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Machine translation: how to get better results from translation technology

Published on February 26th, 2019

machine translation

Machine translation is a misunderstood technology, hyped up as something that will replace human language experts. This is a symptom of the times with automation technology becoming more advanced and so-called “artificial intelligence” becoming a reality.

Except, we are still light years away from achieving true AI (in fact, we still cannot even prove it is possible at all) and translation technology is not anywhere close to replacing human translators – nor does it need to. Instead, it enables language experts to achieve more and understanding this is crucial if you want to get the best out of translation technologies.

Know when to use machine translation

The biggest mistake made with machine translation is not knowing when to use it and this is where most problems originate from. If you expect technology to match professional translators, you are going to be extremely disappointed – probably joining the list of people who think tools like machine translation are not up to scratch.

Unfortunately, we have got a number of tech companies trying to tell us translation tech is ready to replace translators, interpreters and all kinds of language experts. There are promotional ads of platforms working flawlessly in real-world conversations, but the reality is very different.

Translation tech might help you buy some tomatoes from a market in southern Spain, but it is not going to hold up to an entire conversation with locals or a business meeting with foreign investors – the sooner you forget ideas like that, the better.

What translation technology can do is significantly speed up the translation process for professional translators, helping them to take on larger projects that otherwise would not be manageable. Machine translation (and other tools) can also help them improve quality and consistency, regardless of how big your project is or how long it needs to run on for.

The end result is faster, cheaper and better translations while the tools also make long-term projects more scalable for businesses who are expanding and growing overseas.

Use translation technology to empower your translators

Whether you have your own in-house translation team or work with an agency like ourselves, the role of translation tech should always be empowering your language pros to do more. Imagine a medical case study that is being translated into 23 different languages (and probably more at a later date).

Above all, there cannot be any mistakes in the translated content for any language because medical case studies impact lives.

Part of avoiding mistakes is making large projects like these manageable – reducing fatigue, putting quality assessment processes in place, creating guidelines for consistency and maintaining them, etc. This is also important from a cost and time perspective, too. Anything that holds back progress increases the cost and workload for your translators, which only adds to the risk of further problems.

This is where translation technology becomes extremely important in a number of ways:

  • Reducing workload: Using machine translation for the first draft or smaller sections of content it is capable of handling (professional translators then check, edit and improve the draft).
  • Maintaining consistency: A technology called translation memory stores all of your translations and automatically inserts them in future documents when any repetition occurs (vocabulary, definitions or anything else that is repeated) – not only saving time but also improving quality and consistency.
  • Improving consistency: Another tool that boosts consistency is terminology management, which ensures the correct translation is always used for the terms most important to your project – no variations (unless they are needed in certain contexts).
  • Project management: With a translation management system (TMS), even the most complex of translation projects are manageable, allowing you to set your targets, plan out your workflow and keep track of progress so everything is completed when it needs to be.

Modern translation projects can be extremely complicated and translation technology helps language pros deliver the highest quality without the complexities of a project getting in their way. It also protects your projects from natural human errors (imperfect memories, biases, changing moods, etc.) and reduces the negative impact of having to change translators – something that often happens with long-term projects.

Machine translation is not a quick fix to the world’s language problems, but it can solve a lot of the logistical challenges that come with modern businesses’ translation needs. By creating faster processes, storing all of your progress and putting the right strategies in place, machine translation and its related technology can help you achieve big things with international audiences.

If you would like to learn more about how translation technology can benefit your business, make sure to get in touch with our team of dedicated professionals.

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Posted on: February 26th, 2019