translations for all of your translation needs. We use human translators that can work in 80 different language pairs to serve international markets accurately. Our translators will make sure that your next “good morning” continues on to a pleasantly good day.

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