Who needs human document translation services when there are machine translations? That is a question the professional translation services industry is increasingly grappling with. Machine translation programs are capable of learning. They make use of machine learning to render increasingly sophisticated and natural sounding translations. Many are saying it is a full-blown coup d’état. But let’s not get too enthusiastic. Claims that it is the end of the professional translation services industry as we know it are premature.

Machine Document Translation Services Are Improving

In traditional machine translation, a machine translator will use publically available translation data. It collects data for a range of different documents. For example, the machine will use documents already translated from English to French. Using this data, the machine will judge how to best translate a particular phrase or sentence from English to French. A machine-learning algorithm will crunch all of this kind of available data to detect patterns. This is how machines “learn” to translate. There is no denying that machine-learning translations are getting better. They are getting more adept at specialized translations, for example. This includes medical, legal, and technical translation services. Many machine translators can even receive human feedback. That means that if a human inputs a “better” translation, the machine will remember it and use it in the future.

But Are Machine Document Translation Services Good Enough?

According to consulting firm Common Sense Advisory, the industry still generates a lot of revenue. In fact, revenue generation in the translation and interpreting industry is approximately $37 billion per year. That means that in spite of the rise of machine translation services, human translators are still stealing a lion’s share of the business. That is because they offer a quality that machine translation services simply can’t offer.

The standard of machine document translation is generally acceptable. But machine voice translation services still have along way to go. There are notable limitations. “In a way, you have to make a compromise. You have to know whom are you talking to. You are talking to a speech recognizer, a machine,” explained Joseba Abaitua. Abaitua is a professor at the modern foreign languages department at the University of Deusto. He explained that when people speak slowly and clearly in short sentences, a machine can typically handle the translation. “The machine can start understanding you quite well. But if you start talking with a lot of colloquialism, then the whole system breaks down,” he added. For a complete critique of voice language translation apps, check out this BBC article.

The bottom line? It is unlikely that machines will ever usurp humans in the professional translation services industry. This is especially true when it comes to specialized translation services, like legal or technical. What machine translation can do is help improve the accuracy and efficiency of human translation.

Google Translate is a handy tool known for providing convenient written translation services. However, a recent update of the popular foreign language translation services tool has greatly improved its capabilities. Thanks to technology powered by Word Lens, the foreign language translation services tool will also now be able to translate text in photos. Users will only need to hold their phone up to the text for the tool to work its magic. And it isn’t just an English translation services tool. Word Lens is compatible with a range of different languages, including French, Spanish, and Russian.

Word Lens: Improving Foreign Language Translation Services

Google acquired Quest Visual, the company behind Word Lens technology, last year. For more information about Word Lens, check out this TechCrunch Review. Essentially, if you want to translate text, you just need to place your phone up to the text. The translation will appear over the original text. It’s taking written translation services to a whole new level!

“The Translate app already lets you use camera mode to snap a photo of text and get a translation for it in 36 languages. Now, we’re taking it to the next level and letting you instantly translate text using your camera,” Google said in an official blog post. “It’s way easier to navigate street signs in the Italian countryside or decide what to order off a Barcelona menu. While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text. You’ll see the translated text overlaid on your screen — even if you don’t have an Internet or data connection.”

The Quest for Perfection in Automated Foreign Language Services Tools

Word Lens isn’t perfect just yet. It can manage clear, bold text OK. However, it struggles with stylized text or handwriting. Even if it can’t come up with a perfect translation, it can usually get the job done. However, it looks like Google hasn’t finished pulling tricks out of its sleeve just yet.

“With Word Lens, we’ve seen the beginnings of what’s possible when we harness the power of mobile devices to ‘see the world in your language,’” the company said in a statement. “We can incorporate Quest Visual’s technology into Google Translate’s translation capabilities.”

So, what is in store for Google’s foreign language translation services tool? Only time will tell, but it looks like we can expect improved translation services soon. It looks like the company will be expanding from written translation services into the visual realm. Many have also anticipated that Word Lens technology will be expanded to other languages. It is currently available for Portuguese, German, Italian, and French translation. It is also available for Russian, Spanish, and English translation services.

