Why Thai-English Machine Translators Cannot Beat Human Translators

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You may have thought about the affordable cost of using a computer program as the key reason why you should use a machine translator instead of a professional (human) translator. While cost should be a factor, there are several reasons why a machine translator like Google translate should not be your first option if you want quality translation services. Read the discussion below to learn why a machine can never beat a human translation service.

1. Absence of Flow

Each language has its own grammar rules that guide the users of that language on how to construct their sentences in order to communicate effectively. Herein lies a major weakness of machine translators like Google translate; they focus on “changing” a word from one language (such as Thai) to another language (such as English). The net result is that the target text (English, for example) will contain the same words as in the source text (Thai) but the translated text will be very hard to follow. This is because the machine is unable to generate a text that is structured to be followed by a human reader because its focus is on accurately changing words from one language to another, rather than making the text understandable.

2. Absence of Nuance

Communication is achieved at a variety of levels or using a variety of techniques, such as metaphors and humor. Machines rely on computer programs in order to work so it is very hard (or almost impossible) for them to grasp those language subtleties conveyed in humor or metaphor. Consequently, machine translators will produce a translation that is so bad that you will wish you had hired a human professional translator to translate for you.

3. Lack of Contextualization

In most languages (and Thai is no exception) a word can have very many meanings attached to it. Users of that language select the specific meaning implied based on the context in which that word has been used. Are computer programs capable of such contextual interpretation of utterances? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Chances are therefore very high that the machine translator will select a meaning that is not the appropriate one based on the context or localization of the source text. However, a human translation service will be in a better position to put every statement into context so you are more likely to get an accurate translation when compared to a Thai-English translation by a computer program like Google translate.

4. Lack of Flexibility

Machine translators, such as Google translate rely on very few tools to translate a text from one language (such as Thai) to another language (such as English). For instance, the computer program relies on an embedded dictionary in order to change words from one language to another, quickly. That lack of flexibility can be a major drawback in effective translation since communication requires complex processing in order to capture a message effectively. For instance, a professional human translator will use his or her knowledge of the Thai culture in order to convey the meaning behind a given gesture that accompanies the words spoken by someone. The machine translator will totally miss the rich meaning conveyed by the gesture since it will only focus on the spoken word during the communication process. A clear example of this glaring lack of complexity can be shown by how inadequate movie subtitles are in conveying the full force of what the actors are communicating to each other. This is because body language plays a very crucial role in the communication process but the machine translator is incapable of capturing the impact of non-verbal cues.

Are machine translators totally useless?

Does the discussion above mean that machine translators are totally useless and they should never be used? Certainly not. Machine translators do have their merits such as their ability to give you a quick idea of what someone is saying in Thai. This machine translation should be regarded as a draft of what is being said if there is no one who knows the language to translate a given text.
You should therefore know the limitations of machine translation services so that you avoid the pitfalls that exist when such translation approaches are used. Your best bet of getting effective translation is to get a professional translator so that you are sure that you are not missing anything conveyed by the Thai text that you are interested in, such as a contract for a business deal that you have been negotiating with your prospective Thai partners.

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