AI far from translating emotions effectively; it is still a threat: Expert- QHN

As the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has given rise to new possibilities in the world of literature, experts and translators feel that there is still time before such tools learn to translate human emotions.

Looking at the increasing presence of AI in all spheres of life, while some translators believe that such technologies could give birth to new opportunities in translation, others are of the opinion that it could also lead to a crisis-like situation.

Speaking to Bhasha on the occasion of International Translation Day on Saturday, Kolkata-based translator and writer V Ramaswami, said that at present, the vocabulary of the machine is very limited, necessitating a human translator to correct it later.

“The vocabulary of the machine is very limited. Yes, one can use Google Translate and then fix and edit it. I am sure this is also being done. But I think it’s much quicker to translate it yourself than to correct a mistranslation again. Hence, the need for a human translator becomes quite clear. A translator can also think about using AI to become more aware and faster,” he told PTI.

Ramaswamy translated Bengali author Manoranjan Byapari’s novel titled “The Nemesis” into English. The book has been selected for the longlist of the JCB Prize for Literature 2023.

He added that AI could be used to become “more informed and aware” while translating.

I have no doubt that someone like me can use AI and benefit from it. What I mean to say is not just use the machine to translate, but rather use it to be more informed and aware while translating,” he said.

When asked whether literary translation done with the help of AI will be able to translate the different dimensions and depth of human emotions in the right context, writer-translator Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar said that the industry needs humans to translate human emotions, as AI will surely make mistakes.

“If AI is able to translate human emotions accurately then it will no longer be be called AI. I’m sure AI will make mistakes and misinterpret things. (And I sincerely hope that happens.) I think we will still need humans to translate human emotions,” the author of “The Adivasi Will Not Dance” said.

Writer-translator Anita Gopalan, who has translated a novel by Geet Chaturvedi into English titled “Simsim”, said that literary translation is “a creative endeavour that requires retaining the essence and beauty of the expressions in the target language”, something that AI is not cabaple of doing at this stage.

“It involves sensing the pulse of language and being able to touch the more subtle layers-cultural nuances and hidden layers of meaning. AI is not very capable of bringing out such linguistic beauty of the original language. Human translators do not always have the right pulse, it is not certain that they will always understand human emotions in the right context, but their success rate is much higher than AI,” Gopalan said.

Publishers, on the other hand, argue that it is not appropriate to use AI for translation work, as it is merely a translation of works and not expressions.

“The translation done with the help of Google is not a translation of expressions but merely a translation of words, due to which the basic essence of the translated material gets distorted. It is possible that in the coming 4-5 years this work will take a more sophisticated and legible form by technical experts,” Prabhat Prakashan director Piyush Kumar said.

While most are against the idea of using artificial intelligence in creative writing, for fears as varied as there are stars in the sky, it has never stopped technology from advancing. However, for now, translations are largely going to be written by humans, for humans.

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