When it comes to legal document translation, translation services need to get it right. High-quality, accurate legal document translation is a matter of life and death — literally. 28-year-old Sunil Ombase is all too aware of this. Because of a legal document translation error, the Indian man was sentenced to death for the murder of his son.

On Aug. 16, 2013, Ombase was sentenced to death for murdering his son and sister-in-law and attempting to kill his wife. According to the official police report, a fight broke out between Ombase and his wife, Sanjivani, the night of Dec. 31, 2013. As tensions rose, Ombase pulled out a knife and stabbed his wife. He then stabbed and killed his son, Swapnil, and sister-in-law, Pallavi, with the weapon.

A Legal Document Translation Blunder

During his initial interrogation, Ombase told police that he acted out of “rage and sudden provocation.” He said he was infuriated by his wife’s comments about his impotency and sexual incapacity. Though his wife vehemently denied these claims, under cross-examinations she did admit that she had provoked her husband.

However, her statement, which was originally translated in Marathi, was wrongly translated by the trial court. According to The Indian Express, the original translation read:

It is not true to say that. The accused did not have intention to assault me or to kill my son and sister, following my unwarranted comments.

However, the judges clarified that it should have been translated as:

As I provoked the accused, he assaulted me, my son, and my sister. He had no intention to kill us.

Professional Government Translation Services: A Matter of Life and Death

The High Court acknowledged that the crime was heinous. However, it did not feel that the death sentence was warranted, and commuted the original sentence. The sentence was changed to life imprisonment, plus 10 addition years.

“Even if the accused was not having intention to commit murder of the children, he inflicted knife blows on two innocent helpless children. [He caused] a bodily injury, sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. Therefore, the offence committed by the accused with respect to the said two children falls undoubtedly within the purview of Section 302,” the court ruled. “Considering the entire evidence on record, including the admission given by Sanjivani . . . we are of the considered view that it is not a case which falls in the category of ‘rarest or rare,’ where imposition of death sentence is imperative.”

The case ultimately illustrates the importance of high-quality legal translation services. Without proper government translation services, justice is at risk.

Russian English translation is no easy feat. It is especially difficult when translating literary giants like Tolstoy, Pushkin, Bulgakov, and Dostoevsky. What makes Russian language translation so difficult? Well, many major Russian literary figures are known for their experimental styles. But to accommodate the preferences of an English audience, translators often made conservative choices. They opted to mold the works into a more classic and traditional English version, killing the original feel of the text. Of course, many contend that this is a major translation sin. Russian literary master Vladimir Nabokov condemned translators who produced texts to please the public. Instead, he argued that translators should always stay true to the original literary text.

So, when it comes to Russian literature, which translations from Russian to English are the most authentic? The most literary? The best? Check out these shining examples of excellent Russian English translations of literary classics.

 Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor. Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” always manages to top the list of the best Russian novels. Written in the style of a kind of Russian magical realism, it is exciting and engaging. The problem is that when the novel was first released in Russia, it was censored by the Soviet regime. Two of the current four English language translations are based on this version. But this of course means the translation from Russian to English is incomplete. In contrast, the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor version is based on the complete Russian text.

 Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Many English readers assume that Tolstoy’s style is classic, elegant, and straightforward. This is a result of a series of prim and proper Victorian-era translations done by Constance Garnett. While Tolstoy’s style of writing is clear, it isn’t classic. In fact, Tolstoy was a pioneer of unconventional narratives. In his masterpiece “War and Peace,” for example, he often ignored the rules of grammar. He tried to recreate the looseness of the spoken word. He often used idiomatic expressions that have no place in formal Russian. He is also repetitive, often using the same word a dozen times in the same paragraph. In one of the text’s most famous sentences, Tolstoy uses the word “round” five times to describe the peasant Platon Karataev. This choice was a deliberate one, used to create a particular rhythm and rhetorical effect. But translators such as Garnett have often chosen to “clean up” such passages. While the result is a text that is easier to read, it destroys the unique Tolstoyan style. Luckily, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation preserves many of Tolstoy’s nonconformist choices. As a result, his unique style is accessible to English readers.

