WHEN AI GOES WRONG

The Top 5 Pitfalls of AI Translation

AI is a marvel of the modern age, yet far from infallible. At GORR, we see it as a tool – one that demands a substantial amount of expertise to be wielded effectively.

An AI generated humanoid robot that does not understand the nuanced human side of translation services.

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has brought about significant advancements in various fields, including translation services.

While AI tools have undoubtedly streamlined the process of converting text from one language to another, it is not without its flaws. This makes it all the more necessary to explore said pitfalls and potential dangers before pinning too much faith in this fantastically futuristic technology.


1. Cultural Insensitivity and Racism:

The word "racism" made out of the word "injustice" concerning AI's use of stereotypes and racism in translation.

Languages are not isolated entities, but are deeply intertwined with the cultures they represent. AI algorithms, devoid of cultural and racial awareness, can inadvertently produce translations that are culturally insensitive, inappropriate or even racist, as was the case with an AI Amazon translation not so long ago.

Human translators, on the other hand, possess the cultural localization skills and acumen necessary to adapt, alter, edit and refine translations, ensuring that the final message aligns with cultural norms and values.

2. Contextual Blind Spots:

Three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, contributing to blind spots in AI translation.

AI “translation” engines operate on patterns and statistical models, often struggling to grasp the intricate nuances of human language and context. This deficiency can result in translations that lack the depth of understanding required to convey the intended meaning accurately. At the end of the day, AI is bound to the training it receives and if that training is flawed, we cannot expect excellence in any sense.

Alternatively, human language service providers bring a nuanced understanding of context, enabling them to navigate idiomatic expressions and cultural intricacies that AI might overlook.

3. Ambiguity and Multiple Meanings:

A man looking through the ambiguities and multiple meanings of words that AI cannot correctly translate.

Natural languages are rife with words and phrases that carry multiple meanings, and context is paramount in determining the intended sense. AI may struggle with polysemy, leading to ambiguous or inaccurate translations. Let’s take an example offered by Philip Jackson and ScienceDirect to illustrate:

“Peter: is John a good accountant? Mary: John is a computer.”

From the context, we understand that Mary’s response is not literal, and the John is not, in fact, a computer. Our human experience with life and language tells us that Mary is speaking metaphorically, informing us that John is good at crunching numbers, naturally making him a good accountant. However, personal testing reveals that AI translates this statement literally, leaving us with something confusing at best and useless at worst.

4. Industry-Specific Challenges:

Medical translation is a critical part of the industry and the value of human translator often prevents disaster.

Certain industries, such as legal, medical, or technical fields, often require precise and specialized terminology. AI may falter when faced with industry-specific jargon, resulting in inaccuracies that could and have had serious consequences.

Legal, medical, and technical translation services are equipped with domain knowledge and can accurately convey complex concepts and ensure that the translation meets the stringent standards of these specialized fields, often saving lives in the process.

5. The Evolution of Language:

Language development is something often missed by AI and requires a human translator to keep language translations up to date.

Languages are dynamic, constantly evolving with new words, expressions, and colloquialisms. AI models struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of linguistic evolution, leading to outdated or awkward translations, particularly when it comes to slang.

Human language service providers, actively engaged with contemporary language usage, can provide translations that resonate with current (local) linguistic trends, ensuring that texts remain both relevant and accessible.

Regardless of the current excitement surrounding AI’s translation potential, collaboration between AI and human translators is not just a matter of preference but a strategic necessity to guarantee accurate, culturally sensitive, and contextually rich translations.

With effective cross-cultural communication being paramount to global communication, we at GORR believe that the judicious application of human expertise remains an indispensable component in the pursuit of linguistic precision and clarity.


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