Rule 6

Consider the use of state-of-the-art IT technology-machine translation and computer-aided translation software

Translation has probably been around from the dawn of written language, and thousands of years have passed since. Is there no way to translate the written word other than to have people do it from scratch? Let us take a look at the possibilities of machine translation and computer-aided translation software.

Machine Translation

Several decades have already passed since it was first predicted that machine translation would become commonplace in 10 years time. Unfortunately, machine translations are still not up to the par of human translations, and certainly not yet at a level that translation companies can charge for. However, this does not mean that they have no use.
Although still quite limited in scope, they can be applied to some projects with strict budgets or tight delivery schedules, especially because clients know beforehand that they can expect only so much in terms of quality. Here are some of the ways in which they can be utilized.

(1) As a rough draft translation

The most common way to utilize a machine translation is as a rough translation that will be later revised by a human translator. This not only allows translations to be completed faster but also helps prevent mistakes, such as omissions and transcription errors. A drawback is that machine translations do not excel in written expression and so may be difficult to revise or rewrite in cases where there is emphasis on written expression.

(2) As a way to get rough meanings

Machine translations can be useful when you need to get a grasp of the general meaning of things; for example, if you have a 100-page manual and you want to know the general content of the topics covered.

(3) When you can refer to the original text, if necessary

(4) When the objective is data mining

Machine translations can be cost-effective as well as accelerate delivery speed in cases where the intended use of a translation is to feedback customer comments accumulated around the world back to development.

There is inexpensive machine translation software available. If you are going to use it on a personal basis, such software may be worth a try before outsourcing the translation to a translation company.

Computer-aided Translation Software

Have you ever heard of software such as TRADOS, SDLS or Transit, or of the term “translation memory”? These software products allow you to recycle quality translations that were originally produced by humans. Let's take a look at how they are used.

When using such software, the original text and its translation are paired on a sentence-by-sentence basis and stored in a database during the first translation project. In ensuing projects, the new text to be translated is compared with texts from prior projects in the database. If a matching sentence is found, the paired translation is retrieved and recycled. It is extremely useful for projects that require the publication of many revised editions.

A good example is a computer manual. Let's say a Windows 2000 manual is translated. By storing the original text and their translations in a linguistic database (translation memory), a large portion of the translations can be recycled for translating the manual for Windows XP. Recycling not only reduces costs and accelerates delivery, it also helps enhance quality. For one, you can keep phrases and styles consistent with a previous project. Furthermore, you can avoid inconsistencies in translation even when several translators take part by having them use the database as reference.

As you can see, computer-aided translation software can be a convenient tool. However, they do have their drawbacks. Their use requires the creation of a linguistic database, a process that is not necessary in normal translations. This means extra cost and time.

For this reason, it is not advisable to create a translation memory for items - such as newspaper articles and product descriptions from a catalog - that cannot be easily recycled. We would also like to add that the number of translators who are skilled in the use of such computer-aided translation software is still limited.

We recommend that you ask the translation company to be the judge as to whether it is better to use such computer-aided translation tools or to go by the conventional method of translation. (In fact, there are some translation companies that are not capable of using such software). Why not say, "I've heard about computer-aided translation software, and I'm interested in using it. What do you think?"

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