Is Machine Translation a Good Idea For Business Content?

Posted by Rick Antezana on Jul 31, 2014 Jul 31, 2014

machine translationMachine translation (MT) has evolved into something very unexpected. The last few years have seen a dramatic jump in the technology that affords businesses the opportunity to use machine translation to save time and money.

Industry statistics show that machine translation can reduce the time needed for translation work by anywhere from 10%-95%, depending on the type of content. Of course, time is money, so by saving time, your cost will also go down significantly.

When you compare machine translation to standard human translation, it is easy to see what all the buzz is about! What takes even the most skilled person a day and a half to translate, a trained engine can translate in seconds. 

Points to Consider!

Not every type of content is appropriate for Machine Translation. For instance, if you have to translate a marketing piece, or labeling for a medical device package, it would probably be a huge mistake to solely trust software to communicate for you. However, there are some applications for which it makes a lot of sense to apply MT, such as:

  • Anything high-volume and of low-importance
  • Correspondence
  • Internal communication
  • Competitive research
  • Legal content: eDiscovery, case research
  • Social media 
  • Product support documentation

Pure Machine Translation vs. Human Post-Editing

You can choose pure machine translation, or machine translation supplemented by human post-editing. If you choose pure machine translation, do keep in mind that there is no linguist review included, and much of the content may not make sense. Full post-editing improves clarity, style and word choices. Without a doubt, full post-editing is a better choice when quality is important for your final result. 

Security and Cost

While there are some excellent free machine translation engines available for public use (including Google Translate and Bing Translator), you should be aware that any content you provide is neither private nor protected. Strictly speaking, it can be utilized by Google or Microsoft, respectively, to their own ends. That said, they're wonderful tools for fulfilling basic machine translation needs that don't have security requirements.

The other end of the spectrum is utilizing software from a private firm, typically a Language Service Provider (LSP), who can apply existing Translation Memory data to create a "custom engine" to power your machine translation. The cost is obviously more than "free" but the results can also be far superior as well, in addition to the benefit of 100% data security.

Improving the Odds 

Ultimately, there are times when machine translation will simply not work better than a human. Machine translation as a whole has recently improved by leaps and bounds, but still offers results that can sometimes make you shake your head, and because of that, there are certain applications where you will still need to depend on human translation. But under the right circumstances, MT is a wonderful solution that will continue to gain market share as companies seek to communicate across the globe more regularly.

Next Steps

Download our Human vs. Machine Translation Checklist

Topics: Machine Translation, Translation Technology