Machine translation is one of the most disruptive technologies in the language industry, but there are a lot of misconceptions about its role. The subject is often pitched in terms of machine translation versus professional translators and as the technology replacing humans. However, the reality is that language pros use this technology in several ways to improve their own processes and deliver content more quickly.
So, it is more a case of machine translation being used by language professionals and, in this article, we look at six ways human translators use the technology to improve their output.
How professional translators use machine translation
The key to using machine translation is maximising the impact of its inherent speed. Manually translating content takes a long time and, although machine translation fails all the quality tests, it can provide a rough translation in seconds – or, almost instantly for small snippets of text/speech.
Essentially, machine translation provides a rough, first draft for the language professionals to review, edit and approve before deployment, which opens up a number of possibilities. Here are some of the most common ways language professionals use machine translation:
- Increase speed: Machine translation delivers a first draft almost instantly, which reduces the overall workload of professional translators, allowing for faster turnaround times.
- Reduce costs: The time and resource savings that machine translation can deliver allow companies to pass these savings on to the end client.
- Instant translation: Professional translators may use machine translation when they need to deliver instant translations in real-time – for example, translating a live event – so they can quickly review/edit the output and hit the send button.
- Large projects: Translators often use machine translation on larger projects to quickly work through the content, in full, so they can move straight on to the editing process.
- Subtitles: Machine translation can drastically speed up the subtitling process by offering a quick draft for review.
- Automatic translation: Machine translation can be combined with other technologies, including translation memory (TM) and terminology management, to automate a significant percentage of the translation process.
As we have discussed before, machine translation is not a standalone translation solution – it is a tool used by language professionals to improve the overall speed and quality of translation processes.
Getting the most from MT
Professional translators understand the strengths and limitations of machine translation, which means they can use the tool to enhance their own workflow. Quality is always the limiting factor with MT, but professional linguists know when (and when not) and how to use the technology, while they also have the language expertise to make up for its shortcomings.
At the same time, machine translation can help professionals overcome their own limitations, particularly when it comes to translation speed.
It is important to have realistic expectations from language technology of any kind and the application method. For example, it is always easier to translate from English into Spanish than it is from English into Mandarin, due to the vast grammatical, lexical and, even logical, differences between any two given languages.
Likewise, expecting algorithms to translate highly creative content such as ads or works of fiction is demanding too much from the technology.
If you want to find out how machine translation can drive down the cost of your projects while improving productivity, you can speak to our MT experts by calling +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or by filling out the form on our contact page.