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 framed as machine translation versus professional translators and that technology is replacing humans.
In reality, language professionals use this technology in a variety of ways to deliver content more quickly and improve their translation processes. In this article, we look at some of the most common ways professional translators use machine translation to complete translation projects faster and improve the quality of their output.
The key to using machine translation is maximise 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 and speech.
Essentially, machine translation provides a rough, first draft for language professionals to review, edit and approve before delivering, which opens up a number of possibilities. Here are some of the most common ways professional translators use machine translation.
Machine translation delivers a first draft almost instantly, which reduces the overall workload of language professionals, allowing for faster turnaround times. While current technology is never used to deliver the final translation of content, it can help professional translators produce 100% accuracy faster, which is crucial for time-sensitive projects.
The time and resource savings that machine translation can deliver allows companies to pass these savings on to the end client. As companies and organisations are increasingly pressured to produce higher volumes of translated content, machine translation can help reduce the time and cost involved by making professional translation processes more efficient.
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 and edit the output and hit the send button.
Professional 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. The effectiveness of machine translation will vary, depending on the content and language type involved.
Machine translation can drastically speed up the subtitling process by offering a quick draft for review. Once again, accuracy will vary for different topics, styles and languages, but even a 20% accuracy rate adds up across a whole project or one translator’s entire workload (savings they can pass onto clients).
When breaking news hits, publishers need to get the message out quickly and machine translation can produce an instant first draft. Given the reportage nature of headline stories (not opinion pieces), machine translation is generally quite capable at this, depending on the languages in question, allowing professional translators to review and submit pieces quickly.
Machine translation can be combined with other technologies, including translation memory (TM) and terminology management, to automate a significant percentage of the professional translation process. Each of these technologies can solve different challenges and make translation processes more efficient.
The cumulative impact of machine translation and other technologies allows professional translation agencies, like us, to deliver 100% accuracy faster; take on larger projects without lowering standards; and, pass on the time and cost savings to our customers.
As we have discussed before, machine translation should not be treated as a standalone professional translation solution – it is a tool used by language professionals to improve the overall speed and quality of professional translation processes.
Language professionals 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 machine translation, but professional linguists know when (and when not) and how to use this technology, as 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 its 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, CTAs or works of fiction and books is demanding too much from current technology.
If you want to find out how machine translation can drive down the cost of your professional translation 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.