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Who Needs Human Interpreters When You Have Google Translate – Instant Artificial Intelligence Translation?

By Wayan Vota on June 25, 2024

google translate ict4d translators

Esperanto is a constructed international language created by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 as a universal second language for international communication. It’s aim was to foster harmony between people from different countries so that all nations would be united in a common brotherhood, and we could achieve world peace.

Unesco resolutions support its promotion and Esperanto is the most successful auxiliary language, however Esperanto has not been a official language of any recognized country. Today, only around 100,000 people know how to speak Esperanto. Instead, humans speak over 7,000 recognized languages, and world peace is a far distant hope.

Interpreters vs. Google AI Instant Translation

Esperanto is a failure for both global communication and world peace. We need a new solution for speaking with people outside of our language groups and you should be localizing your IC4D solutions already. Traditionally, we’ve used interpreters – linguistic experts who convert speech from a source language into a target language.

However, interpreters are relatively rare and expensive, and even digital translation services not realistic for many digital development applications. Artificial intelligence advancements in language translation spurs the question: “Could Google Translate replace human interpreters in ICT4D interventions?” And the answer: “Yes, for most digital development applications.”

Google Translate Scale and Scope

Google Translate is already great at natural language processing of text to text translation in over 130 languages and has over 1 billion users. Since moving to Neural Machine Translation in 2016, Google Translate is reaching 94% accuracy across those languages. Now that Google incorporated Translatotron in the Android mobile application, you can use audio input to translate speech simultaneously.

Even more interesting: Google Translate can provide instant voice translation for free. A speed and price unmatched by human translators. That means AI-driven translation can be integrated into digital development solutions for for real-time, on-the-fly translation of text and speech – even for low-resource languages – giving every tool a multilingual user interface. Google claims the Translate tool can even be integrated with augmented reality services.

Google Translate Continuous Improvement

Google Translate continuously improves through machine learning algorithms, which learn from a vast corpus of translations to enhance accuracy. Artificial intelligence solutions also strive to encapsulate the depth of cultural expressions inherent in native languages. This dynamic learning process allows Google Translate to keep up with changes in language use and slang, which is a more static process for human translators.

Google Translate Limitations

Google Translate offers a quick and convenient way to understand or be understood, without the need for an intermediary. Still, there are limitations of AI translation compared to human translators.

Human translators excel at understanding cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, and context. This is a uniquely human trait. Even the Neural Machine Translation version of artificial intelligence in Google Translate cannot convey subtle nuance – yet.

Professional human translators are also often necessary for specialized fields like legal, medical, or technical translations, where precision and expert knowledge are critical. One study found that Google Translate was over 90 percent accurate for Spanish medical terms but only 80-90 percent for Tagalog, Korean, and Chinese. Then it dropped to 67 percent accuracy in Farsi and 55 percent accuracy in Armenian.

Human translators are also needed for niche languages that are not widely represented online or in text format. Artificial intelligence translation requires vast amounts of training data that is not always available for the world’s 7,000+ languages.

When to Use Google AI Instant Translation

AI-driven tools like Google Translate provide a more practical, efficient, and dynamic solution for overcoming language barriers in our increasingly interconnected world.

We can use Google AI instant translation for ICT4D projects where speed, accessibility, language coverage, and cost-effectiveness matter. Google Translate is a game-changer for most digital development applications. Google Translate is not a complete replacement for human translators in health and other specialized fields.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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