Aren’t all translators going to be replaced by computers or Google Translate any day now? (J)

Very simply, no. For extremely simple or repetitive translations (such as a list of components, or a set of instructions where only part names and numerical quantities change from one version to the next), a computer can do the job. Alternatively, if you just need to get a very rough sense of the meaning of some text by looking up individual words, then Google Translate or a similar application may fit the bill. However, computers are not capable of actually comprehending language in any real sense—in the cases cited above, the computer is simply substituting individual words or phrases that are stored in its memory.

An experienced and knowledgable human translator, on the other hand, possesses a clear mental picture and an overall understanding of the source text’s subject matter—be it a digital camera, a foreign-policy topic, a semiconductor device or a sports match. The human translator thus understands the implications of what is written in the source, as well as what is stated explicitly.

As he or she works through the text, the human translator can select just the right word, term or phrase, spot nuance, and deduce the correct meaning based on each statement’s context. These skills are simply beyond the capability of a computer—nuance, phrase and idiom choice, context, and cultural sensibility simply cannot be digitized or computed. In addition, computers are also incapable of producing fluent, natural writing—an indispensable component of high-quality translation.