Today’s Irish Times (17 December 2014) has an amusing article entitled the Perils of Google Translate – at least it could be amusing if it wasn’t rather alarming. Medical phrases were translated by Google Translate from English into a variety of languages and then translated back into English by human translators. Just imagine being told your child was dead when the problem was simply a seizure.
This is a prime example of how a good human translator is worth every penny you pay him or her. Machine translation as it is known – because Google is not the only auto-translate service in the marketplace – should only ever be used to find out how to ask for a cup of tea in another language, certainly nothing as critical as a child’s illness. And even then the chances are you will land up with coffee.
Another recent trend is to have human translators edit machine translations, in other words turn them into something halfway acceptable. I actually don’t know how much the human translators are paid for such a service, as the one and only time I have been approached about doing it caused me to use some of my son’s more choice expletives.
I suppose at the end it is cost-driven, like everything else nowadays, or so it seems to me. But what price do you put on a child’s life or a mother’s peace of mind?