Is machine translation ready yet?

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Monday, June 25th, 2012 In Blog, Life of a panther, Translation By Ulrika
  For better or for worse, machine translation (MT) is here to stay and many translators ask the same question: Is Google Translate reliable? In short, Google Translate is horrible. But, despite all its faults, beyond all its broken promises and broken translations, machine translation is something that is being used day in-day out for translations – by professionals and amateurs alike. The ubiquity and ease of MT has led to a new translation technique called “post editing”, where the human inputs text from one language, has the MT do the translating and then manually edits the result.

How good is machine translation?

Traditional translators typically point out that machine translation is inherently flawed. It’s sloppy – it makes basic grammar mistakes – it doesn’t know how to phrase things – it doesn’t pick up on idioms or language specific sayings – the list goes on and on. The critique is usually pretty scathing and, according to me, all true. Younger technophiles who are more at ease with embracing new technology commonly point out that MT is here to stay and those who ignore it do so at their own peril. You may hate it, but you still have to learn how to deal with it. If you ask me, although I agree fully with the traditionalists – MT’s a bucket of empty promises – when it comes to new technology, burying your head in the sand isn’t usually the best tactic.

So what’s the way forward?

In this new reality of an intertwined, intermingled world we call ‘globalisation’, translation is a necessity. It used to be that only larger firms felt it important to translate their content into multiple languages. Now, it seems, it is a necessity for even the smallest companies in order for them to maximise their product and service offering. In this global age, can they really afford not to? For companies looking to economise (especially in this economy), MTs are a temptress – enticing those who seek the easy way out or to cut corners. Unfortunately, MT just doesn’t cut it yet. Whether one chooses to use MT services for a little help here and there is fine. At Copypanthers, however, we in no shape or form endorse MT for professional work. Who knows what the future will hold (and the future of MT looks to be brighter and brighter), but it looks like for now, good ol’ fashioned brain-powered human translation is the best solution. If you’re in need of some translation services, contact us or get a free quote. We’re here to serve you!

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