If you and your family are moving overseas or are going to spend a considerable amount of time overseas, one of the things you are likely to do is to think of getting vaccinations up to date before you leave. There are many parts of the world where vaccinations are more important than others. It’s only common sense to visit your doctor well before you travel to find out if you need any vaccinations for the place you intend visiting.
If you are coming to live in Australia or spend a lot of time here on business you may already have thought of everything. You probably realise that you are coming to a country that has a very good health record and appreciate being able to use the modern health services here. Of course, you will have had several experiences in China with your own heath system and it may be important to bring with you documents of one type or another relating to your health. These may not be needed for immigration as you will almost certainly be independently examined by a doctor in Australia to have your health status approved. However, any documents you have may still be usefully translated into English by an immigration translator Sydney if you intend going to Sydney to live or you can use a Chinese NAATI translator to do the translations for you.
Back in the 1950s, IBM calculated that translating a short piece of text required more than double the number of computing instructions needed to simulate a guided missile in flight. While computing power has increased literally exponentially since then, improvements in machine translation have not kept pace. That there have certainly been improvements is beyond doubt. When Google translate first started, its attempts at translation were the stuff of legend. Now, for simple phrases, it has a decent chance of getting a close match. Ironically these improvements have come about since Google stopped trying to teach its system how to speak a language. Instead, Google Translate now looks through literally hundreds of millions of websites to find possible matches and uses a complex algorithm to pick the best.
Even with all these improvements, Google translate still regularly produces some questionable results. The most common issue of all is with words which have multiple meanings. Ship, for example, can be a noun or a verb. “Ship it!” can also be a slang expression. In translation context is crucial and computers still are nowhere close to grasping the full complexity of any human language.
Efforts to continue to improve machine translation are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The simple reality is that it’s much cheaper than using a human and for content which dates quickly may eventually be a cost-effective solution. For work which is expected to have a long-term impact, however, a human translator is a necessity. A NAATI accredited translator offering a certified translation service will not only produce a document which conveys the meaning of the source text, but will also ensure that any cultural requirements are accommodated. A Chinese NAATI translator for example, will be familiar with customs both in China and in the country (or countries) of their target language and will be able to ensure that any implicit assumptions are conveyed.
Back in the days of the cold war, two diplomats, who’d both been athletes in their youth, decided to have a race. In the U.S. it was reported as follows: yesterday a U.S. diplomat and a Russian diplomat had a race. The U.S. diplomat won. In Russia it was reported as follows: yesterday there was a race between diplomats. The Russian diplomat came second, the U.S. diplomat came last but one. The moral of the story is that context is key. This period is also particularly rich in stories about the difficulties caused by translations (or lack thereof) and mistranslations – some of them may even be true.
It’s probably fair to say that the more different two languages are, the harder it is to translate between them. A Chinese NAATI translator, for example, arguably has a much more challenging job than a German NAATI accredited translator. It’s not just the words themselves that need to be conveyed, but all the assumptions behind them. Not with standing this, a reputable company offering a certified translation service will ensure that language is no barrier to effective communication. It may be fun to laugh at someone else’s translation experiences, but it’s no fun to have to worry about the quality of your own.
Computers have undoubtedly changed the world, although often not in the ways people initially imagined. IBM for example, confidently predicted a world where computers would be better than humans in numerous ways. Their famous Deep Blue computer finally best chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, although that game was far from without controversy as there was human intervention between games and IBM declined Kasparov’s demand for a rematch, retiring the machine.
While Deep Blue has become a matter of legend, another IBM creation, computer 701 has been quietly forgotten. Sixty years ago this year, IBM used 701 to translate sentences from Russian to English. This promptly led to headlines suggesting that human translators would soon be surplus to requirements. Without wishing to detract from the significance of IBM’s achievement, neither they nor any of the many companies now offering machine translation, not even the Google, have come close to replacing humans. It’s also worth noting, that Google Translate has had a huge degree of input from humans. While, in fairness, it’s probably helped many a lost backpacker read local signs, it’s unlikely that any respectable company would use it for any significant piece of translation.
Machine translation is largely based on statistical matches and as any good statistician would admit, statistics don’t always tell the whole story. A NAATI accredited translator offering a certified translation service will look at a piece of text in context. A Chinese NAATI translator for example will be familiar both with Chinese culture and the culture of the target language country. This means that they can deal both with the translatable and the untranslatable, words and broader concepts which simply do not exist in the target language. This may mean creating a piece of text where they are explained as no direct translation is possible.