When you’re looking for translation services, we know the choice can be bewildering. From copying and pasting into Google Translate, to dedicated human translation services – it’s important you know which one to choose and how to compare.
Many translation agencies claim they use “state-of-the-art” software and translation platforms – but what does this really mean?
There are 3 distinct levels of translation service, starting from the most automated to the most human.
- Machine Translation Service
- Computer-Aided Translation Service
- Human Translation Service
On a basic level, Machine Translation performs simple substitution of words in one natural language for words in another.
Machine translations are getting better with time, as more human translations are analysed using statistical techniques. This ensures the software can start to handle differences in linguistic typology, translation of idioms, and the isolation of anomalies.
This doesn’t mean it’s suitable for your translation project!
Machine Translation Problems
Machine translation struggles with recognition of whole phrases and matching them with the closest counterparts in the target language. Some of the machine translation output may be used where language is formal or formulaic, such as in legal translation but for most applications where there are natural language applications – machines just don’t get it right.
The process also has an issue with disambiguation. This is where there are multiple ambiguous translation possibilities for one phrase. An example of the same type of technology you may be familiar with is the autocorrect options on spellcheck. I’m sure you’ve entered something in a text that was not always exactly what you intended!
Sometimes to get your marketing message across correctly, you don’t always use standard speech. Bringing in casual colloquialisms can really offer your brand a human personality and feel but this is exactly where machines begin to struggle.
Computer Assisted Translation
So as the artificial intelligence isn’t quite up to scratch yet – how can our service still be more efficient than a full manual translation?
Computer-assisted translation is where a human translator uses computer software to support and facilitate the translation process. Much like the spell-check and grammar check within Microsoft Word, these tools offer a database of what is the “right” translation – making the translation process more efficient and consistent.
Many of our translators are advanced users of translation memory programs. They store previously translated source texts and their equivalent target texts in a database.
As the translator works through a document, the software displays each source segment in turn and provides a previous translation for re-use, if the program finds a matching source segment in its database.
If no match is found, the program allows the translator to enter a translation for the new segment.
The benefits of such systems can be huge, especially for larger translation service clients or where there are lots of repeated segments within or between documents. This could be technical content that is used in both technical manuals and technical section of a website. Another example could be in the manufacturing industry where a certain percentage of the translation is the same from product to product.
The process still relies on the human translator, who is much more accurate than the machine…. Or are they?
Human Translation Services
The most labour intensive (and therefore costly) of the translation services is a full human translation.
This approach is mainly favoured in literary circles where the study of translation is a discipline in itself!
Like any professional service, the quality of the translation service output is largely dependent on the person behind the screen. The computer aided tools are only useful and cost-effective when the person using them to choose the right phrase has the experience, vocabulary and intelligence to understand the context of the translation – not just the words (the machine can do that!)
Don’t be fooled by boasts of market-leading software and platforms – they’re only as good as the people behind them.
Beware of the reliance on these tools across translation agencies as they can multiply mistakes. We pride ourselves on having meticulous proof-readers employed too!
Validate the experience of the translation agency. Look for a good client list, testimonials, experience in your sector and experience in what you’re trying to translate.
Avoid submitting a Word document then comparing costs. It’s important to know the company’s translation service process and how the translations are checked. It’s more costly to lose sales due to poor translation than to pay 10% more for a specialist translator in your field.
Like the old saying goes: If you think a professional is expensive… wait until you hire an amateur!