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More About Machine Translation Technology

machine translation technology

Last updated on May 17th, 2021 at 06:23 pm

From a previous blog, Translation Technologies for the Ultimate Translation we learned about 2 main forms of Machine Translation which include Statistical and Rule-based.  Now, we’re going to take an in depth look at more different forms of MT- Free Machine Translation and Customized Machine Translation. We’ll also learn about the role that a Translation Glossary has in machine translation quality.


Free Machine Translation

We all love free apps, so it’s no surprise free translation technologies are widely used for many purposes.  In a consumers’ survey conducted by Common Sense Media, 76% of respondents from non-English-speaking countries indicated that they “at least sometimes” use free machine translation to understand English text. 

What “free” options do consumers have?  Several, including Bing and Google Translate which draws 200 million users daily.  A popular and seemingly convenient translation solution, but how exactly does free machine translation work? And, how effective is it?

In free or generic machine translations, users feed into the system volumes of source text, and within seconds the system generates an approximate idea of what the source text is communicating.  Free machine translations are generic in nature, which means that they have not been customized or ‘trained’ to recognize industry specific terms.  Thus, they are most useful only for delivering a general meaning of the text. 

Risks involved

As you might’ve guessed, users of free machine translation do not get an exact or even grammatically correct translation of the source message.  On top of this, users run the risk of data leakage and potential loss of intellectual property.  So, you may consider using it to translate personal emails, but beware of the possibility that your (or someone else’s) personal information might get leaked. 

In Summary: Use free machine translations with caution, and know that the quality of the resulting translations will not be acceptable for public consumption.

Customized Machine Translation

Customized machine translation is a machine translation engine that’s been trained to produce translations appropriate to a specific organization’s requirements.  It is more involving than free machine translation, in that a language service provider can actually “teach” the system specialized terminology and grammar of a specific market, which results in translations that convey the intended message of the company and that are appropriate for the target audience and subject matter. 

Law firms, for instance, have a wide variety of specialized legal terminology.  In translating high volumes of legal documents, the LSP would need to create a customized glossary of legal terms which would then be used in the ‘training’ of the MT.   

Training of the machine translation depends on what kind is being used.  Remember the 2 main forms?  If a statistical MT engine is used, the training data will mostly consist of monolingual or bilingual texts.  If a rules-based MT is being used, the training data will consist mostly of terminology and specifications for how the terminologies should be used according to language style. 

Trained machine translation is used in conjunction with post editing and the engine will be trained with the flows that were detected.

The Customized Glossary

A single term will not mean the same thing across a span of different cultures, or industries.  Before each industry specific translation project, the client and the translator must work as a team to develop a glossary that is customized to both the client’s target audience, and the company(client) as well as the industry. 

The customized glossary will contain a list of terms in the source language, paired with each of their corresponding terms in the target language which will make the resulting translation appropriate to the product/service, company and well understood by the target audience.  As the translator works, he or she will refer to and use this glossary to ‘train’ a machine translation to deliver industry appropriate translations.

There is no underestimating the power of a customized glossary!  Embarrassing corporate blunders resulting in wasted resources and poor impressions have occurred due to terminology being “lost in translation” when switching from one language and culture to another.

In Summary…

There is a right time to use either free or customized machine translation.  However, if you are looking to make your company global, using customized machine translation for translation of your marketing campaigns and website is the only way to help you successfully reach your target audience.  Be careful not to get lured into using free machine translations which will only cost your company in the end, instead of helping you succeed!

Flora Yu
Flora Yu
Flora was born and raised in New York to parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan. She has a degree in Accounting. She is fluent in Mandarin, and contributes a unique perspective as someone who was raised in 2 different cultures. She finds humor and opportunities to learn as she constantly searches for the balance between the East and West.