The Reasons We Don't Use AI in Translating Client Documents

(March 13, 2024)

Although there is a white-hot frenzy over artificial intelligence and many translation brokers have jumped on the bandwagon, we are committed to not using AI to create artificial translations, for a number of good reasons.

We front-load quality into the translations we produce.Artificial translation just automates the age-old approach of starting with a rough translation.

For a variety of reasons, Japanese-to-English translation has often taken the approach of obtaining a first, rough translation, followed by editing or rewriting, only sometimes by someone capable understanding the Japanese source text and the subject matter.

Artificial translation done by AI has provided dramatic acceleration of the process of creating a first rough, artificial translation, but with an added twist; the translation can be spiced with mistranslations and hallucinations not likely to occur when even an unqualified human translator does the first translation.

HallucinationsArtificial translations provides them; we don't.

Just like the output of various chatbots, artificial translations from AI are susceptible to hallucinations, and regularly get things seriously wrong.

This comes from the AI system's total lack of real-life experience. It cannot do a reality check on the artificial translation it produces because it doesn't understand—and is not concerned with—reality, but rather just attempts to emulate the writing behavior of a qualified human. This is based on statistics, rather than understanding of the subject matter or the real world in which the subject matter is relevant.

Real translation needs a real professional translator with experience in and understanding of the real worldAI doesn't get out in the real world much—or at all, actually.

Professional translators commonly have a deep understanding of the subject matter they translate, often gained from experience in the real world, something that is impossible for a collection of software instructions to achieve.

AI doesn't care.Your translations need a translator who cares; AI couldn't care less about you or your documents.

There numerous things that AI cannot and does not care about:

AI doesn't care about quality

Being a collection of software instructions, AI "translators" are not concerned with—and don't have a stake in—the quality they produce.

AI doesn't care about whether it should ask—and doesn't ask—the source-text originator should be asked questions

A conscientious professional translator will ask questions to clarify things that are not clear, including aspects of how a document is to be used. An AI artificial translation system cannot and does not do that.

AI doesn't care about the context of your translation

It doesn't consider the context of your document, the intended reader, and the purpose of the document.

AI doesn't care whether it is actually capable of producing a translation of sufficient quality

Whereas machine translation systems of the past were known to flag or leave things untranslated that they couldn't translate, AI translation systems suffer from Dunning-Kruger effect and simply produce what they produce, the assumption being that someone will be able to correct problems. That assumption is sometimes quite optimistic and accompanied by significant risks.


If you don't mind having your documents dumped into an unidentified database for use by unidentified entities in unidentified and unknowable places, you might consider using AI to create artificial translations.