English Serbian translation

Google Translate goes Serbian!

Should human translation companies be worried?

“Machine translation” – translators shudder at the very sound of those words! Partly in disgust, because of our firmly-held belief that a computer will never replace a superior human translator (like us), partly because we are scared to death that it will! So we either vehemently criticise machine translation, or we carefully skirt round the subject and hope, for example, that our customers won't find out about the recently-introduced Serbian-English translation tool, made available for free by the almighty Google!

Because the fact is that Google’s translation tool, which now provides automatic translation into English of Serbian websites and of copy-pasted blocks of Serbian text, is really surprisingly good! And rather than acting as if it didn’t exist, we think it is better that we got this subject out in the open and examined its implications for our customers and for the translation industry in general. So this will be the first in what we hope will be a series of articles looking at automatic and machine translation, both in the context of Serbian-English translation and of translation in general. We will look at the quality of automatic Serbian-English translation, the relative merits of machine translation as compared to human translation, delve a little into the underlying issues (there may even be a little philosophy involved!) and look at the implications of machine translation for the industry and for our clients.

First, let’s carry out a little experiment. We took a paragraph of Serbian text from the Odista website and pasted it into the Google Serbian-English translation tool (here). The original Serbian text is from this page and reads as follows:

Engleski sa pet zvezdica

Vrhunska usluga pismenog prevoda sa srpskog na engleski jezik

Polazimo od uverenja da prevod na neki jezik može adekvatno da uradi jedino izvorni govornik tog jezika.

Zato u našem jedinstvenom timu prevod na engleski jezik vrše isključivo Englezi koji se dugi niz godina služe srpskim jezikom.

Specijalizovali smo se za prevod i lokalizaciju materijala kao što su:

  • vebsajtovi,
  • brošure,
  • katalozi,
  • turistički materijali

koji moraju biti napisani na savršenom engleskom jeziku.

In English, this text would look something like this (translated by a human):

Five-Star English

Premium Serbian to English written translation services

We operate on the basis of the belief that translation into a language can only be carried out to a satisfactory standard by a native speaker of that language.

That is why, in our unique translation team, translations into the English language are only carried out by native English speakers who have been proficient in Serbian for many years.

We specialise in the translation and localisation of materials such as:

  • websites,
  • brochures,
  • catalogues,
  • tourist materials,

that must be written in perfect English.

Within a few seconds, Google Translate outputs the following translation into English:

English with five stars

Premium written translation services to the Serbian into English

Is based on the belief that a translation of the language may be adequate to do only the original speaker of the language.

Therefore, in our unique team of translation in the English language made only English is used for many years serbian language.

We specialize in the translation and localization of materials such as:

  • Websites
  • Brochures
  • Catalogs
  • Tourist materials

that must be written in perfect English.

Can you understand it? Apart from a few hiccups, of course you can! In particular, look at the end of the text, from “We specialize…” – it’s word-perfect (ignoring the fact that our website is in British English)! And this was not a particularly successful example (the sentence beginning with "therefore" is very suspect) – some texts have given us even more startling results!

What makes Google Translate different?

Google’s system is a little different to previous ones in that it uses a statistical method to analyse existing translations from Serbian to English and applies what it has learned to the new translation. Old-style systems merely use a dictionary to translate texts word-for-word by “brute force” and tend not to be very successful, to say the least.

Death-knell for human translators?

So are we crazy to tell you all this? After all, Odista’s business relies on human translators! What happens if all our clients go off and begin using Google Translate? Indeed, we have already seen examples of amateur translators supplying “translations from Serbian into English” that have clearly been carried out using this tool! It is only a matter of time before translation companies begin receiving “previously-translated” texts (texts that suspiciously resemble machine translations!) from clients and being asked to “just proof-read this” for a rate considerably lower than a translation from scratch would cost.

Well, to demonstrate that we have not lost our minds, we would like to talk about a few reasons why we want you to know about Google Translate and why we do not fear for our business:

  1. Odista values transparency and we seek to work within the realities of the market – it does not suit our ethos to “hide” valuable resources like this from our clients! Besides, you’d find out about it sooner or later! We would rather accept the reality that tools such as this bring to the translation industry – the market will always be changing and we are prepared to adapt.
  2. We WANT our customers to use Google Translate for Serbian-English translation! Our vision is “to enable professionals to communicate authentically with other markets and cultures”. So if this tool helps them achieve that in any way then we are contributing to this vision!
  3. But the core of the issue and the reason a translation company like ours has nothing to “fear” from Google Translate is what you have been suspecting all along: computerized, automatic translation is not going to replace professional human translation from Serbian to English (or any other language) any time soon. Or let’s phrase it as a question: would you, as the marketing manager of a Serbian company wanting to do business in the West, entrust the translation of your website into English to a machine translation tool? The simple reality is that, no, you would not. This is not necessarily to knock automatic translation tools. They are all-too-easy a target for us superior human translators! Perhaps they have their applications, and we may go on to discuss this. This is merely to say that any business that is serious about a given market, given the current quality of machine translation, will settle only for a professional, human translation of their promotional materials. If that strikes a chord with you, then be sure that machine translation is improving, but still nowhere near good enough to meet your needs.

In the next article, we will take a look at some of the differences between machine translation and human translation and investigate some of the reasons why, despite the remarkable advances, automatic translation software is not currently a serious choice for professional translation - from Serbian to English or in any other language combination - and why it may never be.