Five Ways Machine Translation Can Be of Help

Machine translation is a fact and it is here to stay, no doubt about it. It will be part of our future, just like AI, the IoT and so many other new things that seemed too futuristic just a few years ago. As a professional translation company, we cannot ignore this fact or pretend it won’t become a reality. As we decided to face it, we think about it, we study it and even use it, as we’ve said before on other posts about this matter.

That’s why we chose to write this blog post, where we will try to start by explaining what machine translation is, exactly, and then tell you about five ways machine translation can be helpful for people who translate documents as a part of their daily work.

If we search on the web for machine translation, we will certainly come across Wikipedia and its definition of machine translation:

“Machine translation, sometimes referred to by the abbreviation MT (…) is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another.”

Nothing new up to this point. But then it continues saying the following:

“On a basic level, MT performs simple substitution of words in one language for words in another, but that alone usually cannot produce a good translation of a text because recognition of whole phrases and their closest counterparts in the target language is needed.”

This is where the article gives us key information; it explains that machine translation software can translate, but it cannot “produce a good translation”. And we couldn’t agree more. A good translation is a complex and difficult thing to achieve, only possible to attain by the involvement of a professional translator, a human being, at least in some stages of the process, if not all.

The definition of Wikipedia goes on saying:

“Solving this problem with corpus statistical, and neural techniques is a rapidly growing field that is leading to better translations, handling differences in linguistic typology, translation of idioms, and the isolation of anomalies.”

As it is true that this field involves AI in the process more and more, and that this involvement is being worked on and developed by engineers every day, it is also true that, for now and in the foreseeable future, machines can’t fully replace a human when it comes to translation.

This doesn’t mean we are against MT, or that we don’t think machine translation can be helpful, because we know it can. 

Below, we give you five examples of ways machine translation can be of help.

  1. Quickly finding the meaning of single words or expressions – Because of MT’s mostly statistical nature, it will give you better results when translating only one word or sentences that would always be translated the same way, like idioms and expressions. 
  2. Faster – If the text you’re looking to translate isn’t too complex, machine translation can help you do it faster. But remember, you should always review it carefully afterwards.
  3. Knowing what a foreign text is about – Imagine you see the name of your company on a foreign newspaper article. If you want to get a general idea of what the article is about before you decide whether you need it to be translated by a professional, MT could help you.
  4. Studying – Students may need to study materials written in foreign languages. A professional translation of a lengthy technical text may be expensive and students seldom can afford new expenses. So, if you’re not very comfortable with a foreign language and need the highlights of a text, you can use MT, which is generally free, and is able to give you access to the general information in a text.
  5. Entertainment – If you’re having a hard time trying to find solutions for a problem, if you’re stressed about an important meeting and want to take 5, you can always take a break and look at some funny translation results on Google Translate. Here, see this one: 

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Do you have any guesses about this shrimp resurrected in the rocket (Linguini com camarão ressuscitado no foguete) can be? Well… is just a MT translation for “Tiger prawn linguine on a bed of rocket”.

And how about the meat neck (pescoço de carne) sandwich? Does it open your appetite? Don’t worry, it’s just the MT suggestion for “Chuck beef in a bun”.

 

Machine translation is, as we said, a reality. We just need to know how to use it and when to use it to make it helpful, and to be careful not to overuse it creating a problem for ourselves. Like everything, it has good and bad things; it all depends on the use we make of it. But let there be no doubt: a professional human translator will always be needed in the process if you want to achieve the quality any long or important text deserves.

If you ever need a quote for a professional translation, feel free to ask us by clicking here.