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6 Machine Translation myths that might surprise you

Over the past few years, the term ‘Machine Translation’ has seemed to crop up across a variety of contexts – and we’re willing to bet that you have used a Machine Translation software before, too. Whether you’re trying to learn a few phrases for your next trip abroad or you want to make sense of online content in other languages: Google Translate, DeepL and Co. are an easy and instant solution to our everyday multi-lingual needs. But what exactly is Machine Translation?

Machine Translation (often called MT for short) refers to the use of a computer software to translate a piece of text from one language into another. This is done with principles of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning. Most translation software offer plugins or APIs enabling the translator to use something called Neural Machine Translation. With this method, the machine essentially mimics the human brain and continuously learns through the data we feed into it.

In an increasingly globalised and technologically savvy world, the use of MT is expanding; no longer used solely by translators and linguists, MT is proving an essential tool for marketing professionals, customer service operators, and even in everyday life.

But in spite of its widespread use, MT is still being vastly misunderstood, with a number of people overlooking the incredible benefits it can bring their business – if used in the right way.

Read on to learn 6 of the biggest Machine Translation myths, and to find out just how much truth is actually behind them.

Myth 1: Machine Translation is always cheaper

We’re sure you’re no stranger to Google Translate. As platforms making language barriers easy to overcome, MT systems like this have succeeded in making intercultural communication accessible – and, widely, free. But whilst MT usually has no upfront costs, what happens when something goes wrong?

One of the primary issues with MT, when used incorrectly, is that potential errors can be difficult to fix. This can cost time and money in finding the right language professional to resolve the problem. Machine translated texts which haven’t been proofread or localised may also damage your brand reputation, which could incur legal costs and discourage loyal customers.

Myth 2: Machine Translation will eventually replace human translation

The world’s rapid technological development has meant that MT has come a long way in the past few years, with systems such as Artificial Intelligence allowing for greatly increased accuracy when it comes to your translations.

But what MT will never be able to achieve are the nuances which render a text innately human, like humour, word play, and cultural context. In short, Machine Translation cannot localise a text.

Because of this, Machine Translation and human translation could never be in competition; instead, they should be used hand-in-hand to ensure the best and most time- and cost-effective results for your project.

Myth 3: Machine Translation is safe to use

Many people don’t think twice before using MT – but did you know that whatever text you enter into a Machine Translation software is then publicly available and no longer private? We don’t recommend using MT for confidential information – at least not without working together with a professional language partner.

To make sure your data is properly protected when using MT, turn to an ISO-certified Language Services Provider like us! We use fully encrypted MT programmes which ensure total data security from A-Z when it comes to your project.

Myth 4: Machine Translation is faster than manual translation

The initial translation process is undeniably fast when using MT. But to really ensure the highest quality when it comes to your final translation, any additional fine-tuning, post-editing, proofreading, and localising will, of course, require some extra time.

MT is an invaluable tool for projects with tight deadlines and turnaround times – but bear in mind that any updates or modifications are difficult to make without a human eye. This issue is particularly prominent when it comes to website copy, which needs to be constantly updated to suit brand or market growth.

Myth 5: Machine Translation is always the best option for any text

Although MT is constantly evolving and improving, it might not always be the best solution. When it comes to translations in specialised industries, such as medical research, technical manuals, and legal documents, the level of accuracy achieved using MT is rarely enough. Human post-editing is always recommended in this case.

For any projects, however, where a 60-80% accuracy rate is acceptable, Machine Translation could be the perfect solution. Examples of this might be internal communications, online forums and chat bots, or product descriptions.

Myth 6: Machine Translation is the only step needed in translating your text

It’s a common misconception that MT is a one-step process; but you have to remember that a machine translated text should never be your final result. To truly ensure a high-quality translation, you should invest in a suitable service or language professional to help you with the post-editing, localising, and proofreading of your text. This will add a human touch to really fine-tune your project.

For the best MT results, your chosen platform should be used as an aid for an LSP or linguist, rather than as a replacement.

If you’re searching for an efficient way to translate your text, then MT may just be the answer: especially when teamed with a talented linguist or sourced through a reliable LSP. Often, the combination of human and Machine Translation produces top-quality results in a reduced time frame, guaranteeing the success of your project across a range of languages.

To make sure your translation is secure and fail-safe, chat to us at SwissGlobal: we’d love to help you discover the benefits of Machine Translation.