Artificial Intelligence and Translation Services – How Technology Is Changing the Translation Landscape


Translation services have not been spared in the recent uproar and speculation of which jobs in what industries will inevitably be replaced. The recent introductions of applications like ChatGPT, Dall E, and DeepL have caused quite a stir in the respective industries they affect directly. Is all the hype justified and how are linguistic services affected? These services include the type we offer here at IL Consultancy (IL Consultancy). Read on to find out.




What Is Artificial Intelligence And How Does It Work?


Artificial Intelligence comes in many different forms and subfields but, simply put, it’s the ability of computers or programs to emulate human thoughts and behaviour in real-world situations. Through advanced algorithms and deep learning, AI has learned a range of skills that enables it to complete tasks, completely on its own, that would have required human intervention previously. The level of sophistication has evolved to where machines can code, program, write, design, drive, and you guessed it, translate all on their own.


AI works by using specialised algorithms and statistical models to analyse and collect data to identify patterns that allow machines to learn and improve as time goes on. This is known as “machine learning”, which, essentially, is one branch of artificial intelligence. When it comes to translation, the process is adapted specifically for the application, which is known as “machine translation”.


A Brief History of AI


Even though it has only become “mainstream” in recent years, Artificial Intelligence has been around much longer than most people may realise. The concept has been around for centuries, dating back to ancient Greece, but the actual birthplace is largely attributed to the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. It was then that participants in the conference proposed the idea of machines that could perform like human beings were introduced as a field of study.


More progressive systems began to rise in the 1960s and 1970s when researchers started to develop systems that could simulate basic decision-making capabilities in specific domains like medicine and finance. The 1980s and 1990s saw development in technology stagnate, primarily due to a lack of funding, unrealistic expectations, and failures of some early AI projects. The emergence of Machine Learning in the 2000s and 2010s accelerated AI once again when the necessary tech became more accessible and enabled machines to learn from data without needing constant, explicit programming.


What Exactly is Machine Translation?


Machine translation is the process where artificial intelligence automatically translates text or speech, from one language to another without any human participation. Modern machine translation uses algorithms and statistical models to understand the source language to correctly translate it into another, much like a human would. We use the word “much” intentionally because as impressive as the technology is, it’s not perfect… but more on that down below.


In this manner, machine translation goes further than just word-for-word translation, and communicates the full meaning of the source language to the target language. It aims to analyse all language elements present and how all the words influence and work with one another, resulting in more coherent and sophisticated translations. It therefore not only translates a language but understands it.


Machine translation makes use of two main approaches; namely a rule-based approach and a statistical approach. Rule-based machine translation involves the program creating a set of rules and grammar structures to translate one language to another. Statistical machine translation, on the contrary, uses statistical models to analyse large amounts of bilingual data and learn patterns and relationships between words and phrases in different languages.


The most palpable example of this in translation and language services is a basic translation tool like Google translate and something more complex like DeepL. In recent years, there has been significant progress in neural machine translation, which uses deep learning techniques to improve the accuracy and fluency of machine translation systems. Neural machine translation has become the dominant approach in the field and has led to significant improvements in the quality of machine-translation output.




Machine Translation vs Human Translation?


When weighed up against one another, each translation method comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. Which is better, will ultimately depend on the specific use case and requirements of the user. But let’s take a look at the key differences between the two methods and which will be better for which type of application.


There is no doubt about it, machine translation is better when it comes to speed and cost. A typical translation can be completed in a fraction of the time and can be done relatively inexpensively, especially if a lot of content needs to be translated. However, in such a case, a machine translation service would generally require some form of payment or subscription service to translate longer content.


Human translation, on the other hand, would be the preferred choice when absolute accuracy is required. While machine translation has increased in quality and accuracy in recent years, even the best offerings on the market can’t guarantee 100% native-level accuracy – at least not yet. For example, Google Translate, one of the most-trusted and most-used services, at best only has a 94% accuracy rate*.


One more drawback with machine translation is that while most AI services offer the most widely used languages, they still only have a limited number of languages available that they’re able to translate. For instance, Google offers basic translation in roughly 140 languages, while arguably the most sophisticated service, DeepL as we have mentioned before, offers translation in only 31. However, the quality of translation varies quite significantly between the two, especially when long-form translation is required.


When you consider that there are more than 7100 languages in existence in the world today, it\’s evident that these services won’t be able to cater to everyone, all of the time. It’s therefore much more likely that you’d find an agency somewhere that will be able to assist you if you are in need of a more specialised translation or one that the AI machines do not offer.


What are the Different Use Cases Between the Two?


Machine translation has a wide range of real-world and daily applications when the outcome of a misinterpreted or even incorrect translation wouldn’t be detrimental to the entity. For instance:


Internal communication


For a company that operates internationally, machine translation makes managing communication a whole lot simpler when the official language of the company isn’t spoken or understood by all. Flawless accuracy in these types of communication isn’t always the main requirement, as long as the core message gets across.


External communication


To an extent, machine translation can also be used for external communication to stakeholders and existing clients. General communication should suffice but when it comes to more sensitive information that may have serious consequences, opting for accuracy would be advisable.


Data analysis


Companies can use machine translation to process user-generated comments from various platforms that would produce adequate results in short time frames, which can, in turn, be used for analytics and research when it comes to things like social media and global websites.


Online customer service


Machine translation enables big brands to interact with audiences all across the world. With the right tools, any request from any customer, anywhere can instantly be translated and responded to, no matter if there’s a language barrier in any form. This is particularly useful for things like live chat, social media, and email queries without the need to employ more staff.


The Case For Translation Companies


Translation and language services, like the type we offer here at IL Consultancy, hold an advantage when it comes to technical translations when accuracy is non-negotiable. This is typically in industries where crucial information needs to be communicated perfectly as translation mistakes could have severe legal implications. Market research, law, manufacturing, healthcare, and further education are all industries that require highly-specialised translations where any compromise is not worth the risk [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Some examples of specific documents include:


  • Research papers
  • Contracts
  • Processes
  • Patents
  • Engineering texts
  • User manuals
  • Descriptions and technical data sheets
  • Specifications
  • Technical instructions
  • Product descriptions


What Does The Future Hold For Translation Services?


There is no shortage of speculation all over as to where AI will take us in the future. Some say that it’s just a fad that will blow over and others say that it will, one day, completely take over and rule the world. But where does that leave linguistics, transcript, and translation in the future?


It’s difficult to tell for sure, but at this point, it’s safe to say that AI and machine learning is set to become much more sophisticated and educated than it is already. And that goes for translation and language services as well as other industries. However, it’s unlikely that AI will replace translation completely.


Because as long as there are different languages, and humans speak them, there will be a need for human intervention when it comes to translation. So, the way we see it, the future presents the opportunity for amalgamation between machines and humans to work alongside each other as opposed to against one another. By using the technology of AI in conjunction with the expertise of a human element, it will result in an overall better-quality product.


About IL Consultancy


IL Consultancy comprises a reliable team of language experts ready to help you give your business copy the backing it deserves. We have years of experience in translation, proofreading, transcription and much more. The IL Consultancy team offers reliable solutions to any translation issues. We employ only the best-of-the-best professional translators with adequate experience, so as to ensure that your translated texts, documents, websites or books are impeccable and culturally appropriate.


Translating your marketing copy of business documents is no small undertaking, and certainly not one to be executed with the use of translating programs alone. Instead, we firmly believe that humans are the best fit for the task and aim to work alongside AI rather than rely on it entirely.


For high-quality translations and many more language services, IL Consultancy has your back. Don’t hesitate to get in contact and let us know what you’re looking for today!