The human role in a machine-translated world

The rise of machine translation has left human translators with an uncertain future. But the translation industry cannot depend on machines alone and won’t be able to any time soon. So where do translators find their new place?

Text by Elanna Mariniello Afaf Steiert


The human role in a machine-translated world

Image: © CharlieAJA/

In 2015, social media sites all over the world were in a frenzy over Taco Bell Japan’s new website. Taco Bell restaurants were re-opening in the country and the team had just launched a machine-translated site featuring the menu items. What was intended as a globalization effort to bring American fast food (and fast food product names) to Japan turned into a PR nightmare. A signature item on the menu, "Cheesy Fries", was advertised as "a low-quality fleece". The "Crunchwrap Supreme Beef" had been translated to "Supreme Court Beef". Customers were both amused and confused. And while Taco Bell received a great deal of press for their Japan launch, it wasn’t necessarily the type of press they were seeking. 

Of course, not all machine translations (MT) suffer such blunders, and, in fact, many MT tools have become extremely sophisticated; however, in recent years, the rise of MT has made ...