The continuous development of machine translation poses the question whether a human translator is needed in the first place, or whether Google Translate, DeepL or Microsoft Translator are sufficient. In these three situations, the translation of “oil” illustrates when the free machine translation is sufficient and when to invest in a human translator. I alluded to the value of human translators here, now I expand a bit introducing specialist translators
How good does the translation need to be?
There are situations in which you may not need a translator. When the app on your phone tells you that the salad on the menu is dressed with “grease and vinegar”, you can safely assume that food grade oil has been poured over your lettuce and tomatoes not engine grease. The context tells you the salad has dressing and it is not mayonnaise.
How technical is the text?
A food menu is rarely particularly technical, a recipe could be a bit more so. Standing in front of the cooking oil shelves in a supermarket shows how many cooking oils there are, sometimes three different olive oils! Luckily a mistranslated cooking oil won’t be a disaster. Your salad will taste different if you use a canola rather than an olive oil but shouldn’t have long lasting effects. For recipe translation, it is worth having a translator to ensure that the food tastes as expected in both languages.
Does your translator understand the technical stuff?
A poorly translated lubrication grease could have more serious implications than a mix up between cooking oils. If you know that a precise oil type is needed, avoid using the first or cheapest translator. It maybe counterproductive. Rather, find a translator who is an expert in these oils. Translators don’t just know multiple languages. Many take up translating as a second or third career and have spent years working as car mechanics, engineers, or chefs, often in all their languages.
So, find the car mechanic for the engine oil translation and the chef for cooking variety. When your translation requires technical skills, take the time to find the translator in that technical niche. There will be one and then you can rely on the translation.
Higman Translation specialises in Finance & Accounting as well as Air Sports translation