For a few fascinating examples of how the two preserve his style, take a look at this New Yorker article. When it comes to Russian language translation, Pevear and Volokhonsky are among the best of the best. They have translated a range of classics, from Gogol to Bulgakov. You can’t go wrong with any of their translations from Russian to English.

 Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” translated by David McDuff. David Remnick said that “The Brothers Karamazov” is “the most polyphonic of Dostoyevsky’s novels.” He explained that it is “the one with the most voices, tones, and textures braided into the text.” It is also humorous, something often lost in early attempts at translation from Russian to English. There is also a stellar Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of this classic. But many experts say that the McDuff translation best preserves Dostoyevsky’s sense of humor. All in all, it is a lively read and a highlight of Russian language translation.

Forget about media translation services. When it came time to turn the popular “Game of Thrones” book series into an HBO television series, the creators had to bring the language alive. But they didn’t turn to a translation company to bring the book’s exotic languages to life. They hired David Peterson, a professional language creator. Peterson has created Dothraki, High Valyrian, and several dialects of Low Valyrian for the show, which has a devoted fan base. He says he has crafted over 5,000 words in total.

Experts say this kind of language development is part of an emerging trend in Hollywood. “There’s been a sea change in Hollywood. They realize there’s a fan base out there that wants constructed languages,” said Matt Pearson, a linguistics professor at Reed College in Portland, OR. Pearson was the creator of the language Thhtmaathe. Thhtmaathe was the language of the aliens on the NBC series “Dark Skies.” The bottom line? Forget about media translation services. Language development is the next big thing.

Inventing a Language

As it turns out, developing a language is much more complex than your standard professional language translation services. How was Peterson able to pull it off?

Peterson explained that two main factors come into play: topography and technology. “The topography of the area, which helps determine what these people do and don’t have words for, and what their lifestyle is like,” he said. “The second factor is their level of technology. The world of ‘Game of Thrones’ is at a significantly lower level of technology than the modern world. And in the case of Dothraki, they are at a technology level that’s below even that. It seems that their culture is very insular. They don’t let their interactions with other people influence their lifestyle. What that said to me is that the Dothraki are going to have words for their own lifestyle, and they may borrow other terms. For example, the Dothraki word for ‘book’ is borrowed from Valyrian.”

Of course, Peterson has also added several personal touches to the language. “My wife has a word in every language. Her name is Erin, which is the basis for ‘kind’ in Dothraki,” Peterson explained. “My cat’s name is Keli and the word for ‘cat’ in High Valyrian is ‘kēli.’” For more great insights into the language creation process, check out this interview.

 Playing Translation Jokes on the Audience

A professional language translation services agency wouldn’t get away with playing translation jokes. Neither would a professional translation company. But Peterson certainly can.

“There’s a scene where the Meereenese rider is challenging Daenerys’ champion. He’s shouting and Nathalie Emmanuel [Missandei] is translating — but she’s not translating what he’s saying,” he said. “He’s actually saying a Low Valyrian translation of the French guy’s insults in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ That was [series creator] Dan Weiss’s idea. It was so hilarious that I had to do it.”

So that part where the champion is insulting Daenerys Targaryen? He is actually saying: “You don’t frighten us, English pig-dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so called Arthur King, you and all your silly English Kah-nights.” Other hidden insults include calling Daenerys an “empty-headed animal food trough wiper.” He also told her that her mother was a hamster and that her father “smelled of elderberries.”

It is something only the most devout fans familiar with the language would have detected. But it is pretty funny. What could be better than a translation joke?

It is no secret that the Republican Party needs to mobilize a Hispanic voting base. Translation into Spanish is an important way for the party to reach out to the Hispanic population. And translation to Spanish is not a new strategy for the party. In 2013, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delivered the Republican Party’s reaction to Obama’s State of the Union. He gave the same speech in both English and Spanish. Last year, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen delivered a translation in Spanish of the response. The original response was delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. But unlike previous years’ Spanish-language responses, this one has raised eyebrows.

