February 2017

Translation Competition: Why it’s a Mistake to Trust AI Programs

A showdown

A battle was held this Tuesday between humans and machines.

At stake: the reputation of human translators.


The translation competition was organised by Sejong Cyber University and the Korean International Interpretation Translation Association to see whether artificial intelligence could outdo experienced professionals.

Random articles covering a number of topics had to be translated within a certain amount of time.

A panel of experts was then responsible for grading the English translations out of 30.


The results

According to Yonhap News Agency, the human participants scored an average of 25, while the machine translation (MT) program faltered under 15.

The quality of the AI texts was substantially below par and failed to meet satisfactory standards – in terms of both readability and accuracy.


[Tweet “#AI is an opportunity rather than threat. Translators gain new tool for their repertoire. #xl8”]



For all the progress in MT software over recent years, AI continues to lag far behind its human counterparts.

The translation competition only confirms this.

While different programs adopt various approaches – translating either word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase or even sentence-by-sentence, they all struggle especially with context, references, nuance and general accuracy.

Indeed, it seems there is no threat to the future profession of translation.

One of the main dangers of relying on MT is that it takes a translator to actually assess the correctness of its work.

Otherwise, major mistranslations will simply be overlooked. The consequences don’t bear thinking about – particularly in medicine and official documentation.

This means, even if AI were to advance leaps and bounds, MT users would still have to consult a translator.

Any new developments in automatic translation should generally serve as another tool in the translator’s repertoire – much like dictionaries, thesauruses and CAT tools.

Far from replacing me with a machine, technological advancements will allow me to further increase my efficiency – improving the competitiveness of those of us who get on board, as well as the service received by future clients.

With or without translators’ willingness to adopt this future technology, progress will come in AI.

It’s up to me and my profession to embrace it.

How SEO and Translation Ensure Your Message Gets Heard

SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about getting your website to Google’s front page. And that’s important.

When was the last time you checked Google’s second page of results?

Not recently, if ever. Right?

If your website doesn’t make the cut for the first page, your audience is not going to see it.


So, when you decide to have your website translated, you might want to consider asking your translator about what SEO expertise they have.

After all, you want all versions of your website to be visible to your target groups, especially once you’ve gone to the trouble of purchasing a translation.


An SEO translation service is by no means an exercise of cramming as many keywords into your text as you can.

Not only will that result in illegible nonsense, Google’s algorithm may even penalise your website placement.


‘Black hat’ tactics similarly involve hiding heaps of keywords in concealed areas of your website, in an attempt to improve the website’s search ranking without putting off readers.

But these kinds of tricks are not tolerated and will certainly end up with Google hiding your website on page 17.


No, instead what you need is the careful application of ‘white hat’ techniques: moderated keyword usage, fitting headlines and page names, as well as a captivating meta-description.

SEO translations are typically freer, or less constrained by the source text for this reason.

While the overall message and meaning is retained, titles may be rewritten to boost website visibility. Forgotten key phrases may be sprinkled throughout the copy, and greater consultation between the client and translator may be required.


[Tweet “When it comes to websites, translations are good, but SEO translations are better. #xl8”]


If you are interested in a Google-optimised translation of your website, from German to English, drop me a message!