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Machine translation: the end of language barriers and human translation?

Abstract/Résumé: The change in paradigm resulting from technology use in the field of education is unquestionable. An example of such transformations is the teaching and learning of foreign languages and how they are practiced today. As such, varied tools and softwares, which have been designed to serve as a support both in the classroom and virtually, bring benefits to language learners. Likewise, translation has benefitted from technology. Hence, the so-called online translation programmes or ‘machine translation’ such as Google translator constitute a real attraction for lay people and language learners considering that they facilitate comprehension and communication in the foreign language. In fact, language barriers seem to become inexistent through machine translation, independently of the user’s knowledge. In the past, this translation tool relied on word for word translation. However, nowadays, it has been developed as a result of the joint work in the field of linguistics and computational resources. Consequently, machine translation has gained credibility as it has become a common practice among the people who need to communicate in a foreign language. However, on the one hand, such translation tool generates frequently confusing and at times incomprehensible texts. On the other hand, it renders translation into a simplified and banal procedure. Translation process, defined as complex by authors like Vinay and Darbelnet (1977), Nida (2004), Alves et al (2000) and Barbosa (2004) in view of the different operations which are necessary to translate a text from one language into another, seems to become simpler through the use of the widely disseminated translation tools. The present study analyses translation quality of ‘machine or online’ translated texts and seeks to identify whether the mistranslations or translation errors occur at macro or micro levels of the text. Moreover, in the light of the progress achieved in the field of Computer-Aided Translation and the advancements which might result from further research in the field of computational linguistics, this work discusses the relevance of examining even further the impact that machine translation might have on human translation in the future. In parallel, the possible contributions to language learning are also taken into account considering the interface between the learning of foreign languages and translation studies.