Why Is This Translation in Spanish Provoking Controversy?

Ernst isn’t just a rising star in the Republican Party. She is also a staunch advocate of keeping other languages out of the government. Ernst advocates making English the official language of the United States. She has long battled against official translation of government materials, including translation in Spanish. She once even sued the Iowa secretary of state for printing translations in Spanish of voting materials.

The speech’s translation in Spanish was delivered by Carlos Curbelo. Curbelo is a freshman GOP representative from Miami. An initial press release put out by the GOP said that the two versions of the speech would be identical. “Representative Curbelo will be delivering the Spanish-Language translated address,” the press release read.

“Senator Ernst (R-IA) and Congressman Curbelo (R-FL) will deliver the same Republican message,” Wadi Gaitan said of the two responses. Gaitan is the press secretary for the House Republican Conference. He added that both would articulate “a vision of common-sense solutions and greater opportunity for everyone in this country.” Each, however, would be free to add “their unique stories and experiences to shape that narrative.”

Was the Translation to Spanish Different from the Original?

“Curbelo will replace references to growing up on a small town Iowa farm with anecdotes from his own life,” Mother Jones reported. “But, according to Curbelo’s office, when it comes to policy and politics, he will be speaking Ernst’s words. Just in a language, she doesn’t want to be used by the government.” But in spite of speculation that only a translation into Spanish would be delivered, it seems changes were made. Some of these changes were considerable.

First and foremost, Ernst said nothing about immigration. Curbelo did. “We must also work, through the proper channels, to create permanent solutions to our immigration system,” he said. He cited securing the borders, modernizing legal immigration, and strengthening the economy as key goals.

The issue of executive overreach also came up in both speeches. However, it was addressed differently in the translation to Spanish. Republicans argue that Obama’s executive orders on immigration are a violation of his powers. Ernst said: “We’ll work to correct executive overreach.” But Curbelo didn’t outright acknowledge that executive overreach had occurred. Instead, he said, “We won’t stand around with arms crossed if the president legislates by decree.”

Curbelo also brought up Cuba in his speech, whereas Ernst failed to mention it. “It’s also fundamental that the United States supports its allies and hold its enemies accountable,” Curbelo said. “We’re worried about the undeserved concessions the president’s administration has made to the regimes of Iran and Cuba. Both countries are ruled by cruel dictators who for decades have tried to harm our country and our allies.” Mentioning Cuba was likely an attempt to level with older Cuban-Americans. They are still unsupportive of the Castro regime and upset by Obama’s normalization of relations with the country.

There were also subtle differences in the framing of the issues surrounding healthcare and education. For example, Ernst vowed to “repeal and replace ObamaCare,” while Curbelo simply promised to “replace it.” For a complete breakdown of all of the differences between the English and Spanish versions, we recommend this Vox article.

The bottom line? Nothing dramatic was changed between the English-language and Spanish-language versions. But there are important differences. It is a major sign that Republicans are thinking hard about how to effectively communicate with Latinos.

From Chinese language translation to French translation, the world is relying on machine translations. For things like professional document translation, human translators are no longer needed. Instead people are turning to their computers. Machine translation tools, like the famous Google translator, are accessible and easy to use. As an added bonus, they are often free. There is no doubt that translation tools have improved over the course of the last decades. But are they accurate and reliable? Can machine translation be used for a complex French language translation? Can you trust a machine translation for professional document translation services? For a clear verdict, let’s take a look at the facts.

They Are Good at Translating Single Words but Struggle with More Complex Sentences

If you need to translate the word “hungry” into Portuguese or you need to figure out what “mesa” means in English, a machine translation can most likely get the job done. Consider the following text, translated from German by Google Translate:

Machine translation is good in the translation of single words, where all she has to do, is to act as an online dictionary. It is also good at common rates, as these chunks, which translates many times and so easily represented in the target language. It's not bad, simple sentences with a clear structure enough, though, once you start sentences plugging in, you'll start to see some sluggishness in the output. And all the lyrics begin, in fact, look very disjointed.

