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It’s easy for someone not in the field to assume that automatic computer-assisted translation (CAT) is simple, quick, and efficient. The truth is CAT is still far from being able to replace the meticulous work of real translators. What does it lack exactly? Human skills, of course!

Translation is an art of communication. Communication between humans involves exchanges that are sometimes delicate and subtle, vital to mutual understanding, and subject to personal interpretation by each participant. By this point, the computer has already begun to overheat….

When computers become your worst enemy

We might laugh when we read “cheese goat” or “plate charcuterie,”[1] as they appeared on a café window in France, because it doesn’t bear any consequences. We stop laughing, however, when the communication of essential information is involved, and there can be no room for second guessing.

In fact, when communicating a message is of utmost importance, we do not want translation errors to steal the limelight. Computer-assisted translation programs do not grasp the subtleties of a language or the full meaning behind your message. They give no thought to your target audience or to any errors that may have slipped into the original document. They also cannot ask you questions regarding ambiguous expressions or complex ideas. Computer-assisted translation programs that are based on rules (Reverso or Babelfish) or on statistics (Google Translate) quickly reach their limits, the results depending on the clarity and quality of the text to be translated.

Computer-assisted translation is appealing because of its instantaneousness, but it often falls short due to its poor quality and the discredit it can trigger should there be errors of interpretation or context. Computers cannot always grasp context and may therefore select an inappropriate word instead of one better suited to the situation. Such a circumstance can put you in a difficult spot, cause you to lose clients and opportunities, and lead to problems, even lawsuits. Not to mention the costs you’ll have to absorb to have an incorrect translation reworked!

When a translator becomes your greatest ally

Do you know why a computer could never replace a person in translation? Because professional translators take the time needed to make sure their work is perfect. Translators know everything about working languages and their rules. They have the discernment required to understand the full meaning of your message, to point out writing errors in the source document, if there are any, as well as the ability to meet your goals for the translation. If you want to offer information that is useful and comprehensible to your target audience, a human translator will rise to the challenge by taking into account the context and your choice of target audience, tone, and style. This person will take the time to ask questions when needed to clarify a passage or a preference, and to signal errors in the original document.

The impression left by your impeccable content will play a major role in your success and enhance your credibility in the target language in the eyes of the public. We have all read, at least once in our lives, text on a website from China that has been translated automatically by computer. It’s hard to ignore such shoddy translation. If a translation provider does not care about their image, how much could they possibly care about yours? It would be risky to do business with such a provider. Relying on their personal wealth of knowledge, research capabilities, writing skills, and attention to detail, professional translators put in all the effort required for the text they are translating.

When computers become a translator’s best friend

There is software available for computer-assisted translation. They have been designed to facilitate and improve translations, when used by professional translators who understand how to use them. These programs include terminology banks, document indexing software, and translation memories. Effective only when used for quality translations by professionals, these tools enable translators to find words or concepts that they have already translated for you in previous documents. Every time you do business with them, they update their database, enabling them to work more quickly on your texts and to maintain consistency in your content.

At Stevenson & Writers, we are determined to offer friendly, human translation services. We encourage reflection, thorough research, impeccable writing adapted to each context and audience, as well as attention to detail. Trust our brainpower!

[1] Examples taken from the site