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machine translation

When it comes to streamlining business practices, Machine Translation is the go-to tool for technical writing. In simple terms, Machine Translation is the term used to describe software – like Google Translate – that can convert text from one language into another. While it lacks the human touch, Machine Translation has changed the way people all over the world look at translation in their daily lives. In this post, we’re going to examine Machine Translation and explore how it can be used in your company.

Understanding Machine Translation

Machine Translation faces one major issue in the complexity of human languages, meaning complex sentences can result in poor translations. With three different approaches to Machine Translation, operating under different sets of rules and used for different applications, they vary in the levels of complexity they can manage

Statistical systems

Statistical systems employed in Machine Translation rely on pattern matching and statistics to create sentences based on the most likely word choices. They work best when combined with a language database, and can result in more fluent translations as a result of the use of a language model.

The major issue with statistical systems is that they lack rules and grammar. While costly to input, grammar rules can guide the flow of language and make a translation more readable.

Rule-based Machine Translation

The rule-based approach to MT relies on the grammar and syntax of a language. The issue this faces in terms of language complexity is in the varying ways people from different countries speak, even when in the same language, and the multiple writing styles a single person can employ. While some aspects of a writer’s voice will remain consistent, a translator making use of rule-based Machine Translation will be unable to rely on tonal consistencies across multiple texts, or the sentence structures employed by writers in any given field.

Neural MT

Neural Machine Translation is designed to learn a language. While relying on computing power that most people cannot afford, it is an effective approach to translation. The purpose of Neural MT is to teach software how to use other languages. The software and AI behind it is continually in development, offering the greatest potential return on profits in the future as its capacity to learn and teach languages increases over time.

When to avoid using Machine Translation

No matter how powerful your computer, or the type of Machine Translation being utilized, there are two instances when it should be avoided. Both types of writing rely on the specific meaning and intention of words and sentences: technical documents, such as legal and medical documents, and the text used in branding.

An incorrect translation can result in:
A misunderstanding of a law or regulation, resulting in a fine or criminal sentencing
A misdiagnosis of a medical condition, resulting in incorrect treatment
A misunderstanding of a medical treatment, resulting in increased suffering

When a person’s health and/or well-being is at risk, it is highly recommended to use human translators. This can avoid accidents with dire consequences, particularly when a translator with experience in the required field is used.

Similarly, making use of a human translator when translating branding or marketing materials is key to maintaining the meaning and intention of the source language. Machine Translation can sometimes struggle to interpret what was originally meant, particularly when words share spellings.

When should you use MT?

Despite its drawbacks, Machine Translation still has many practical uses. Anything published in volume – such as customer reviews on your website – can be translated using MT to save time and money. This is a result of typically simpler language and the usual repetition of words and phrases in reviews.

Generally speaking, where a writing style is simple and to the point, and where the text is of a low priority – and usually not for a public audience – it can be more cost-effective to use MT.

Hybrid translation

In the interest of saving money while getting the best translation possible, the best advice on offer is to use both Machine Translation alongside the work of dedicated translation services offered by individuals and companies.

The main thing to consider when deciding upon your translation method is to consider the following:

Will a mistake be costly, either financially or to someone’s health?
Will a mistake damage your company’s image?
How big is your budget for translation?
How important is the document you need to translate to another language?

The hybrid approach provides a second set of eyes on a translated piece before it is circulated.

What next?

Where Machine Translation offers speed, human translators offer creativity alongside a history of accuracy. Combining both approaches is a wise choice and one we’re happy to take with you. Get in touch to discuss your options.

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