The bottom line is that machine translation just can’t handle more complex sentences. Forget about asking a machine to translate something as complex as a literary work or a legal document. You’re just asking for problems.

Mistakes Abound

Even when translating relatively simple sentences or phrases, translation mistakes occur. And they occur often. Consider the following example. Back in 2011, an Occupy Wall Street protestor attempted to make a sign in Chinese reading, “No more corruption!” The resulting Chinese language translation? “There is no corruption!” Not exactly the message the protestor was attempting to convey. The protestor would have been much more successful if he had help from a native Chinese speaker, not a machine.

They Struggle with Context

Humans can discern the meaning of a word based on its context. Machines can’t. If you don’t believe us, just take it from the blogger who decided to tattoo “never die” on her back. The problem? The machine translation tool she used translated “die” not as in life or death. Instead it used “dye,” like the substance used to change something’s color. Remember, it is all about context. You will find even more embarrassing tattoo fiascos here.

The verdict? Translation tools can be tremendously useful. But if you are in need of a professional Chinese language translation, you are probably far better off hiring a professional human translator. Machines haven’t replaced humans just yet. Especially when it comes to professional document translation services.

Ever feel frustrated when a Spanish language tweet shows up in your TweetDeck, and you can’t seem to decipher what is being said? After all, there are a mere 160 characters! Well, now you no longer have to kick yourself for not having paid more attention in your high school language class. Twitter’s translation to English capability (and several other languages) is back in action. The tool is powered by Bing. “We’ve launched Bing Translation on TweetDeck to all users,” a Twitter spokeswoman said. “When a user sees a Tweet that isn’t in their native language, they’ll have the option to click the ‘translate Tweet’ link.” This link will appear for all content not written in the user’s native language.

 Why the Sudden Return of the Language Translation Tool?

It’s unclear why the language translation tool disappeared in the first place. No one is quite sure what prompted the social media giant to bring the tool back after its hiatus. Twitter appears to have an on-again, off-again relationship with Bing Translation. Twitter first started experimenting with the translation tool back in July of 2013. It introduced the tool to iOS and Android apps in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. After all, if someone was complaining about your favored team in another language, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

Many speculate that the return of the language translation tool to TweetDeck could be a sign of things to come. It could suggest that the company is planning to roll it out to other platforms soon. But the company has yet to announce any future plans. It has also not indicated when or if the technology will be made available on other Twitter platforms, such as Twitter mobile apps for Android and iOS. Only time will tell what Twitter has in store.

The Benefits of Twitter’s Language Translation Capabilities

The language translation tool helps facilitate communication in a globalized world. “TweetDeck is a favorite of journalists, as it can organize streams of tweets into lined-up columns,” Rex Santus said. “And the translator’s return was a timely one: It’s helpful in breaking news situations, such as the murders in Paris at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.” You can take a look at some Charlie Hebdo foreign language tweets here: https://twitter.com/charlie_hebdo. It could also help businesses. The tool would allow users to easily translate business or advertisement tweets. This would help companies’ business language translation.

The tool is useful, as research suggests that Twitter’s user base is growing in non-English-speaking countries. The tool will also help users keep up on international news events in real time. But like all automatic language translation tools, Bing Translator isn’t 100 percent error proof. Remember, when in doubt, hire a translator.

The demand for global translation services is rapidly on the rise. If you are interested in pursuing a career in translation services, you may want to consider a degree in translation. Translation programs can provide a great foundation in the skills needed to succeed in the translation services industry. First of all, they can help you to hone your language skills. They also provide a theoretical understanding of the issues often encountered by translators.

SUNY Binghamton, The Translation Research and Instruction Program. This public university in southern New York State is known for its PhD in Translation Studies. The program also offers a graduate certificate in Translation Research and Instruction. There is also an undergraduate minor in Translation. The PhD program in Translation Studies is internationally renowned. It prepares students for professional translation work in the translation services industry. This includes official document translation. It also equips students for scholarly work in academia. Coursework focuses on a range of topics. Examples include the history of translation studies, comparative literatures, and translation philosophy and pedagogy.

