5 reasons NOT to use Machine Translation

Machine translation (MT) is a computer based technology that allows the user to translate from one language to another without any human input. MT uses HTML or XML strings to extract the content to be translated and replaces each word with its equivalent in the target language.

It is important not to confuse MT with Translation Memory (TM) tools. Translation Memory tools are widely used by professional translators to keep translations consistent between projects.  As opposed to MT, CAT tools are human based technologies and can also be thought of as banks where the translation is saved as the translation is being processed.  It allows the translators to shorten the turnaround time and review existing translations from previous projects in order to maintain the same terminology, style and industry specific jargon (Legal, Pharmaceutical, etc.)

The first web-based MT tool was developed by SYSTRAN in the early 90s.  It offered a simple web interface, where one could enter a few words which would then be automatically translated into the target language – similar to a bilingual dictionary. Over the last few years, Google Translate has emerged as the leader in this field. Google recently announced that its translation tool translates the equivalent of one million books a day.

Considering the growth over the last few years, MT will be a major player in the translation industry in the near future. That’s the reason ABLE Innovations is keeping a very close eye on its development, and contributing to its growth as much as possible.

If you are looking to translate one or two simple words from one language to another, MT can be the way to go in most cases. However here are five reasons NOT to use MT for professional applications:

-A machine will always be a machine: Unlike human translation, MT does not understand the context of the translation.  Is the translation intended for a first grader or a brain-surgeon?  MT will generate the same results regardless of your target audience.

-Content creators invest a considerable amount of time in making their content appeal to their specific audiences. Whether you are translating Shakespeare or the sport section of today’s newspaper MT will generate the same results which could lead to a complete misunderstanding of the translation.

-In any language, an action or an item could be described or written in an almost unlimited number of ways (i.e. car, vehicle, automobile, etc). In some instances only one word would fit the definition. MT is not smart enough to understand that, which may lead to confusion for the intended audience in some cases.

-Even if it appears cheaper up-front, machine translation can end up costing more in the long run.  If you dump a large amount of content, you risk receiving nonsense in return.  The cost of having a professional translation firm resolve quality issues can result in longer overall turnarounds and additional costs.  ABLE Innovations highly encourages all of its clients to consult us before using MT.

-Company image: in today’s fast growing world, content is available to the intended audience instantly, which means that there is no room for error. While some companies think they are saving by using MT, their image could be at risk and that can cost a considerable amount of time and money and restore.

At ABLE Innovations, we are always looking for new technologies to help us shine in the industry and consistently provide outstanding language services to our clients. Although we are following MT’s development very closely, it is simply not yet the magic bullet it may seem.


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