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“Lost In Translation” by Stephen Budiansky Essay

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Updated: Jun 24th, 2020


Spell checkers, terminology managers, grammar checkers, among others, aid in computer-assisted translations. Following the ability of a spokesperson to arbitrate between two speakers of varying languages, technology has sought to introduce these machines which have the same ability as well, but this time translating both verbal and written materials from one language to another faster than people.. Among these machines is the computer, which has been programmed such that it can identify and convert a language to any other, provided the targeted language exists within the globe. This invention has welcomed the views of both critics and supporters.

Among the well known critics is Stephen Budiansky, who claims that language is a complicated subject and not worthy of being machine translated. But this cannot qualify to be the case. Following the more than twenty bureaucrat languages and the many dozens of informal ones, there has been a demand of not only more but efficient language translators. As a result, computer translation has been preferred to the rest, people inclusive. Though they all serve the purpose, computer translations are good and are perfectly producing recommendable results owing to the simplicity of language as discussed below.


Translation of language is as vital as the language itself and will continue as long the subject of globalization exists where people are fighting for commonness, rather than diversity. This commonness comes from all directions, language inclusive. “Language is obviously a vital tool. Not only is it a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but it forges friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships” (Kilgour Para 2). One of the areas that have fuelled globalization is economy. A common market is the subject of today.

But this is not possible if language is a barrier. It is worthy noting that spokespeople are too few to serve this global purpose and this then calls for the computer aided translation system. Owing to its reliability, in the business sector for instance, it boosts the field of communication in the sense that any person with the system is free to purchase or market his products anywhere around the globe. All he/she needs is no more than the original information, regardless of whether written or verbal, it will be converted to his/her desired language. It modifies his/her language helping him/her communicate with the world, hence a good translating system. Speed is another factor worthy considering as explained next.

The design of employing computer translation systems is virtually unimaginable. The speed of man, for instance, not only in translating, is far much lower compared to that of a computer. Murray posits that, “The advantage that the computer gives the modern translator over his pen-and-paper predecessor lies in the translator having to spend less and less time on repetitive little tasks and having more time available for the actual hard creative work of translation” (Para 1).

The job that a computer spends seconds to accomplish can turn to be a day’s work for man. Production of a book provides a good illustration of this fact. If one is given the task of producing a copy of it in just one different language, the targeted readers may even fail to realize the message from the book. This results from the time he/she will spend tackling the book one word at a time.

On the other hand, computer translation only requires one to specify the language he/she desires to be reflected in the book and within a ‘twinkling of an eye’; the book is in a different targeted language. “…it makes the translator’s task a hundred times easier” (Murray Para 2). This makes computer translations preferred to all other translation systems. While human translations may be limited to one language, computer translations accommodate as many of them as possible. These are multi purpose translations as explained below.

The multi purpose nature of computer translations favours it on the expense of human translations. Human translation is limited since one person can only tackle one language at a time. The translation out put is limited as well. This follows from the number of words being translated per unit time. “Despite limitations, machine translation is the only way to transform gigabytes and terabytes of text… as long as people continue to type messages, reports, manuscripts and notes into electronic documents, they will need computers to parse and organize the resulting text” (Kosmix Para 5).

Human translations tackle word to the next owing to their unit-purpose. Computer translation is able to handle several translations at a go, while at the same time running other programmes. This is contrary to human translations. This credits computer translations on the expense of the others. Majority of other translations like human, are costly and highly corrupted as the following paragraph discusses.

In her research on Machine and Human Translation, Maia posits that, “Human deriving translation is expensive, takes time and is usually unavailable when it is needed for communicating quickly and cheaply with people with whom we do not share a common language. There are also the obvious political reasons from the ideal of a multi-lingual, multi-cultural society…” (1). the cost of the machine as well as its installation is relatively affordable. since cost is a factor to be considered by all people before going for something that need to be bought or sold, the cheap cost of computer translation provides the reason as to why people view them as good. This is because majority can afford unlike other translation systems. The evident growth of computer translation implies how it is favoured by people owing to its good in relation to others. Consistency in computer translation makes it good too as expounded below.

Human translations are subject to changes as time goes by. These translations also vary from people to people. As the translation changes, so is its accuracy as well as its efficiency. On the other hand, computer translation maintains a standard style of translation and hence consistent and accurate, provided the initial document is grammatically correct. According to Cary, “…advantage of machine translation is that it gives drop dead consistency…implies that there is nothing to worry about” (Para 7). Computer translations, regardless of location will give the same translation unlike human, a case that makes them preferred to the rest. Computer translations are free from persuasion.


The rising demand of translators and the limited number of people able to translate, has given way to the introduction of computer translations. While human translations may suffer biasness depending on the hidden motives of the person, computer translations are not. For instance, a politically or immorally driven person may decide to translate in favour of his/her political or immoral desires. On the other hand, if the original document to be translated is fair in all directions, the consistency of computer translations will maintain this fairness regardless of gender, religion, political stance, among others, hence good to all people.

Works Cited

Cary, Singh. “Machine Translation Process” West Virginia: W, VA, 1996.

Kilgour, David. “The Importance of Language” West Virginia: W, VA, 1999.

Kosmix, Titus. “Machine Translation [MT]” New York: Word Press, 2006.

Maia, Belinda. “Light in J.R.R. Tolkein and in the Portuguese translation” Porto: FLUP, 1988, Vol 5.

Murray, Samuel. “Introduction to Computer Aided Translation”. Web.

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