Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Localization: A Useful yet Imperfect Tool
It seems to be the new trend topic of 2023: Artificial intelligence! In the last couple of years, this new technology has improved so much to the point of becoming accessible to anyone. Perhaps you will remember that series of applications that went viral a few months ago: the app creates accurate drawings of yourself portrayed as a princess, mermaid, manga character, or pirate by simply uploading 10 selfies on the app. That wasn’t sorcery, nor craftmanship. Simply AI. And what about those engaging articles you’ve read that were surprisingly written by that new software called ChatGPT? Still AI.
Artificial intelligence is therefore making its way into many industries, including localization. In this article we will dive into artificial intelligence, explaining what it can do, its benefits and risks, focusing on its usage in the localization industry.
AI: What It Is and How It Works
Artificial intelligence is a technology that simulates human behaviour to carry out specific tasks. It can be used in various fields, and it can be trained according to the goals that need to be achieved; however, regardless of the result, all types of AI have a common structure: they work with algorithms, being trained to use different techniques and knowledge, processing information almost like human beings do.
In localization, AI uses algorithms to improve results and become more efficient with time, it is trained to work as a human brain and to recognise and understand natural language, aiming to give fitting responses.
One of the most famous –or infamous– AI tools that have been used for years is Google Translate, which uses machine translation technology. Of course, there are far more advanced MT tools that not only can translate, but also understand the context and give a proper rendition of the source text in the target language.
A Useful Tool in Localization
It is undeniable that AI can bring many benefits to the localization industry: it can translate thousands of files (especially those with a lot of repetitions) and process massive amounts of data very quickly; also, thanks to recent improvements, AI can also localize audio files, videos and images. Its accuracy is outstanding as it can even reproduce the font used in the source file. Companies can therefore maximise their profits by spending less time and money during this stage of production.
AI: A Useful but Flawed Tool
Since artificial intelligence was created by humans, and humans are not perfect, it seems only natural that this tool carries some flaws, too.
According to an article published by CNN, news outlet CNET had to rectify or retract a “substantial” number of articles that were written by AI technology, due to a consistent amount of factual errors and even plagiarism.
Similar or even worse issues can occur in localization as, in many cases, the text needs to be processed and adapted using judgment, creativity and the capacity to reason, all features that AI may show, but to a little extent.
AI can be compared to machinery in a factory: although machinery does all the heavy work, human workers are the ones who start the engines, take care of their good state, and check the quality of the final product. Similarly, although AI can help us to be more efficient, it still needs a human to check whether the results are acceptable.
Also, it’s worth remembering that some companies are investing millions in AI solutions, while at the same time they refuse to pay their translators fair rates and they complain there is shortage of talent in the localization industry. Is that the case? Or is it perhaps an excuse to maintain such questionable ethics? After all, talented linguists have studied and worked hard to develop their highly specialised skills and they certainly don’t deserve to be paid pennies on the dollar.
In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge the benefits AI can bring in localization; however, the idea that AI will completely replace humans someday is a bit far-fetched. Localization is constantly evolving and there is no question that AI will become a constant in our industry, but it is far from being the perfect solution some interested parties want us to believe it is. As trained and smart as it can be, artificial intelligence will never have the creative and critical brain of its creators: humans.