Machine translation – what is it and how can it help?

In today’s fast-moving world, launching products internationally can easily become victim to short turnaround times and the “I needed it yesterday” culture. When you’re working with a professional translation company, you’re going to be limited by the number of hours their translators can squeeze into a day. So, as a client, how can you scale up translation output to be able to meet your deadlines? One frequently raised answer is some form of machine translation which we’ll be looking at here.

What is machine translation (MT)?

In a nutshell, machine translation is a software solution that fully automates the translation process, translating content from one language to another without the initial involvement of human translators.

Is machine translation like Google translate, or is it more complex?

Fortunately, machine translation can be a lot more complex than the likes of Google, Yandex, and Bing translate. These solutions can be suitable for helping private individuals communicate, but in a corporate context, a more complex solution is often needed.

This is where specialised machine translation engines come in. This software is developed by MT experts, and usually company-specific. In order to train the engines, existing translations are used to accustom the software to the client’s preferred terminology. In addition, options such as adaptive machine translation solutions can often be built into a particular CAT tool and updated in real-time while the translator is working on a translation.

In what situations can MT help?

While machine translation is rarely the right choice in our view for translating marketing content, MT has produced some impressive results when dealing with complex technical texts, for example. Another use for MT can be for texts like e-commerce product descriptions, where there is a huge volume of content to translate in next to no time. When coupled with post-editing by a professional linguist, the quality achieved can be fully acceptable to users.

Not all languages are equal!

One final key point to remember when dealing with MT is that, unfortunately, the quality that can be achieved in different languages varies considerably. Some engines are better with certain language combinations, whereas some languages are just not that great yet for MT (e.g. Slavic languages due to their complex grammar). When putting together a strategy, make sure to ask your provider which languages are likely to see issues so you can schedule in steps like extra editing.

So, as you can see, machine translation can be an option to ease deadline pressure with certain reservations. If you’d like to find out more about how MT can help you as a company, feel free to get in touch and we’d be glad to help!

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