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Do you use Machine Translation and why would you……?

So, I was looking at some posts on Facebook the other day that some Norwegian friends had posted and I realised that they had already been translated for me into English, which was lucky, as I only know a few words in Norwegian (or any language other than English really) and reading them can be even more tricky. Anyway, it meant I could read and understand their news and what they had been up to much more easily and the translation was pretty good as well.

This translation was done automatically using a machine translation (MT) engine, but I’m not sure if it was because it recognized my location (UK), or whether it was because I have translated Norwegian entries before using the “translate” option that you can see below posts in the Facebook. Anyway, it made me think how much information is translated now using an inbuilt, or associated, MT engine within an application and concluded, quite a lot.

I often see the option “translate” in a number of Web pages or other applications that I access and it makes life so much easier to see what someone is saying, or to gain more information about a product or process I am interested in. It allows me to be part of a conversation with people speaking a language that I do not speak or understand very much, if at all in certain chat line apps.

Of course, historically, I was able to do some of this in a more manual way. If, for example, I was looking at some information on a web page in a language I did not understand, I could copy and paste the text into one of the very few on-line translation engines that were available, but this was not always that good and I often had a good chuckle about the way it had translated some text or some of the specific words it used.

Today of course things have got much better as the technology has developed and the new neural MT engines are being released by the developers. For many languages the translations now generally flow much more smoothly with these new MT engines and the wording and phraseology is much better to.

So, how does this fit into the world Translators work in? Well, to start with, those that are working with one of the numerous CAT (computer aided translation) solutions available in the market today, such as SDL Trados Studio, will know that many support one or more machine translation engines to assist with the translation process, but whether or not you use any of these, is another matter.

Those who are making use of this technology within their translation environment and they are growing daily, are finding it a great help by reducing the time and effort involved in translating documents. They are typically pre-translating the documents/projects they will be working on so they get all the 100% and fuzzy matches from their own translation memories (TMs) and then any gaps are filled in using their chosen machine translation engine.

Now, I’m not saying that the output from this is perfect straight away, as it will not be, but it does change the concept of translating from scratch into one which becomes more of a post editing exercise where you can modify both the fuzzy and machine translation offerings to end up with your final “perfect” translation. Of course, these modified translations are then also stored into your own TM for future use.

Many translators are finding that, by adding and using a machine translation engine as one of the resources within their translation projects, they are becoming more productive and able to handle more jobs more effectively, which if you are a Freelance translator or a translation company could have a positive affect on your bottom line even if you have to pay a monthly/annual subscription fee to use it.

Is it worth checking out? I would say a definite “yes”. It will not be right for everyone and may depend on the language pairs you are working with, but it could be right for you and make a big difference to your life as a translator.

For those working with, or considering, SDL Trados Studio, you have access to SDL’s own machine translation engine, including an entry level, subscription fee, option. You can also access Google’s engine and if you have a look at SDL’s App Store  https://appstore.sdl.com/language/  you’ll find many other options under Automated translation. Remember though, that a number of the MT engines will be subscription based even if the link into them is free

So, why not test it out to see if you can benefit from using one of the machine translation engines available to you and see how it goes.