The translation and interpreting industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, and with good reason. Thanks to the Internet and other technological advancements made over the past several years, we are a global community. That makes the need to communicate clearly with people of other cultures who speak different languages more important than ever. And there is, perhaps, no other arena in the world where accurate translation and interpreting services is more important than in government agencies. It is no exaggeration to say that – at least to a certain degree – the fate of nations rests on the shoulders of these unsung heroes: government interpreters.

But having superior language skills isn’t the only prerequisite to becoming a government translator or interpreter. Professional linguists working for government agencies must understand and accept the import of their work. They need to exhibit a professional demeanor at all times. Before being considered for a government position, most of these language professionals need to attain special certification and spend years building the level of experience required for these highly coveted positions. They must maintain the strictest level of confidence, often needing high security clearances, and are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and other similar documents designed to ensure that they do not divulge the content of high-level conversations and meetings between government officials.

Given the important nature of the job, it’s no wonder that government agencies seek out and hire some of the most accomplished linguists anywhere. Without the abilities of these talented translation specialists and interpreters, communication between nations would come to a virtual standstill. And, as we all know, international relationships are tenuous enough when leaders DO understand each other, much less when they DO NOT. Imagine the chaos that would erupt at an agency like the United Nations, for example, if inaccurate or offensive interpretation services were at play. Consider the consequences, for instance, if the written stipulations involved in a treaty between two countries long at odds with each other were poorly translated!
So it should come as no surprise that government agencies avoid the use of machine interpreters, opting instead for the highest quality translation and interpreting services that can be provided only by qualified, trained, experienced, human linguists. While it’s true that there are a host of translation devices and apps currently available on the global marketplace, none of them can match the abilities of a professional human.

Having said that, these translation devices do serve a purpose. Tourists traveling in foreign countries, or people from other nations visiting here in the U.S., are able to communicate much more clearly with people speaking a different language thanks to machine translation. Many of these products are based on AI (artificial intelligence), meaning that the more they are used, the broader and more accurate their vocabularies become. The capabilities of these products vary: earbud devices that provide interpretation of spoken language; small touchscreens that display written translations of conversations; and many other features. Most require a smartphone and a language app to be used, while others can connect directly to WiFi. There’s no denying that machine translation technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past 5 years. But even AI doesn’t guarantee a correct translation, or the ability to understand popular jargon, or the subtle nuances of language – much less the cultural, religious, and political sensitivities of people from another nation.

Machine translation devices and apps work fine for hailing a taxi or making dinner reservations when traveling abroad, but they don’t come anywhere close to the high standards demanded from governmental translators and interpreters – language professionals who are, without a doubt, the best of the best.