With incredible computing power now at everyone’s fingertips, there’s a growing belief that learning languages could become obsolete. As smartphones can now instantly interpret conversations or translate text in a foreign language, the stuff of science fiction has, on the face of it, become a reality.
However, we’re still a long way from being able to use an app to flawlessly communicate with colleagues or business associates around the world. We still see countless hilarious translation fails like the menu offering “the fragrant spring onion explodes the cow” or instructions like “hold down handle when flashing” and that’s because simple translation engines often miss the cultural nuances of language.
Culture is key to avoid getting lost in translation
The majority of translation and interpretation apps simply translate word for word and that is an instant recipe for disaster. The English language, for example has 179 different meanings for the word “run” depending on the context, while the word “set” has 119 different meanings and even “hand” has 92 interpretations. So, if you don’t consider the word in context the final translation can be a long way from its original meaning.
When you also consider the spoken word, the potential for misinterpretation is even greater. Even if a person is speaking perfectly, words can easily be misunderstood when out of context and the chances of an app understanding the local vernacular are slim at best.
Critically, it’s important to fully understand local culture, regional variations and the context of every speech and piece of written content. It’s here that the one-size fits all approach won’t meet the grade. When it comes to universal machine translation – yes, it has benefits, but when you are a business hoping to make the right impression or a medical professional who’s correct interpretation is vital, these systems come up wanting.
Understanding the language of business
In business, translation using these systems also becomes perilous. Every industry has its own unique terminology and language and, in all likelihood, these unique words, jargon and phrases will be incomprehensible to standard systems.
It is the combination of human linguists working hand in hand with the latest technological developments which offers a solution which can be trusted to convey a message accurately and professionally.