Rise of the machines – computers vs professional translation services

computers vs professional translation services

Are professional translation services set to become a thing of the past? These days, translation software such as Google Translate is becoming more advanced and is being used more and more frequently. But how does it hold up in terms of the quality it produces?

To find out, we chose the story of ‘The boy who cried wolf’, a popular Aesop’s fable with a thought-provoking moral (nobody believes liars, even when they’re telling the truth!). We then put the German version of this famous moral through machine translation.

The German reads as follows:

  • “Wer einmal lügt, dem glaubt man nicht, auch wenn er dann die Wahrheit spricht.”

There’s no denying this sentence has a nice, catchy rhythm that sticks in your mind.

So how did Google Translate replicate this?

  • “Once you lie, you do not believe it, even if it then speaks the truth.”

Not quite the same is it?

Here’s a quick reminder of the intended meaning in English to help you compare:

  • “Nobody believes liars, even when they’re telling the truth.”

Not only has the version from Google Translate lost its rhythm and rhyme, but it doesn’t actually make much sense at all. A mysterious ‘it’ has appeared out of nowhere, for example. It’s certainly not a catchy expression with a clear message that could be used for teaching lessons to children.

The moral of the story?

Don’t use machine translation! Well, not quite – after all, that’s down to you and what you need the translation for. But if you do choose to use it, remember to bear in mind that a machine may not get it quite right and, even if it does, the result may not quite live up to the original in terms of style.

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Disclaimer: All of the translation examples given in this blog represent the translation quality provided by the online translation tools in question at the time of publishing.