Kent State University, The Institute for Applied Linguistics. Kent State University’s Institute for Applied Linguistics has high-tech translation technology. It has pioneered some of the latest language engineering technologies. The center has worked on computer-assisted translation and terminology. It has done research on multilingual document management, and cross-language information exchange and retrieval. The institute offers both a two-year master’s degree in Translation as well as a PhD in Translation Studies. Both degree programs focus on the more technical aspects of translation. They focus on research skills and specialized official document translation. There is also a focus on computer-assisted terminology and translation, and software localization.

Monterey Institute of International Studies. This multilingual graduate research center has a global focus. This makes it the perfect place to study translation. The institute offers four unique translation degrees. The first is the broad M.A. in Translation. There are also three specialized options. These include the M.A. in Translation & Localization Management and the M.A. in Translation & Interpretation. The M.A. in Conference Interpretation offers a specific focus on interpreting at international conferences. All prepare students for a competitive global translation services environment. They provide training for a range of different translation services sectors. This includes legal translation and medical translation. The programs don't just focus on written translation. They also equip students with valuable interpreting skills. Many graduates of the institute go on to do work for major organizations, like the U.S. State Department and the United Nations. For more information, check out its website: http://www.miis.edu.

University of Texas, Dallas, The Center for Translation Studies. The Center for Translation Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas was established in 1980. The goal of the center is to support both the creation of literary translations and the analysis of literary translations. It brings together writers, scholars, and publishers around the world to study the art of translation. The center offers both a master’s degree and PhD in Humanities. This interdisciplinary degree allows students to tailor the program to their specific interests. Students with degree plans focused on Translation Studies can also undertake interdisciplinary coursework. This includes courses in Literary Studies, the History of Ideas, and Aesthetic Studies.


Good translation is more than just putting words in one language into another language. Effective translators also put a great deal of thought and energy into choosing an appropriate translation strategy in order to boost the overall quality and effectiveness of the final text. So, which translation strategy is right for your company? Let’s take a look at the different options.


Borrowing is essentially the practice of borrowing a word from another language. Borrowed terms are typically adopted from their original language into a second language, especially in the fields of technology (i.e. software, Internet) and culture (i.e. punk, emo, rock ‘n’ roll). A translator will typically borrow when translating if A) the target language has no known equivalent, B) the source language word sounds better or is frequently used when compared to equivalent words in the target language, or C) the translator wants to preserve a bit of flair of the source language (for example, a newspaper article on Mexican cuisine might chose to keep Mexican food terms in their original Spanish).


Calque refers to literal translation at a phrase level. This is incredibly common in regard to customer service phrases, business phrases, and technology phrases. For example, “quality assurance,” a common business term, is translated literally into a variety of different language, including “aseguramiento de calidad” (Spanish), “assurance qualité” (French), and “qualitätssicherung” (German).

Literal Translation

A literal translation strategy is, as the name suggests, a strategy that involves translating each word literally. In some cases, this works out pretty well. For example, “hay una mesa verde en nuestra cocina,” can be literally translated to English as “there is a green table in our kitchen.” However, in other cases, this is a recipe for disaster. A good translator will know when it is appropriate to translate literally and when it isn’t.


In transposition, different parts of language are rearranged to accommodate structural differences between languages. For example, “me gusta nadar” would be translated to “I like swimming.” The conjugation of the verb is different, because the infinite form (to swim) is used differently in Spanish than it is in English.


Modulation involves using a different phrase in the source language to convey the same meaning in the target language. For example, an appropriate Spanish to English translation of “te lo dejo” would be “you can have it.” In this case the translation doesn’t bear much resemblance to the literal translation (“I’ll leave you it”), because the modulated translation is much more natural sounding and flows much better.


Reformulation means you need to totally reformulate the text. This means words must totally be changed in order to convey the same meaning. This is especially common with idiomatic expression, where a word for word translation isn’t likely to make much sense.

Ultimately, there is no single “best” translation strategy. The most successful texts will typically employ a variety of different strategies in order to yield the best translations.


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