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Machine translation is a helpful tool


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Machine translation is one of the many tools used in the language industry today. Translation memories and term bases are other widely used tools. The need for machine translation varies from company to company, and needs may change as technology progresses. No one quite knows just how much machine translation will change the translation industry.

What we do know, however, is that a machine can never fully replace a professional human translator. Most translation agencies use translation memories, term bases and machine translation.

Technology defines machine translation

Machine translation, sometimes known as automated translation, is a process whereby software takes an original text, breaks it down into words and phrases, and finds and replaces them with words and phrases in another language.

Using algorithms and large databases of previous translations, machine translation technology can quickly produce large volumes of translated text without any human intervention.

Machine translation works well for word-for-word translation, and can be an effective method when you need to quickly understand textual content or context.

If you want to use machine translation in your company’s communication, in most cases a human is needed to fully understand the context of the words and arrive at the best possible translation.

The technology behind machine translation cannot yet pick up on and translate contextual and cultural aspects, which often results in errors when translating whole sentences and paragraphs.

Translation memory is a technical tool that saves translated text in different language pairs. Then, when the same sentence or paragraph appears in a later text, the translation memory flags it up. Previously translated and approved text can then be reused, which saves both time and money and ensures consistency in your communication.

Machine translation as a cheaper alternative

In the translation industry, we are seeing an increase in machine translation. This is because there are relevant areas of use for this type of translation.

If, as a company, you like to keep your content production coordinated and order a lot of translation for your local markets, it may be a good idea to examine your process to clearly identify what kind of content requires human intervention, and what kind is suitable for machine translation. 

Texts, material and content that need to be adapted to a specific market and target group, and are intended to promote and sell a product or service, should always be translated or proofread by a professional human translator. 

Machine translation is generally cheaper in terms of the per-word price – but it can be far more expensive if it’s used wrongly and damages your brand image.

Free online machine translation tools are not suitable for brand-conscious companies. The security concerns and lack of control over content far outweigh the cost savings.

Secure machine translation

If you wish to use machine translation for some of your communication, there are safer alternatives which offer control over security. These machine translation tools are provided by a language partner. They may be relevant when you quickly need to understand the context of what is being communicated in another language.

In a workflow that uses machine translation only, you enter the text and the engine delivers the translated version almost instantaneously. The text is not edited by a human translator, which means that the translation quality is often poor. 

In the longer term, you can improve the quality of machine translation by investing in a trained engine. There is still no human involved, but with time the engine ‘learns’ not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

It is important to think about this and make an informed choice. Whether you use a trained engine or not, machine translation always produces a translation of lower quality than a professional human translator with experience in your particular industry. 

The advantage is that machine translation is far cheaper than human translation, allowing you to translate more content while keeping costs low. It can be a good internal company tool for, say, quickly translating text so that a global office can be involved in an incoming tender proposal.

Machine translation is also useful for quickly and inexpensively testing a new web design in multiple languages. Machine translation combined with language review and post-editing.

Machine translation combined with language review and post-editing

If you are looking for a somewhat faster translation process than is traditional, it may be worth considering a workflow that combines machine translation with language review and post-editing.

The quality will be better than machine translation alone

A human translator proofreads the result of the machine translation to improve readability, correct vocabulary errors, syntactic errors and the most obvious mistakes, such as mistranslations and incorrect terminology.

Note that this option still produces a lower quality translation than a professional human translator. This translation option does, however, provide a far more readable final product than a fully machine-translated text. If you also use translation memories and term bases, these translations can in some cases be used in your communication. 

The risk with a machine-translated text is that the core message, perspective, feeling or other important information that you want to convey may be lost in the process. We’ve all heard the expression ‘lost in translation’ – and it really does happen. 

Producing a machine-translated text comparable to the quality of a human translation requires more work and a different process, more similar to the one we use at Comactiva for all professional translations.

Quality is achieved when you work with a quality-assured process. At Comactiva, two translators always review the first translation. If you opt to work with machine translation and translation memories and want good quality, we use the same process.

The first translator checks the text and corrects vocabulary errors, syntactic errors and the most obvious mistakes, such as mistranslations and incorrect terminology. The text then goes on to another translator who performs a final translation and language check.

Needless to say, the translator looks at grammar, spelling and overall translation quality. It is important to be aware that a text translated in this way will not be the same as one translated by a human when it comes to the very essence of the text, but the overall quality level should be the same

Texts that may be suitable for this kind of process which includes machine translation could, depending on the industry, be blog posts, reports and certain manuals. When you’re translating content that aims to arouse emotions in the reader on different markets – such as a marketing campaign, or when a specialised word-for-word translation of, say, a legal document is needed – we always recommend a human translation process without the involvement of machine translation.

Translation memories allow a lower price.

Most companies simply do not have the budget to only hire professional translators. At Comactiva, we help you identify the best translation processes based on your needs and your content.

We follow a  quality-assured processes, which for you means project management and coordination of local markets, translation memories that ensure continuity and pricing discounts, term bases that you can simply link to your keyword strategy, and the option of choosing machine translation for certain types of content. 

We guide you in the right direction and ensure that machine translation does not damage your brand image.  

Please contact us for a free meeting to assess your needs and circumstances.

Or read more about all our language services here!


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Can we use the Sales Manager’s title on the international market? Can we use this product name abroad?

Translation is about so much more than translating texts word for word. Perhaps you need help finding out whether a product name works equally well on other markets. Contact your language partner early on in the process, and you’ll avoid costly investment mistakes.


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Language Review

Most companies produce content in-house, which is only logical as that’s where most of the specialist expertise is. It could be presentation material, newsletters, blog posts or some other important communication. Even where your in-house personnel have language skills, it is a good idea to have your language partner check the text and any translations, for peace of mind and to further boost your brand. 

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Common questions about machine transaltion

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