In our tech-savvy world, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a game-changer, making its way into many areas of our lives, including translation. Tools like Chat GPT or Google Gemini offer quick translations with just a click. However, while these tools are handy, several myths surround AI translation. It’s also important to remember the role of professional human translators, when it’s better to keep the human touch and how best to combine AI with professional translation expertise.

Myth 1: AI translation is always accurate

One of the biggest myths is that AI translations are spot-on. While AI has improved significantly, it still struggles with language nuances, idioms and context. AI often gives literal translations, which can lead to misunderstandings. For example, expressions like ‘break a leg’ or ‘spill the beans’ won’t make any sense when translated literally into another language. Professional translators understand these subtleties and ensure translations are accurate, meaningful and appropriate for the intended audience.

Myth 2: AI knows all about the topic to be translated

A critical limitation of machine translation is that it depends on the data that has already been added to the machine. AI systems need to be trained on vast amounts of data, but these datasets can be biased, outdated and/or limited. For example, the cut-off date for ChatGPT was back in 2022, so any references to the British monarch would refer to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This can lead to translations that feel stiff, out-of-date or inaccurate. Professional translators, on the other hand, keep their subject matter knowledge and linguistic skills up to date through continuing professional development. Human translations will be more relevant and dynamic.

Myth 3: AI can translate any language pair perfectly

AI tools are better with some languages than others. They might struggle with less common languages or those with complex grammar. AI also finds it challenging to handle regional dialects. Professional translators, however, are experts in specific language pairs, usually only translating into their own native language so the output text flows naturally as well as accurately.

Myth 4: AI is free and convenient

While many AI tools are free or cheap, they aren’t without hidden costs. Fixing AI-generated translations can take a lot of time, especially for important documents. Mistakes in legal, medical or business translations can have serious consequences. Professional translators offer the reassurance of reliability and quality which is especially important if you don’t speak the target language. This saves time in the long run and reduces the risk of costly errors.

Myth 5: AI can replace human translators

AI tools are helpful, but they are not a replacement for human translators. Professionals bring cultural insights, industry knowledge and an understanding of language nuances that AI can’t match. They can adapt translations for different audiences, whether for technical manuals, marketing content or literary works. They also offer localisation services, making sure content fits the cultural norms of the target audience.

Benefits of using professional translators

  1. Cultural sensitivity and localisation: Professional translators understand cultural contexts and can adapt content to be culturally relevant and engaging. This goes beyond just translating words.
  2. Accuracy and quality: Human translators ensure high levels of accuracy, especially for complex or specialised content. They understand subtleties, humour and idioms, keeping the original tone and intent.
  3. Industry-specific expertise: Many translators specialise in fields like law, medicine, technology or finance. Their expertise ensures correct use of industry-specific terms, crucial for technical documents, financial reports, legal contracts or medical records.
  4. Customer understanding and care: Professional translators work closely with their clients to understand their needs and preferences. They offer customised translations and specific recommendations on how best to approach a project, taking into account what the customer is wanting to achieve.
  5. Confidentiality and security: Professional translators adhere to strict confidentiality agreements, ensuring sensitive information stays secure. This trust is vital for businesses and individuals dealing with privileged information or personal data.

In summary, while AI translation tools can be convenient and useful for quick or approximate translations, it’s important to be mindful of the limitations. Professional translators provide accuracy, cultural sensitivity, industry expertise and a personalised approach that AI can’t yet replicate. A reputable translation service will be happy to advise on whether AI is right for your translation project and how to get the best out of it.

If you’re thinking of using AI for your next translation project, the team at Surrey Translation Bureau will be happy to help.

Read more about our AI-supported translation service.