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3 ways to use automatic translation (and 2 ways you should not)

Published on January 30th, 2019

Automatic translation has advanced a lot over the past five years and professional translators regularly use the technology to help them complete projects more effectively. While translation tech is not at the point where it can match human language experts, it can be a valuable tool if you know how to use it (and how not to use it).

Today, we are looking at a few ways professionals use automatic translation to complete projects more quickly and with greater accuracy. Plus, we will also be explaining two ways you definitely do not want to use the technology for translation.

How to use automatic translation professionally

First, let us start by looking at three ways professional translators use automatic translation to achieve 100% accuracy on every project, faster than they would be able to without the technology.

Essentially, it all comes to automating stage one of the translation process, cutting down on the time it takes for translators to work their way through an entire document.

  • Automating the first drafts: The most common application of automatic translation is simply using the technology to produce the first draft of a document. This handles the simple stuff with a certain amount of accuracy and allows professional translators to check for quality and edit where necessary.
  • Cutting out repetition: Translation memory (TM) is a specific type of automatic translation that stores data and then uses it to automatically translate words, phrases and sentences as they are repeated throughout documents and future projects. Aside from cutting out repetitive work for translators, TM also increases consistency across all of your projects.
  • Terminology management: Similar to translation memory, terminology management makes sure your content is always using the right language in the correct way. The word “bug” can mean very different things to doctors, programmers and entomologists, for example, and this is before you even start translating the word into different languages.

As you can see, automatic translation is never used to complete an entire project. Instead, it can act as a tool to automate the first stage of translation or be used as a way to guarantee consistency and save translators from repeating the same work over and again. At no point are professional translators using these tools to complete entire projects and content translated with technology never makes it to the final version without being thoroughly checked and edited.

How not to use automatic translation

We gave you a few clues in the last section about how not to use automatic translation, but let us expand on this for a moment. The key thing to remember is that automatic translation only ever acts as the first stage of the process and content will always be checked for accuracy and edited by professional translators to ensure the right level of quality is in place.

In other words, there are two ways automatic translation should never be used:

  • As the only method of translation: Automatic translation should never be the only tool used to translate entire documents because it simply cannot achieve the level of accuracy required, even for highly simplistic pieces of content.
  • For content seen by the target audience: If you are using automatic translation for research purposes or internally shared documents within your business, no harm is done – as long as you are confident the right meaning can be interpreted. However, automatic translation is not the answer for content that reaches your target audiences (e.g. potential customers).

This means you can forget about using automatic translation to translate your website content, marketing material or anything else that reaches an external audience. You certainly cannot use tools like Google Translate for important documents, such as user manuals or guides that could result in the improper use of a product.

Meanwhile, automatic translation is almost useless for the more creative types of content like advertisements, marketing campaigns and scripts – the technology simply cannot interpret and replicate this kind of creative language effectively.

At the same time, knowing how and when to use automatic translation effectively can save a lot of time and money on the right kind of translation projects. If you want to find out whether automatic translation can improve the quality of your own projects, get in touch with our team of translation experts today.

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Posted on: January 30th, 2019