Translation to Your Advantage
pretend for a minute that you’re the content manager for a successful American company
looking to expand internationally. Your boss comes to you one Monday morning
with an ambitious plan — she wants you to manage the translation of your 10,000+
database of technical documents for French and Spanish-speaking markets. The
clincher? You’ve only got three months and a lackluster budget to make this
translation miracle happen.
technology to the rescue! If you’re in this position of preparing huge volumes
of content for new language markets on a tight schedule, you’ll find an ally in
what localization experts call “machine translation”.
speaking, machine translation (MT) is a computer-generated attempt to match the
language output that human translators perform. While the human brain has the
capacity for understanding cultural context and nuances of expression within a
relatively small sample, machines clearly do not (IBM’s Watson notwithstanding,
perhaps). For example, if you use MT for a technical software document that
includes the words “shift” and “step” throughout, the machine will have no way
of knowing on its own if you’re talking about dancing (“shift” to the left; take
two polka “steps” to the right) or computer programming (and by the way, this
is a real-world example). Machines rely on volumes of data, processing power,
and human linguists for this much-needed contextual information.
translation the right solution for your project?
are seven quick questions concerning your content that will help you assess if
machine translation may be right for your project.
you’re in the blue with most of your responses, keep on reading. MT may be a
good translation solution for your content.
How do you
stand to benefit from using machine translation?
put it bluntly, you’ll save on the two of most precious assets in the eyes of
your executives: time and money. With machine translation, you’ll be able to
achieve the impossible, working within those tight budgets and turnaround
times. While a human translator may successfully translate 2,000 to 3,000
words-per-day with a high accuracy rate the first time around, a machine-translation
process with human post-editing can more than double productivity while
achieving close to the same quality — all within a significantly reduced budget.
is often the case, with speed comes some compromise. Machine translation can introduce
inaccurate meanings, redundancies, awkward sentence structures and, at times,
unintentionally funny mistakes. For example, if the translation engine is not
properly set up, your document could end up talking more about the polka than
you’d like. The good news is that the machine eliminates some uniquely human
errors like typos.
mistakes are not so funny — especially in mission-critical healthcare and
consumer safety scenarios — when a mistranslated sentence could mean life or
death. The translation engine’s capacities are determined by humans that
program it. MT can only perform aptly if the proper prep work is done to
generate contextually accurate drafts, and post-translation editing is still a
must to address some of the mistranslations and stylistic issues that can
So how can you
balance the speed and cost benefits of machine translation with potential
human/machine compromise (or hybrid solution) is the answer.
translation with what we call pre- and post-editing is a methodology in which a
linguist “trains” or programs the machine-translation engine to correctly
translate context-specific terminology, phrases with double meanings and
case-based client exceptions to rules where the MT platform may have otherwise
made a mistake. In the case of your polka steps, the linguist would program the
word “step” to always be translated in the context of computer programming. The content
is then processed by the machine translation software and then after
translation, a professional human translator reviews the output and edits it
for technical accuracy, style and comprehensibility.
vital part of this hybrid approach relies on translation memory technology (a.k.a.
TM, as opposed to MT). Translation memory stores previously translated and
approved phrases so they can be reused rather than retranslated from scratch.
translation memory prevents repeated mistakes with machine translation. This
improves the quality of subsequent machine translations (and saves you more
time and money).
How can you
prepare your content so it’s machine-friendly?
we’ve seen, machine translation is ideal for high-volume projects with
relatively straight-forward communication goals. Because MT works best on short,
simple, grammatically-accurate sentences, one way to optimize your content is
to pare it down. Removing synonyms and flowery language will make the
translation process smoother. Over the long term, train your technical writers
to keep their sentences short and direct. You can also work with your
translation agency’s linguists to create a glossary of terms with their
The moral of
human touch is still essential in translation when it comes to your brand voice
and marketing copy. But for a lot of high-volume technical content, including procedural
text, technical manuals and internal documentation, being accurate and understandable
is good enough. And this can be achieved through a hybrid MT process. “Good-enough”
quality is what the situation calls for when you only have three months to get
to market with three million words of technical support documentation, or when anything
more pulls valuable budget dollars from other places that need the extra human
one caveat is that you should make sure to ask your translation partner about source
content optimization, setting up the machine translation engine and human post-editing.
These additional interventions in the MT process will guarantee that your
content is comprehensible and accurate in your target languages.
us today for information on how our machine translation services can make your
company’s international ambitions realizable and affordable.