Years ago, I was interpreting for the CEO of one of the largest mining companies in Canada; he said that his son was driving a haul truck used at one of the company’s mines and that the mine had to be safe enough for his son to work there. He had to make sure that the mines were safe enough for his family; he had to be absolutely sure that 100% of the people that went to work daily were going to return to their homes.

Those words come to my mind every time that I hear that “machine translation” (by which people generally mean Google Translate, Bing Translate, Babel, etc.) is good enough for a company’s communication needs.

When I hear that we can use machine translation to translate a safety manual, I always ask myself if the person making this statement understands that, at best, “machine translation” is correct or has an accuracy rate of 70%. Can you imagine if:

  • Only 70% of the people going down a mine shaft got home from work that day? or,
  • The instructions for the equipment used during your open heart surgery were only 70% correct? or,
  • The contract for the purchase of your house was 30% wrong?

Machine translation is getting better, but it is still not able to replace human translators; “machine translation” cannot understand jokes, literary phrasing, word games; it completely lacks creativity and cultural sensitivities. Hence, translators are still required to do post-editing of any translation that is provided by “machine translation”. We have all seen websites and documents translated by “machine translation” without post-editing, and you can always find mistakes.

Feel free to send us examples where you have seen the use of “machine translation” without post editing and we will publish and discuss them in Facebook.