The case for Machine Translation

Emanuel Longo | November 1, 2012

machine translationIs there ever a time when machine translation (MT) is the best strategy for a translation project?

As a Quality Control specialist, although it pains me to admit it, the answer is “yes”. We all know the inaccurate translations that often result from utilizing MT, simply due to the fact that computers cannot be as attentive to context and nuances as human translators. In fact, I have talked about this topic in past blog posts.

And as much as I cringe when I read something that has gone through machine translation, I will be one of the first to tell you that MT absolutely does have its benefits. Mainly, MT is a great way to get the gist of content in a different language quickly and inexpensively.

Certain projects require MT due to their high word count and time constraints. Ideally, extending the deadline would be everyone’s first choice. But when time cannot be added to a project, the following types of projects can be considered for machine translation:

  • High volume
  • Content with short shelf-life (frequently updated social media updates)
  • Large-scale research where only the gist of the content is needed
  • Research in which the information has low or unknown value
  • Internal communication of low probable importance (documents that will not be publicly published)

We have had times in the past when long-time clients have requested machine translation from us for large projects with short time constraints. In those cases, the content was being used for research purposes and not to be published. All they needed was the gist of the documents, to figure out where to focus their human translation efforts, both in a cost- and time-effective way.

Dynamic Language definitely does not recommend machine translation for projects that do not fall within one of the types listed above, since human translation along with a certified quality management process, is the only truly dependable method for maintaining accuracy.

In recent times though, MT has been improving. A benefit of modern machine translation engines is they can be improved over time with human editing and refining. Where this will take us in the future, we can only imagine, but I think we can all agree that machine translation has its advantages, and has a growing role in the translation industry.


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