Are automated translators good enough for academic research work?

In a span of just a decade, automated and machine-based translators have improved significantly. It didn’t just become more accurate and reliable but have also become more perceptive of language, tone and context. Because of this, many industries have started to rely on automated translators for many of their translation needs, including the academe.

However, because of the technical aspect of the academe’s use of language, just how useful are automated translators in translating manuscripts, papers and books? Let us examine a few key points to see just how reliable automated translators are:

Translating jargon and topic-specific terms.

Automated translators have become excellent in ensuring that translated sentences adhere perfectly to the rules of grammar. They also have no problem translating longer and more complex statements. However, automated translators are still limited in capability especially in terms of translating topic-specific terms or words that possess a special meaning when used within the context of a certain topic area.

In the case of academic papers and manuscripts, it is not uncommon for authors to use jargon or technical terms. These can end up being poorly translated, or worse, mistaken for another term by an automated translator. For instance, those in the field of Economics use the term Elasticity quite differently from those in the field of Physics. Relying solely on automated translators can cause serious issues in maintaining the accuracy and integrity of an academic paper’s content.  

Preserving tone and style.

Each author possesses a unique writing style. Usually, the way one writes contribute significantly in communicating ideas more effectively. This is true even in the case of academic papers where the primary objective of the author is to provide new or in-depth information about a specific topic. One major disadvantage of automated translators is their inability to preserve the tone and the style that the author has. This is because automated translators focus on translating words and phrases directly—causing some sentences to sound quite robotic and unnatural. Human translators, on the other hand, translate not just words but also try to convey the ideas and messages behind them, thereby preserving the tone that the original author adopted when he or she was writing the piece.  

Capturing the nuances of different languages.

Every language has its own set of rules and nuances that automated translators often fail to capture. When translating a complex body of work such as research papers or books, it is important to get a translator who is a proven expert in the specific language or languages you are working with. 

Settling for an automated translator or even an inexperienced human translator can undermine the richness and depth of the original text and can result in an inaccurate or over-simplified translation. For instance, a Spanish translator understands that Spanish sentences are normally longer than other languages, simply and directly translating that to English can result in run-ons and incoherent paragraphs. However, an experienced translator who is adept with the rules and nature of the Spanish language should be able to translate more accurately, more clearly, and more effectively.        

Have you used an automated translator for your work in the past? What are the benefits or problems that you encountered? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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