This article was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated.
How do you know when machine translation is right for a particular job or for your business? While some translation jobs are better left to human translators, a growing number of jobs are becoming great targets for machine translation (MT) or a mix of machine and human translation. As artificial intelligence improves, modern MT has distinct advantages of its own. To provide context, here are five compelling reasons to use machine translation.
1. Machine translation is faster.
One of the key advantages of machine translation tools is speed. When architected properly, MT can provide fast enough translation for real-time enterprise communication. With the right server setup (often provided in the cloud), an MT array can translate hundreds of thousands of words per second. When used in conjunction with one round of human post-editing, MT improves turnaround times by approximately 35% or more depending on the scale of the project.
2. Machine translation tools help to drive down the total cost of translation.
Machine translation is effectively 100 times cheaper than human translation - even for a customized and secure deployment. Where the technology is paired with human post-editing, it still drives a 15-30% reduction in total cost. The key is to train the MT engine to be able to practically replicate your unique voice, tone, and style requirements. For example, a “raw MT” output in a secure and trained environment, such as the one we deploy for Volkswagen, costs a fraction of a cent per word, including ongoing training and support. Conversely, a highly trained system capable of translating commercial business data for S&P, which is then passed to a translator for proofing, takes a lot longer to train and perfect – but still reduces total translation cost by more than 30%.
3. Machine translation is great for sifting through large amounts of data.
Machine translation is also useful when you have a large amount of content that needs to be translated quickly such as real-time chat or large-scale legal cases. For example, in a cross-border litigation case, millions of words must be "produced" within weeks to allow for eDiscovery and document scanning for key terms and phrases. A task that would not be possible for human translators. In these situations, machine translation makes it possible to quickly sift through the foreign language documents, search for relevant terms, and remember those terms for later application.
4. Machine translation creates an ability to balance cost, quality, and time.
When MT is used in a holistic enterprise solution, it unlocks the ability to adjust cost, quality, and time in a way never before possible with language solutions. As one of the world’s foremost experts on language technology, United Language Group (ULG) provides custom MT solutions for a variety of customers across the entire range of language needs. For example, we’ve helped global law firms who need raw (but secure) translations of billions of words in a month for a court production. In addition, we support medical clinical trial organizations that need absolute human quality translations but want the most cost-effective price and turnaround. The ability to provide customer flexibility was not possible before AI-powered machine translation was integrated into the language solutions workflow.
5. Machine translation provides a starting point translation for human production.
As alluded to above, MT is commonly integrated into more than 50% of all translation work at this point. If an MT engine is trained well enough, it can provide a better starting point for the professional industry-specific linguist. In some instances, this is called “post-editing,” which is a one-stage pass on the MT output. Even with good training, MT post-editing will still lower the overall quality of translation – but it’s a lot faster and a lot cheaper. It’s a good solution for manuals, FAQs, or large-scale business documentation. With the rise in quality, it’s possible to take MT even further. For medical companies, we employ a two-stage, human review that complies with ISO standards and guarantees full human quality. Coupled with HITRUST certifications, PHI/HIPAA compliance, and ISO certifications, your customers will be in better hands with a customized MT solution
Trying to decide between machine translation or human-powered translation? Why not both?
Consider this: While free translation platforms like Google Translate come with security vulnerabilities and inaccuracies, ULG's Octave™ machine translation solutions are built on a secure, auditable, and trackable platform. Coupled with HITRUST certifications, PHI/HIPAA compliance, and ISO certifications, your customers will be in better hands with a customized MT solution. And these results depend on tailored training with your material to capture key terms, phrases, and your voice. Because of these security and training requirements, the benefits are typically impossible to achieve with “off the shelf” or “public domain” engines ™.
United Language Group always does extensive testing and creates transparent reporting about the suitability of a customized MT solution, in terms of both training and support. Confirming that the solution is likely to yield the expected results upfront saves everyone significant time and energy in the long run.
ULG has the world’s best computational linguistic team and the best-in-class testing and reporting formation to provide clear, accurate, and useful information. If you are considering MT, please also consider speaking with one of our experts.