If you need to have documents translated, and you don’t want to break the bank with translation fees, you may be considering the use of machine translation, or MT. Translation done automatically by a computer comes in two main varieties: free, online translation such as Google Translate or Microsoft Translator, and customized machine translation engines. This post mainly covers the online sort, but stay tuned for a future article on the differences between the two types of MT and the current state of the technology.
Not surprisingly, I’d recommend hiring a human to translate any document where quality counts. Why? Six main reasons:
1) Human translators have brains, so we analyze a text and understand what the author’s main ideas are. Then we make sure those main ideas come across the same way in the translation. We are aware of the author’s style and writing techniques, and we also read between the lines much better than software can.
2) A human translator has background knowledge of the culture and practices that informed the source text. This means we know not to translate a phrase like “six in one hand” word for word into Japanese, for instance, and we also know that part of the expression is missing.
3) If you are willing to spend the time and money to produce high-quality text for the original document, you probably want to invest enough time and money to get a high-quality translation of that document.
4) Human translators have emotions, so we can tell whether the source text is meant to make the reader laugh, yell, or run out and buy your product, and we can reproduce the same effect in our translation.
5) Skilled translators specialize in specific areas so that they know which terminology to use. A machine can always find definitions for the French word “rendement,” but it wouldn’t know whether to select output, performance, efficiency, or yield as a translation.
6) Online MT programs do not preserve the confidentiality of your documents. ‘Nuff said.