machine translation, as far as technology goes

Technology is constantly moving forward and the translation industry is no exception. We now use real products that we saw years ago in sci-fi movies and could only imagine in a distant future. 3D printers, autonomous vehicles, touch and even flexible screens, holograms, virtual reality, drones, smart homes, video calls, etc.; all of which were imaginary inventions seen in films, but have eventually become real. Add this to the fact that there are around 7000 languages in use throughout the world and communication between countries is constantly on the rise and it becomes evident that technology is also attempting to automate and mechanize translation, creating programs or gadgets that are increasingly precise and fast. The device used by the characters of Star Trek in 1966 to translate any language is today an indisputable reality and practically all of us carry a machine translator daily in our pockets.

But how can we get the most out of machine translation? The answer is easy: the key is to combine the best aspects of each type of translation: the facilities offered by machine translation, and the professional translator’s professionalism and safety. The formula is easy:

Machine translation + human post edition = high quality translation saving costs and time

Nowadays, machine translation has evolved into neuronal machine translation (NMT). Unlike the previous method, this method is capable of translating complete sentences without splitting them and generating more coherent results. In addition, it uses Artificial Intelligence, so somehow learns “to learn”, which offers more “human” results. Even in light of these advances, we all know of cases where machine translation has embarrassed someone, because the truth is that this automatization leads to the creation of meaningless or misleading sentences on many occasions. After all, machine translation can´t understand ambiguity and double meanings. There´s when post edition becomes essential.

When we are looking for a high-quality professional translation, it is important to know where to go. Machine translation can be very useful, but applying a free online machine translation tool to a document will in no way guarantee that it will be the same as if it were translated by a professional. It’s preferable to go to a translation agency that makes use of machine translation along with post editing. These agencies use all the advantages that come from state-of-the-art linguistic technology to save time and costs, while ensuring quality with post editing.

Does it mean we should never use machine translation by itself? Of course not. The machine translation has its practical applications, as long as it´s a high quality translator and we know its limitations. When it comes to understanding a text written in a language that we don´t know and that is not particularly complex, machine translation can help us by offering the “low-cost” version of the document translation. Having said that, this text will never have the appropriate level for its use and diffusion beyond personal understanding, without a professional post edition.

Devices like Ili or Travis the translator, demonstrate the usefulness of these machine translation gadgets without the need of humans in the process, as regards understanding. In fact, the manufacturers of Ili state that the purpose of this product is to meet the requirements of travellers who need to make themselves understood. If you are somewhere where you don´t know the language, devices like these, which also have voice recognition, will translate your words instantly so you can communicate with the locals. In these cases, a perfect translation is not totally necessary and it´s enough when it comes to asking for a restaurant or a street.

Having said that, when talking about linguistic technology, it is important to know that technology not only affects the translation itself, but also helps in the streamlining of projects. In this instance, CAT tools are key. CAT, or Computer-Assisted Translation, is a system that helps the professional translator by providing speed and cost reduction. This tool manages a translation memory and provides the translator with suggestions. The memory grows with use and is therefore especially useful for content updates. Since it is based on previous professional translations, it maintains higher quality than machine translation. It can also be a great help for specialized translations, since the text will always be consistent with the terminology used. On the other hand, technology is great for less specialized fields such as work management, through portals or platforms that monitor the evolution of a project.

In conclusion, technology goes forward and machine translation also, but professional translators are still necessary if we want quality results. The future of translation lies in the machine translation and post-editing of the professional translator, since this offers us the best of both options: the speed and reduction of costs of the machine translation and, the security and confidence of the human translator. Following this philosophy, at MondragonLingua we are committed to innovation and we take advantage of technology to offer our clients the best possible service, always maintaining the personality and credibility of a work reviewed and supervised by professional translators with great experience.