Hi “Google”, Hello “AutoCAD”!

What translator has not, at least once, been compared to Google Translate? I, for one, find myself constantly being referred to as “Google”, particularly by one specific friend who is an engineer. My final response: calling him AutoCAD. Only then did he understand…

“Hello Google, how is it going?” That is the greeting I have so frequently received from a friend who is an engineer and considers translators different, less efficient versions of Google Translate.

To me, however, such a nickname is but an insult. A translation offered by Google Translate stands nowhere near one provided by a professional translator who takes the time to understand the content of a text and grasp its spirit before translating it. Translators live the substance of a text in its different phases and feel the emotions it brings out. They live both the writer’s experience, as well as that of the reader. Translators take the time to produce a text they are proud to call their own. They transmit any and all nuances machines can not detect. Altogether, every translator is granted the gift of creation.

A machine on the other hand is devoid of all feelings. An example alone is sufficient to illustrate how flawed such a translation can be:

When we enter, “It’s raining cats and dogs. I could really use an umbrella right now” into Google Translate, the translation provided in French reads: “Il pleut des chats et des chiens. Je ne pouvais vraiment utiliser un parapluie à l’heure actuelle.”

There is nothing to add to such an all-encompassing example.

A machine can not understand a text; it just simulates such a comprehension.

A machine can not understand a text; it just simulates such a comprehension.

What if engineers were nicknamed AutoCAD? I’ve tried that with this friend I mentioned, and it turns out he doesn’t like it; he says this program can not replace engineers. True. The same goes for translators. Maybe then we’ll keep calling engineers “AutoCAD” until we, too, are seen differently.

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About Nadira FAHED

C’est par amour de la traduction que j’ai choisi cette spécialité. J’ai alors vite découvert que cet amour que j’estimais déjà profond allait fleurir au fur et à mesure que j’explorais ce vaste domaine. La traduction ne cesse de me dévoiler de nouveaux horizons. Elle me pousse aussi à rechercher avec passion de plus en plus de connaissances et à vivre de nouvelles expériences.

25 comments on “Hi “Google”, Hello “AutoCAD”!

  1. Nadira,
    That is one awesome idea you’ve got!

    ps. Have you « La Cantatrice chauve » d’Eugène Ionesco? If not, then you must!!
    He had the idea for this piece after trying to learn English using « Assimil » method… He was struck by the strange content of the dialogues the absurd way sentences were flowing that he decided to write this piece naming it first « L’Anglais sans peine ». It was I guess the « Google Translate » of that period!

    • Thank you. Well I didn’t know this was the story behind it!
      I will look into it… And well, for every era its own Google Translate ;)
      By the way, I checked out your blog and I have to say it’s wonderful.. I enjoy reading it.

  2. Thank you all for your comments! It’s nice to see that so many people agree, especially when they are not translators themselves.

  3. Dear Nadira, I absolutely agree with you. A human remains irremplacable wherever technology may take us! Good and well written. Congrats.

  4. Google Translate will unfortunately always be a horror story for us translators, but we are slowly moving away from its shadow. You convinced your engineer friend, Nadira, let’s hope that soon the rest of society will be convinced too!

    • We really are the winning team for now. And after reading the comments, I believe a great part of society already agrees that we are irreplaceable. Let’s hope, as you said, that the remaining part will understand…

  5. I agree with you Nadira because I am a witness of the story you told. I have seen how much effort and time your job as atranslator is demanding. Courage :)

  6. So true!!!! well said Nadira!:) (i’m a financial expert and sometimes they call me « Bank », as if finance is restricted to banks!!)

    • Thank you Linda. I’m glad to hear experts in other fields identify with us translators. I hope this habit disappears soon!

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