Will translation software sound the death knell for interpreters?

Updated: 2016-02-23 10:24


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Zhou Min, an English instructor at Nanchang University in Jiangxi province, said, "I am a frequent user of machine translations. The convenience is undeniable, but a machine is a machine. It still cannot respond to variations adequately, since it lacks the flexibility of a human brain."

Wang Haifeng believes machine and human translators can complement each other. "A translation system can master dozens of languages and jargon in different fields, but good translators can better convey the exquisite beauty of language," he said.

When analyzing user demand, Wang found the app's visitors rose sharply at the weekend. "We believe it is because many students are using our product as an aid when doing homework," he said.

This trend has Yao Ying, a teacher at the Shanghai New Oriental language school, a little worried.

"Many of the students are using translation software. Machine translation has offered them a shortcut, but I am not sure whether it will do any good to their study considering their lack of accuracy."

"It can only supplement, not substitute, traditional book learning," she said.

Zhou Min believes that machine translation is also changing people's attitudes towards language learning, but the enthusiasm of learning will not fade in the era of machine translations.

"For people who need to learn a certain language for occasional use, they will not have to study the language since an app can solve the problem. While for those who are learning languages as a major or planning a long-term stay in a foreign country, machine translation can help them learn more efficiently," she said.

Zou said even if machine translations become so advanced that they can meet all translation needs in the future, people would still want to gain a working knowledge of different languages.

"People are born with the desire to express and communicate," she said. "There will always be a need of direct and in-depth communication."


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