In the era of machine-translation equipment developed like nowadays, perharps all of us have heard saying as “Someday we won’t need to learn foreign languages anymore”. , “There will be the time when translation and interpretation becomes redundant”…
However, we all know that is not the case. And maybe those words are just some fallacies of those who can’t understand the value of language as well as the translation industry.
Language represents cultural identity
Let’s take a simple example: In English, though there is a word “I” used to refer to oneself, there is no word that can fully express the meaning of the word “I” – a word that is used to myself in Vietnamese.
We all know that in English speaking countries people often use the word “I” to denote themselves in most cases. However, Vietnamese is not like that. Depending on social status, age as well as family structure, the personal pronouns will be differently used. The root cause comes from the fact that Vietnamese people have a tradition of respecting the elderly while this in English is almost nonexistent. Therefore, we can say that the language of a country is closely related to the culture of that country.
This is true not only in Vietnamese but also in other languages. For example, about the pair of words “Watashi” (Japanese) and “I” (English) both refer to themselves but, like Vietnamese, we cannot equate them and say they are the same. All languages in this world have their own distinctive characteristics formed and cultivated from the cultural identity and way of thinking of the people in that country. Therefore, when we translate any language, depending on the accumulated experience of the translators themselves, different products will be produced.
Language is a very indefinite thing
Language has always been considered as something indefinite. In Vietnamese, we have the word “Mother” used to refer to the person who gave birth and whose gender is female. However, in our Vietnamese family, the usage of the word “Mother” as I mentioned above is not always correct. For example, in the family, the child calls the person who gave birth to him “Mother”, the father also uses the common name for the child in Vietnamese culture, but calls his wife “Mother”. Even grandparents follow their grandchildren and call their children/daughters-in-law “Mother”. This definition can be said to be completely different from other common meanings. However, under the profound influence of culture, such meanings are still recognized and used.
For these reasons, it makes translation job even more and more difficult when transferring the meaning of indefinite things recorded in a same indefinite language into the native language.
Translation is a real “profession”.
It can be said that translating indefinite and unclear things from one language into another is an art. A language itself is indefinite but now put in a culturally different context that makes translation more difficult than ever. Perhaps even human can not ensure that they can convey 100% of the original meaning of the original text into another language (let alone the computer does). For that reason, in some cases, it is imperative to perform translation, we can define that translation is the use of all abilities to convey to the reader/listener core, important, essential information.
Limitation of machines
We all know, current translation machines can automatically detect and correct spelling errors, however cannot find errors that are not suitable for the context, but can correct spelling errors as in the example below:
“Give me the candy” (The difference between é and ê makes a very interesting confusion in terms of meaning: Give me the scissors ≠ Give me the candy while lexical and grammatical factor of the sentence is absolutely correct.)
Of course, if you are a human, you can identify the above mistake and understand the writer’s intentions. But machines can’t. If the machine can’t do this, can it provide a good quality translation? This seems unlikely.
On the other hand, there are many types of interpreting machine on the market today, but can these machines really act as an interpreter in some situations such as face-to-face communication or in chat?
In face-to-face conversations, before the other person finishes his/her saying, people can already give feedback. But can machines do the same?
In addition, communication is not only the use of words but also non-verbal communication behaviors based on the strength and weakness of the voice or facial expressions. Even we must have faced with many unexpected situations by misunderstanding the implied meaning of the word.
Perhaps translation as a work performed by humans is still existed. However, the translation machine and equipment are also constantly evolving. If the speed still remains, perhaps in the near future, apart from translating literary works and other types of documents that require high accuracy, people will only need to proofread and edit the translated products by translation machines. It also means that the translation and interpretation jobs that require people to perform from start to finish are also becoming less.