Though machine translation should not be solely relied upon for important texts, the technology has come a long way in recent years, and now acts as a tool in the arsenal of quality translation providers, ready to be used in certain situations.
What Is Machine Translation?
Machine translation, also known as automated translation, is a service in which a computer translates between two languages. In the past, the technology was notoriously poor quality, only translating from one language to another in a very literal sense, and going word for word through the input text.
In recent years, however, machine translation has been improving exponentially, through the rising use of statistical systems and neural networks, which are not only translating individual words themselves, but understanding the grammar, syntax and context in which words are used within sentences and paragraphs. Even more impressively, as these systems of machine translation “read” more documents and texts, they then “learn” the rules of grammar which goes on to improve the quality of their work over time.
Online services such as Google Translate are the most widely-known machine translation services, providing quick and easy translations which are available to anyone who needs them for free. This allows companies who require ad hoc translation work to get it at their convenience, but does not guarantee a business-quality translation.
Machine translation is speedy and increasingly effective, and London Translations can offer sophisticated software which does not suffer from the same limitations as free online services. Some of our customers request machine translations of very lengthy documents, allowing them to determine which parts are of interest to them before commissioning a Standard Business or Business Critical translation of just the parts which are relevant.
Are Machine Translations Actually Good?
The short answer is that it depends on what you need them for. Free online machine translation services have some serious limitations. For example, the length of the translation is limited and, as one can’t apply specialist terminology dictionaries, the resulting translation can be incomplete or of very low quality. In fact, where sector-specific language related to the medical, legal or military fields is required, for instance, poor quality translations can have some dangerous ramifications. However, for a quick way to get a basic translation of a document, it is an easy and efficient method of getting the job done.
When Do I Need Machine Translation Services?
Just because machines can’t compete on quality does not mean they don’t have a place. Consider this. Let’s say you are sent a hundred-page document, which needs to be translated from Japanese to English today in order to assess the threat from a competitor. Assuming there are 500 Japanese characters per page, a conservative estimate puts this document at around 50,000 characters in length, which would take a human approximately one month to translate. Even with a team of people on the job, there’s no way it would be completed on the same day, and at today’s prices, would cost somewhere in the region of £5000.
This is where machine translation comes in. If your translations are time sensitive, asking for machine translation will give you the quickest service possible, and at a reasonable cost. However, although the quality is often good enough for a tight deadline, be aware that it will never be up to the same standards as a human translation, considering the language and sector-specific knowledge that our team can offer.
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Thank you for your excellent work in translating our marketing presentations from English to Thai, German, Dutch and Norwegian. We were very impressed with the level of personal service we received and your company’s commitment to meeting our deadlines even though we made several last minute additions and changes to the texts.
My client needed this document translated as soon as possible and your company delivered it far sooner than I or he expected. In a world where great customer service has become a thing of the past, it’s refreshing to see a company who still strives to be great. I cannot commend you and your company enough for the excellent work done.
Thank you and your team for responding so efficiently with the translation. We really appreciate your work.
Customer service pre-event was great, very prompt responses. The on site translators were very professional and flexible.
What a fantastic service, enormous thanks! I will definitely be using London Translations again.
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To find out more about our machine translation services, call us on +44 20 7021 0888, email email@example.com or contact us using our online translation quote form. We will acknowledge your request immediately and respond to you with a quote within an hour.
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