And why this makes a huge difference to you

It’s not always about the cost

Sharing of knowledge and news in this age has become a matter of a few, mere clicks. You name it and you share all kinds of information in various formats – audio, video and written. Convenience has become the champion in the game of competition now-a-days. Even if you are someone who has shared some information or wants to attract attention for non-commercial purposes, you would understand the importance of grabbing attention in the first place, and then delivering the information that you want, in exactly the manner you want. Distortion of information passed, no matter what the format, can lead to several consequences, some of which may even prove to be fatal.

Take for example a recent April’s Day prank that was played by Google on their users. They introduced the “mic drop” feature that replaced their regular “send and archive” button available to its users who wish to archive that particular email chain. Featuring a crowned minion who looked like he couldn’t care less about the matter being discussed in the email, the GIF that was a part of this button conveyed a very incorrect impression on people who were unaware about this prank played by Google. People who were supposed to send emails to various people on several serious issues were stumped when they received an angry reply from their correspondents, all because of this prank. Out of all the issues this prank created, one of them was translation of ideas or views because of someone else’s fault.

So where does online translation fit into all this, you may be wondering? The above example is a perfect one to explain to you why online, automated translation can sometimes prove fatally wrong because it didn’t do the job right. Online automations are after all a bunch of codes and scripts that are put in place by some software engineers, to be executed and display or make audible the results. It is not a human being that can think, decide and override instructions, if required.

One of the most common reasons given by people for the use of such translators is that they are comparatively cheaper than human resources. Let us analyse this argument in detail.

Firstly, if you want a dedicated online translating tool just for you or your organization, you will be paying a hefty licence fee to get it installed initially. The number of people who will be using it will also make a difference, because you don’t want the licensed version to be used only by you, especially in a corporate environment where regular translation of data is required. The more the number of users that have to use the software, the more charges you may have to pay. Even if you are granted the “unlimited” variant that can be used by as many people as required, the upfront installation fee you will be paying will definitely shoot up.

Next, you are looking at subscription renewal cost. This is the age when even the smallest of our smart phone apps need to be updated every now and then, and your voice translation software may not be any different. To keep the version updated and performing at its best capability, you will have to pay a “continuity” fee.

Next, consider the cost you will have to pay if the software needs to be fixed, for any reason. The software may become corrupted, not compatible with certain devices or other software, hacked by someone and rendered useless, or just needs some bugs and virus removed. Are you not paying additional costs to keep the software intact and performing at an optimum speed? And what about the corrections you have to make to the work after you have got the online results? They too represent an additional cost.

Finally, critical work requires several “eye” checks even if the work is done automatically. Especially when it comes to matters such as finance, government-related projects and medicine, there is zero tolerance for errors. So when you will have to employ people to go through an automated service’s results, why not keep it manual in the first place and then reduce the number of checks that have to be done?

For those who consider cost the topmost priority – you must always remember that cost is important, but is certainly is not EVERYTHING that you need to think about. There are certain things such as nuances, refined quality, enhancements, etc. that cannot be managed by a tool. These have been discussed in detail in the next chapter. But the lesson to be learned here is that do not focus ONLY on the cost aspect. Paying attention to other details makes a lot of difference and you can in fact save more money in some instances.

The Wrong Decision Can Cause Damage to Your Business

In the example that was mentioned earlier, the facts that online translation does not meet expectations and can cause serious repercussions at times have been discussed. Let us understand this concept with another simple example which you surely would have experienced some time or the other in your life, directly or indirectly.

There is a very popular game that is played by children and even in many offices to encourage accuracy and team work. Known as Chinese Whisper, the aim of the game is simple – the message that is passed one by the first person to the second remains the same until it reaches the very end of the communication chain. The first player whispers a message into the second player’s ears, who does the same into the next players ear, and so on and so forth. The message that is relayed at the beginning of the game is usually distorted by the time it reaches the last person in room. Sometimes the two messages don’t resemble each other at all!

This is something that can happen with online translation too. The initial message may have meant something completely different from the one that is offered as the end result by the automated and online translation service. There really is no need to explain why this could harm a business; it is quite a self-explanatory drawback that doesn’t have a solution except for opting for human resources the next time you need anything translated.

Let’s understand how online translation can really hamper a business by looking at real life scenarios. In number one, we have an avid folklore narrator who is proud of her heritage and would like the world to know about it. She has already penned a few books and enovellas on this topic and they have been well appreciated because she adds that touch of personal and local flavour that makes the narration so much more relatable and endearing. Encouraged by the good response, she signs a contract to deliver the content in English but ends up suffering because the flavour that was present in her local works were not translated correctly in the English version.

Let’s look at an example including audio content. Let us assume we have an accountant who speaks fluent Hindi and tends to prepare his files and balance sheets while thinking aloud in Hindi. One of his French counterparts needs one of the balance sheets on an urgent basis and has insisted on a verbal clip to get things moving. The accountant records his narration and emails it to his counterpart, who instantly converts the clip into French using an online translator. The word “saath” with a hard “t” indicates the number 60 whereas the same word but with a soft “t” indicates with or togetherness. The Indian accountant has retired for the day and the Frenchman is left pulling his hair out because he doesn’t understand what togetherness has to do in a balance sheet.

These are very small examples of technology gone awry, but in real life, these consequences can be exceptionally disastrous. The fine nuances that are exhibited in a local language in any work of art, be it verbal or written, in the form of short stories, autobiographies, or poetry, often lose their charm because people tend to use these mechanical and unfeeling translators which cannot capture the soul of the work. This makes those works listless in the eyes of the outsiders. Accuracy in this instance takes a big hit because the initial message did not largely or even remotely resemble the final message.

It is literally impossible to teach a software to learn how to feel, when to edit explosive things and when to let all things pass, how to express things in the best possible manner according to the audience, etc. For this, human translation is of utmost importance. There are plenty of story books now available even for children, by authors who lived hundreds of years ago in remote parts of the world. How do you think the tender minds could have learnt about them and understood them? It is because the human translators did a marvellous job of making them as simple as possible without killing off the actual message of the story.

In terms of scientific researches too, there are often grey areas, or areas where there is a lot of ambiguity present as things are under discussion. How can you explain this to a software that only sees binary codes and can produce exact results? Human experience counts a lot in these matters because there are several past references that one can draw on and fill in such blanks which would have otherwise remained blank and made the problem even more problematic.

Conclusion

It is said that there was a time when airline industry was contemplating if remotely controlled flights should be used without any human intervention or control. This plan was ultimately scrapped because it was scientifically proven that artificial intelligence, no matter how advanced, cannot take into consideration real-time and dynamic changes and make the necessary adjustments to produce the best results. Only a pilot would know when the aircraft needs to swoop above levels and when it should skim low in the skies. It is impossible to train a robot or software to perform such delicate and important tasks on its own.

Online translators are similar to these artificial pilots. Sure, they can be handy in certain projects and can in fact be very useful. But they ultimately are not the solution to all translation problems and there are times when they need to be retired and instead, human, real, emotional and logical experience needs to be brought to the fore to achieve the best possible results.