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Evaluating Downsides & Risks of AI Translations

By: Shahzad Bashir Posted on Wed, 11-10-2023

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Do AI translations really have the capacity to outperform human translators?

Well, the impact of AI in the translation industry has become a matter of debate. You will find pro-AI and anti-AI groups giving their opinions about the impact of AI on business. Some argue that AI is the finest solution to futuristic problems, and others find it a threat that will manipulate the human job market and drag them to the edge of an existential crisis.

Though both sides of the argument are more philosophical and have very little scientific backing, to give any final verdict about the influence of AI on the business sector or human survival, we require more in-depth studies.

Let’s have a look at the arguments pro AI translations, as well as the risks attached to AI machine translations.

Understanding How AI Translation Works

Many people assume that AI technology gives cognitive abilities to machines so they can learn and think like humans. Well, there is no magic work goes behind AI. The working of AI machine translation tools is quite scientific, and it does have some drawbacks.

AI machine tools use algorithms along with a huge database to generate translations to and from any language, depending on the language pairs that an AI machine supports.

These tools take input text, process the information, find the most appropriate translations, and return the translated text back to the user. The output of your AI tools also uses translation memory, brand glossary, and other input instructions to generate more accurate results. Your translation memory and glossaries greatly influence the translated outcomes of AI machine tools. Moreover, some AI systems may be built to cater to a certain niche only. So, if a tool is designed for medical translation services, it may not have enough exposure to generate legal translations.

Some Arguments for AI Translation, And Why They’re Not So Strong

AI machine translation tools use advanced algorithms to generate translations, claiming to provide human-like quality and even better. So, before discussing the risk factors, we first need to understand the argument favoring AI machine translations.

Eliminate Human Error

Most AI software companies claim to create software that can eliminate human error entirely and generate error-free translations. Through their advanced machine algorithms, they generate high-quality content with good accuracy. Moreover, because AI machines have access to an extensive number of databases, they can do better research and generate the most appropriate translations for any type of content in any language. Well, to err is human, but machines are not divine, either. Machine tools also make weird mistakes, sometimes worse than humans, so such a claim doesn’t have any solid research backing.

Faster Content Delivery 

The second claim of AI translation companies is that they provide high-quality content within seconds that allows businesses to seamlessly manage a large number of translations. Well, how much quality they offer is a matter of debate, but undoubtedly, these machines can get your content translated in no time. As compared to human translators, the speed of work is way faster. So, high speed and greater work efficiency are other arguments made for pro-AI. However, fast is not always better when quality is compromised.

24/7 Availability 

Businesses can access an AI machine translation tool anytime and generate translations. There is no restriction of time limit like human translators who are only available for a certain time period. However, it is more about the money you want to spend on translations. You can hire human translators during the day and night, and freelance translators are always available in different time zones. So, in this digital age, timing is not an issue in the first place; it is more about affordability. You can pay both machines and translators to translate a document.


Do AI machine translation tools provide much value for money?

Well, you have to buy a monthly subscription to a tool and perform non-stop translation for a certain word limit. However, there is a positive correlation between the cost an AI system charges and the translation quality they provide. Businesses avoid using cheap AI tools because they can badly mess up the quality and context of translation. So, the higher you pay, the better quality you’ll get. Then how does AI claim to offer cost-effective translations?

Just like AI tools are available at high and low prices based on their credibility, they can also find expensive and cheap translators based on the experience they have. Hence, in both cases, we have the choice to make our translation project cost-effective by getting cheap services.

Some Prominent Risks and Drawbacks of AI Translations 

As we can see, most of the arguments made by pro AI are vague and lack solid evidence. You better not blindly trust the translations generated by AI tools because machine tools also have the potential to make mistakes and blunders.

Gaps In Accuracy & Context

Quality translations are not about swapping words from one language to another; they should also be translated in the right context and tone. Translations generated by AI tools mostly lack the right context because the machine can’t be as good as human translators when it comes to understanding linguistic nuances.

Mostly, when you are using machine translation tools to generate translation, the context of the message is lost in translation. Such translations are unable to represent what a brand stands for. Similarly, there may be fluency and readability issues. You always need to give a human touch to your translations for proofreading and editing purposes.

No Emotions, No Cultural Sensitivity 

Again, AI translation tools might not be able to provide culturally appropriate translations and are also not emotionally intelligent. So, you can also expect these tools to produce politically incorrect and emotionally offensive statements. Unfortunately, AI tools are not evolved enough to understand a market’s cultural sensitivities and social nuances. If your content is culture-sensitive, then AI tools are not a good option to go with because the risk of poor translations gets so high.

Professional linguists are still a better choice to create culturally appropriate translations, which will directly impact your brand credibility in a foreign marketplace.

Data Security Issues 

Are AI machine translation tools reliable enough to upload your confidential information? Data security has been a major concern when it comes to using open-source and paid AI tools for business translations. The risk is always there that AI companies may misuse your data for their gains because their algorithms work through data. They may save your data and reuse it later. You will never know if the AI company will sell your data to a third party without your knowledge, and we have already witnessed such cases with popular social media sites. The consequences of handing over your private data to such companies can be risky, and if you’re directly dealing with client data, it can put your brand in trouble for misusing the clients’ information. So, AI technology is full of doubts that make companies avoid taking such risks, and they rather prefer working with in-house translators.

No Personalization 

As mentioned earlier, AI works through algorithms, so you don’t really have the option to give these systems a long list of customizations like you typically do with your professional translators. For instance, you can choose the language pairs, but you can’t give market demographic research data to make your translations more resonating with the target customer. On the flip side, professional translators understand the context, tone, style, and intent of content to effectively transfer the same message to another language and market demographic.  

When it comes to personalizing your translation to core brand needs, AI tools have some limitations. So, the current AI technology doesn’t seem promising enough to replace human translators anytime soon.

It’s Not Fully Independent

Pro AI has been bragging about the miracles of artificial intelligence and how they have the capacity to replace humans. I mean, come on. Keep the debate about quality issues aside; we all know these AI tools can’t even function on their own and also require human intervention to upload and proceed with the information. Not just that, but once the translation is done, humans edit and proofread it for quality assurance. These tools are totally sandwiched around human efforts, yet making such big claims.

AI is helpful in enhancing human work capacity and relieving the operational burden, but it does have many shortcomings that we must not brush under the carpet.

Localization Issues

We primarily use translations to localize the brands, so they can smoothly seep into new cultures. AI machine translation tools do cause issues with brand localization. Referring back to the cultural insensitivity of AI tools, MT tools might not be able to generate in-context translations for a specific region. For instance, AI tools may provide the same translation for both USA and UK markets, totally ignoring the cultural context and other social nuances. So, you can’t target people from different regions separately. If you use AI tools, you are not localizing your brand; you are only translating it into another language.

Wrapping Up!

It is better not to get overwhelmed by the presence of AI tools in the translation industry. AI will not cause any prominent threat to human translators as long as they keep themselves up with changing times. However, translators need to get their hands on the latest technology because the traditional way of translation is gradually going out of business. So hope for the good, and keep calm because the future seems bright for translators!