Uniqueness Of Human Translation

Mar 20th, 2017 By Al Tamehi


Translation is the process of conveying the language of the source text into that of the target text, not literally but by taking into consideration the cultural and semantic differences. In short translation is the process of transferring meaning or information from one language to the other. In light of the fast growing international market, translation is no more dominated by the “FIGS” (French, Italian, German and Spanish), Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. The EU bureaucrats these days have to communicate in 24 languages and many once abandoned languages such as Indonesian or Vietnamese are gaining prominence. Huge software firms in an attempt to make translation faster and cheaper are investing heavily on the concept of machine translation or computer assisted translation. Here we want to have an insight at the concept of Human Translation versus Machine Translation.


A machine translation takes the following steps to translate a text:

  • – Analyses the structure of each term or phrase in the source text.
  • – Breaks this structure down to elements that can be easily translated.
  • – synthesizes a term of the same structure in the target language.

As you see clearly the first fundamental difference between Machine and Human Translation lies in the simple fact that no Machine Translation software is capable of interpretation. Interpretation means being able to understand the different cultural and linguistic features to create the same effect of the source text in the target text.

The second fundamental difference is that in Machine Translation as it is a literal or word by word translation no respect is attributed to word order in the target text. Machine Translation at its best provides a good comprehension and stops there. On the other hand Human translator’s flexibility and understanding of the sentence structure enables it to provide the perfect word order in the target text.


The two fundamental differences between Machine and Human translation is demonstrated clearly in the following example:

Original English Text:

Any creature life: Human, Animal or Bird essentially depend upon blood that runs in vessels.

Google translation into Arabic:

أي مخلوق الحياة: الإنسان، الحيوان أو الطائر يعتمد أساسا على الدم الذي يعمل في السفن

Human translation into Arabic:

إن حياة الكائن الحي من إنسان أو حيوان أو طير .. تعتمد بالدرجة الأولى على الدم الذي يجري في العروق

The word vessel has been translated completely differently in the two Arabic texts.

  • Human Translation: The word VESSEL has been translated correctly as the vessel (العروق) in which blood flows through.
  • Machine Translation: the word VESSEL has been translated as a ship (السفن) which sails on the water.

Also the structure of the Arabic Machine Translation is all mixed up. Below is the exact translation of the Arabic Machine text in English.

Any creature of life: Animal or bird essentially to blood which works in the ships depends.

This example boils down to the basic weakness of Machine Translation which is its inability to interpret.


Having discussed the uniqueness of Human Translation we must have in mind that by combining the human intelligence with Translation Software we are able to make professional translators more proficient in a $34 billion a year global translation market. Computer scientists are creating new translation systems which allow us to translate more precisely and with greater speed which opens a new vision to explore.

credit to: http://translatorthoughts.com/2017/03/uniqueness-of-human-translation/

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