Aren’t There Machines Already That Do Translations?

There are. In science fiction and in our dreams.

Wikipedia Image

Well, seriously, machine translation is an idea that’s been around practically for several decades now. Unfortunately, it is still in the research and development stage, although some pretty intelligent engines are already available and in use.

However, it appears that language is among the most sophisticated inventions of the human mind. Therefore, machines still can’t do it properly.


Although the rules are rather straightforward, syntax and grammar of natural language still seem to be too complex for machines to handle. This is probably because language consists of a large number of elements beyond simple grammar. (Some might even say that grammar itself is all but simple!)

In natural languages, there are hidden messages in every other word. Sentences with double meanings and meta interpretations abound. These are the boobytraps in communication that are technically called semantics.

The trouble is that the single words that form a human language are very fuzzy in their meaning. In linguistics, this is called underspecification, which in real life means that the intended meaning of a word only becomes clear(er) when the context is known. Puzzling sometimes, also for us humans. And even more so for machines.

In a nutshell, for top-quality text translations a human translator is still the best choice.

“Good morning, Dr. Chandra.”


2 Responses to “Aren’t There Machines Already That Do Translations?”

  1. Mike Unwalla Says:

    @Karoline: There are. In science fiction and in our dreams.

    Machine translation can give satisfactory translations. For an evaluation of machine translation, see

    • dokuconsult Says:

      Thanks for the link, Mike!
      Never denied that! However, what if “sleeping green clouds dream grimly” would fit the context better? Of course, the use of MT may be advisable in certain contexts, but not in all. And certainly not for all text types.

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