Human or AI? Why human translators are crucial in a high-tech world

25 Jan 2024 12:02pm
Pix for illustration purpose only. Photo by 123RF
Pix for illustration purpose only. Photo by 123RF

KUALA LUMPUR - Despite the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which has posed a threat to the translation industry, the players would not back down and are here to stay, according to International Federation of Translators (FIT).

Acknowledging the challenges faced by the US$65 billion industry, FIT president Alison Rodriguez said while the technology is proven to be useful, it still needs human touch to ensure that everything is perfect as even a simple misplaced punctuation can be detrimental.

"A small word mistranslated by AI could have a potential impact on global stability. Therefore, we can't say that the errors of AI fed translation has on the society is negligible, it can be quite severe and there are all sorts of other concerns, in that respect, we feel we have a role to highlight that translation is important, especially the role of translation in areas of international diplomacy.

"... and also just on a very personal level, in your daily communications and your legal documents, if you sign a legal document that is translated and you believe that the translation is correct, but it was done by AI without having been checked you could find yourself in some serious trouble. So we need to be aware of the dangers and risks,” she said.

Rodriguez said this during the question and answer session of FIT-MTA (Malaysian Translators Association) International Forum titled The role of FIT in today’s translation practice here today.

She however, does not consider the technological revolution as a threat but as something that the players must not neglect but to be embraced to ensure the image of translators stays credible, and encouraging a new generation of players who could not be replaced by machines.

"The market is changing, things are changing but definitely there will be a future for translators. Its about working with the technology not being afraid of it and using it to our advantage.

"It is also about sharing the concerns that we have that using AI and machine translation at the moment it is just not at the level you can go by itself, it still needs professional linguist and translators to be able to work with it and make sure that the results aren’t damaging because using unedited machine translation can cause a lot of problems,” she said.

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The forum is part of a four-day programme which also saw the launch of of FIT ASIA (FIT Asia Region) yesterday (Jan 20) at the Grand Millennium Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

FIT ASIA will operate as part of FIT, based on the bylaws that have been accepted by FIT with its main objective being to succeed in professional, cultural and academic activities, as well as aim to manage and look into the needs and interests of professional associations in the Asian region.

FIT ASIA is the fifth regional centre, joining FIT Europe, FIT North America, FIT Latin America and a newly established, FIT Africa. - BERNAMA