Why Human Translators Aren’t Going Anywhere

Last Updated November 10, 2023

While the translation industry may adapt to incorporate technology, the role of human translators is expected to remain relevant in the foreseeable future. Here’s why and how.

Slator recently ran a survey asking participants if they think the term “Translator” will disappear over the next five years.

Close to half of respondents don’t believe that to be the case, replying “absolutely not” (43.2%).

A quarter of respondents (25%) think it’s always been five years. A small percentage (16.7%) think it will definitely disappear. The rest of respondents (15.1%) think it is a possibility (maybe).

The 25% of respondents who say “it’s always been five years” point to the reality that there’s always some new thing that seems to threaten the need for at least some level of human intervention in the translation process.

Most recently, it’s the adoption of AI for video translation, which we discussed here. But is that technology taking the human translator off the table?

How Spotify is Changing the Game

AI voice translation also came into play in a bigger way with the announcement that Spotify is piloting a new service for podcasters called “Spotify Voice Translations.”

According to founder and CEO Daniel Ek, “using AI, [it] translates podcasts episodes into alternate languages, all in the podcaster’s voice.” Here’s what it looks like in practice:

(3) Daniel Ek on X: “Podcasters – what if I told you could offer your pod to any listener around the world, in their own local language but still keep it in your own voice? That’s the pilot we’re launching @Spotify! It’s called Voice Translation and using AI, translates podcasts episodes into… https://t.co/kYq0bgxJYq” / X (twitter.com)

Slator subsequently asked people if they believe Spotify’s Voice Translations feature will get traction within two years, and half of respondents (50%) said they doubt it.

Over a third (35.7%) say it will probably get traction, and the rest are split between “yes, definitely” (8.9%) and “definitely not” (5.4%).

What this all points to is it’s highly unlikely that the term “Translator” will disappear in the next five years.

While technology may continue to enhance the efficiency of translation processes, it’s more likely that the role of translators will evolve rather than disappear.

Why We Still Need Human Translators

The use of computer technology to translate a piece of text into a different language with zero, or minimal human involvement not only speeds things up but has also proven to be relatively effective.

You can even translate using ChatGPT these days.

But still, human intervention remains key, especially in the verification stages.

Why? Well, advancements in machine translation and AI improve machine translation tools, but they’re far from perfect and still struggle with nuance, idioms, and context in language.

Human translators play a crucial role in accurately conveying the meaning and cultural nuances of text, and their expertise is often required in various professional fields, such as legal, medical, literary, and technical translation.

Where does that leave us?

Translators will increasingly work alongside machine translation tools to improve the quality and efficiency of their work. Additionally, their skills may become more focused on post-editing machine-generated translations, ensuring accuracy and fluency.

Furthermore, the need for human translators will persist in diplomatic, legal, and sensitive contexts, where precision, cultural understanding, and confidentiality is paramount.

At the end of the day, there’s a massive need for high-speed, quality translation but at affordable rates and with human verification touchpoints.

Machine translation with human quality assurance is where you will find the balance between quality and cost efficiency.

We’ve found that a combination of machine translation plus human editing and AI evaluation can help achieve lower price points without sacrificing quality or throughput time.

Experience the Summa Linguae Advantage

There’s no one way to approach translation projects. Indeed, we’re quite firm on flexibility around here, and offer the specialized services to back it up. What you need is what you’ll get one way or another, and anywhere in between.

And that’s the thing. It’s a sliding scale between pure human translation and handing everything over to the machine.

At Summa Linguae, we consider all the factors before rolling out a custom price.

If your text requires perfection, a professional human translator or editor will need to work on your content. You get the highest quality, but it comes at a cost.

If speed of execution is the main factor, MT must be part of the solution. It gets the work done at a much lower rate, but you sacrifice quality in the end.

And if you don’t know exactly what you need, we can help figure it out.

Contact us today to get started.

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