Human v Machine Translation

Human v Machine Translation

This is an extract from a 2010 questionnaire thatI received from a translation agent in Singapore. 


1. How do you feel about the machinetranslation (MT) trend?

I recalled having had a fear that the machinetranslation would replace human translation one day. But in reality, it's hard.When I was doing M.A. in translation in 2002, in a translation resources andterminology course, we got to use a program to do translation by replacingoriginal phrases with translated phrases that had been saved in the program.Then we had to edit the translation to make sure it followed our Thai writingnorm. So my point is that the machine translation can replace human translationonly when it is equipped with all types of sentences, phrases, idioms, normsand usages in relation to context --> which is impossible, at this point.

2. What is your attitude about being asked to edit MTdocuments?

It'll be more work for me. A product of humantranslation is usally constructed according to real life usage (how peoplespeak in daily life in different contexts). Machine translation, I assume it isnot as smart to detect that this translated term fits this orignal text unlesswe can program it just like we program a formula in excel sheet i.e. if thiscell equals to this number, then value of that cell will change to this number.

3. Do you think your language can be successfullymachine translated?

Yes, to some extent but never 100% like humantranslation. For example, just the word 'I', there are several translation forthis in Thai language:

กู - usedbetween close friends in casual context, also can be very rude when swearing.

เรา - means I orwe, depending on the context.

ฉัน - general referencefor a speaker.

ผม - referencefor a male speaker only.

ดิฉัน - reference for a female speaker only.

หนู - referencefor a young female speaker.

ข้อย - reference for a speaker from the northeastern ofThailand (esarn dialect).

อาตมา - reference for a speaker who is a monk.

ข้าพเจ้า - reference for a speaker in official document.

ข้าพระพุทธเจ้า - reference for a speaker when speaking to a member ofthe royal family.

I doubt if the machinetranslation knows which term to use in a sentence.

4. Of the following, what wouldbe a more attractive arrangement for you with general translation work: 

- Higher per word rates with long payment terms(60-90+ days)

- Lower per word rates with short payment term (lessthan 7 days)

No matter how high the word rate is, if the paymentterm is too long, I'll never accept it as a risk of non-payment is higher. For lower per word rate, if it's too low, Iwouldn't take the job as I know what my time and my qualification is worth.

5. Do you find that fast turnaround work a problem?

Not really. If I'm free, I can finish 10 pages (of 300words each) in two days. I think it depends on productivity of each translator.

6. How do you feel about working in the onlineautomated systems that are becoming so common in the localizationindustry? Does it make you work easier or more difficult?

I did a project on Logos. It was OK but I reckonworking on Word offline is faster. Also I did a project relating to immigrationbooklet and the file came with tags. That really confused me and because of thetags, it took longer than I normally take for a translation.

7. Do you use a Translation Memory (CAT) tool now?If so, which one is your preference?

No. I still prefer working on Word.

7b. Do you have any thoughts on Word fast vsTrados?

No comments. I've never used them.

8. Let us know any other issues important to you whenworking with us as a translator.

I've never worked for your firm yet although Ihad signed the confidentiality agreement.


I just realize that I'm old-fashioned. Translators these days use various Computer Aided Translation (CAT)tools.  I use Word and simply use Ctrl + H to replace terms throughoutthe text.  Another reason that I am not a CAT tool user is because thelicence fee costs a little too much for me compared to the amount of work thatI receive that requires CAT tool.

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Sawaddee ka. My name is Nat. I am a certified translator. I have been in the translation industry since 2004.

I graduated a master degree in English-Thai translation from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

I have the following accreditation:
- NAATI Accreditation for EN < > TH translation (Australia)
- Court Expert Registration for EN < > TH translation (Thailand)
- Member (MCIL), Chartered Institute of Linguists (U.K.)

See details about my services here

For a quick quote, email your document to

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