Machine translation is one of the most widely-used language technologies, but it is also the most controversial. Quality concerns raise the question of whether this technology should be used in professional settings but the debate is often obscured by a misunderstanding of machine translation.
In this article, we ask whether FMCG companies specifically should avoid using machine translation. We do this by exploring the problems with the technology and discussing its strengths before giving our verdict on machine translation for FMCG companies.
Machine translation can provide instant (or almost instant) translations and advances in artificial intelligence in recent decades have made the tool significantly more reliable. That being said, the technology remains problematic for a variety of reasons:
- Accuracy: Even the most advanced machine translation algorithms are no match for professional human translators.
- Consistency: Quality varies greatly depending on the complexity of input language and the linguistic distance between the source and target languages.
- Context: Despite the advances of AI in recent decades, the technology still struggles to understand contextual meaning – even within the same language.
- Grammar: Although this is one of the biggest areas of improvement in recent years, grammar remains a challenge for machine translation, especially between languages with significantly different grammar systems.
- Input limitations: Machine translation struggles to accurately register and interpret speech, essentially limiting the technology to text-based translation.
- Nuance: Algorithms struggle to determine and replicate the nuances of human language.
- Word-for-word output: Despite improvements, algorithms still produce outputs which largely consist of word-for-word translations.
- Reliability: Low accuracy and inconsistent results across different languages, and content formats make machine translation not a very reliable solution for any professional purpose.
These limitations apply to all cases for machine translation, so none of these are specific to FMCG companies. The key rule with machine translation is that it should never be used as a standalone translation solution or the only tool in strategies.
It is not all bad news for machine translation though – so it is important to discuss all of its potential benefits too, especially for FMCG companies:
While machine translation has a heavy list of limitations, it also has its share of benefits for the FMCG sector, when used in the right hands. Language experts now increasingly use machine translation for a wide variety of purposes to enhance existing translation processes.
Here is a quick look at the key benefits for FMCG translation:
- Speed: Machine translation provides instant (or an almost instant) output.
- Scale: The technology is capable of handling vast amounts of content simultaneously.
- Flexibility: One system is capable of translating content into multiple languages.
- Usability: Machine translation software is easy to use for language professionals and everyday users alike.
- Integration: Language pros can use machine translation to speed up their workflow.
- Automation: Automating the first stage of translation makes the whole process faster and more affordable to the end client.
- Affordability: As an automated technology, machine translation’s ROI continues to increase with time.
- Productivity: Professional translators can use machine translation to produce work faster, saving time and costs for customers.
In reference to the previous section, machine translation should never be used as a standalone solution, but professional translators use this technology to produce work faster.
FMCG translators can use this tool to produce the first draft of content for example, which they can then edit and bring to standard. This is a process commonly referred to as machine translation post-editing. Even if the output of machine translation only achieves 20% accuracy, the reduction in manual translation work is valuable for the end client, especially on large or long-term projects.
Absolutely, yes. FMCG companies should use machine translation to maximise the productivity and profitability of their translation strategies. The question isn’t that much about if companies should use the technology but more about how they should use it – and the answer is always to work with professional translators who know how to use these tools in order to deliver the best results.
Machine translation is one of many tools that language professionals use to deliver quality content faster. FMCG companies also particularly benefit from using a translation management system, translation memory, terminology management and a range of other tools that will produce results faster, maintain quality and boost consistency.
If you want to incorporate machine translation and other language technologies into your translation strategy, our experience team of eCommerce translators can help. Get in touch with us by filling out the form on our contact page and one of our eCommerce translation consultants will get back to you to discuss how we can meet your needs.