4 Major Limitations of Human Translations

The demand for translation jobs is literally skyrocketing. According to a prediction by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the period 2012-2022, jobs in the the translation industry are expected to grow at the rate of 46 percent. This figure is even more exceptional when compared with the average growth rate of careers in other industries, which stands at a timid 11 percent.

Though machine translation made its entry way back in the 1950s, it was not until early 2000s that it began finding acceptance.

Now, before dwelling upon the topic at hand, let us put forward a caveat. The quality of software translation is still no match when compared to the translation done by humans.

No amount of AI (artificial intelligence), up until now, has managed to reach a level where it could replace human translation. Besides, given the complexities involved in translation (like context, tone, sarcasm, idioms etc.), it seems like software will not be able to make human translators redundant in the near future.

However, as the translation industry is burgeoning, the challenges associated with such fast-paced growth are becoming more evident. Relying solely on human translations may have an impact on your competitiveness.

Here are 4 major limitations of human translation that you should take into consideration, and a few tips that can help you cut corners when needed.

1. Slow Speed

On an average, it is estimated that a human translator can translate 200-250 words in an hour. This corresponds to 1000-1500 words per day, considering breaks, checks etc. If your document is made up of 10,000 words or more, it would easily take 10 working days to be translated. Compare this with a software, which will literally do the job in a few seconds.

Though the quality would naturally be different, time to market is a very important factor to consider. You may act creatively and use machine translation temporarily as a patch until humans complete the translation work. Or you may use machine translation as a base and only do proofreading to correct mistakes and improve the overall quality of the content to make the process quicker.

2. Higher Cost

A freelance translator roughly makes around $45,000 a year. However, a highly skilled one does not have a cap over their earnings. This reality makes translation a costly affair.

Cost consciousness is a crucial common denominator for all businesses, and using human translators often causes one to go beyond the stipulated budget. This situation can be remedied by identifying a few key pages that are worth spending money on, and having them translated by humans, while using machine translation for the rest.

3. Confidentiality Risks

Outsourcing anything carries the risk of your secrets getting leaked. The same holds true when you hand over a job to human translators. However, while contracting out an agency or hiring a freelancer, you can at least make sure that they are reputable and trustworthy. Besides, we strongly recommend taking care of legal documents like non-disclosure agreements etc. to be on the safer side. In addition to this, it is usually better not to hire translators who are working for your competitors.

4. Time and Resources to Find the Right Resource

Finding a good translator has its own challenges. Apart from being proficient in both languages (source and target), a translator should have some knowledge of the subject of translation as well. Besides, a freelancer should fit into a budget and must have the bandwidth to deliver the assigned work timely. It’s a lot of requirements, and this makes the process cumbersome.

Often, large Language Service Providers (LSPs) assign a different translator every time, which eliminates the necessary continuity that allows the translator to learn about your needs and content (terminology, style, tone etc.) and improve his translation over time.

If you have the right translator, make sure you find a way to continue working with them, or else you will end up wasting a lot time recruiting new ones.

To sum it up, human translation does have limitations; yet, quality wise, it is the best. Though pure machine translations can never be an alternative, by being creative you can overcome the limitations of human translation and at the same time, turn this technology in your favor.