The elephant in the room
Machine translation (MT) is one of the most controversial topics in the translation industry today – the letters MT are whispered in hushed tones and dark corners.
Why? Because it represents different things to different people.
Machine translation has been slowly gaining in popularity since the 1980s. It has become a familiar part of our online life thanks to Google translate and the Facebook Translator, and is an attractive option to those who need large volumes of content to be translated quickly. According to recent figures, machine translation enables linguists to get through 66% more words per day than if they were translating from scratch, equating to roughly 6000 words per day.
The process of working with machine-translated content is called post-editing of machine translation (PEMT), and tasks the translator with checking accuracy, polishing style and making sure the machine has worked its ‘magic’ properly.
So, I hear you ask, what’s the problem?
At best, MT can be mostly accurate, with some polishing necessary to bring the quality up to the required standard. At worst, it can be incoherent – essentially nonsense – meaning the translator needs to start from scratch and translate as they would on a standard job, but with less time and probably lower pay. As you can imagine, the unpredictability of current MT quality causes fear and trepidation in the translation community, leading to resistance to working with any MT tools.
From a provider’s point of view, training an MT machine is a very time-consuming and resource-heavy activity. It also requires mountains of data, meaning it’s not an activity that can be taken on lightly. That said, if the above is available, having an in-house machine certainly has its merits.
The question now stands: where do we go from here?
Surrey Translation Bureau have been delving into the range of MT offerings out there and will be presenting our findings at the ITI Conference, taking place in Sheffield from 10 to 11 May. The conference is a national gathering of those working in the industry and will offer 36 talks over four tracks including technology and interpreting. It also provides an excellent opportunity to meet peers, clients and providers face-to-face. Come and say hi! We’d love to meet you.
If you can’t make it to Sheffield but would like to know whether PEMT is suitable for you, please give us a call on +44 (0) 1252 730014 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of our qualified professional linguists.
Written by Jessica Truelsen