Guidelines For Writing Text That Machine Can Translate Better

Machine translation is potentially a very effective technology. However, it is not 100% reliable and can not translate everything. The reliability of translation depends on the languages that are translated and especially on the text to-be-translated. By following certain, simple guidelines you can write text that machines can translate better.

1. Write short sentences.

When one sentence carries one meaning it’s easier for a computer to translate. Long, complicated sentences containing sub-clauses tend to be more difficult to translate. We recommend maximum of 25 words per sentence.

2.Write full, grammatically correct sentences.

Humans can understand more than computers. If you leave some words out of your sentences humans can usually nevertheless understand your meaning. However, computers will make more mistakes. The more possibilities there are for misunderstanding, the more mistakes machine translation will make.

3. Use common vocabulary.

Keep your language simple and use words that you use in normal language. Also note that machine translation can not usually translate specialized words well. For example, legal, medical, engineering etc. texts often contain special, field-specific words that the computer can not translate.

4. Avoid words that have several meanings.

If you use words that can be understood in several ways it’s likely that sometimes your meaning will be misunderstood. Therefore, when possible use words that are impossible to misunderstand.

All this can be summed up in one mnemonic: write text that is easy to understand and difficult to misunderstand. When you follow these guidelines your text will be easier to translate with a computer. And most of all, your text will be easier to understand by your readers too!


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Machine Translation: Friend or Foe For Human Translators?

Machine translation has a negative echo in many human translators’ ears. Many professional translators are afraid that as machine translation gets better and better, less and less human work is required and human translators might eventually lose their jobs.

Please consider this example. In the early 1900 car had just been invented. It was a new, exclusive technology. Car’s were difficult to manufacture and they were very expensive. What happened when Henry Ford developed ways to manufacture cars more efficiently and cheaply? One could think that some auto-workers lost their jobs because less people were required to manufacture a car. Instead, the opposite happened. The number of auto-workers increased dramatically because, thanks to more efficient and cheaper production, more and more people could now afford a car. Earlier middle or low income people had no chance of buying a car. When the car prices had sunk suddenly a lot of people could afford to buy a car and, in fact, actually bought one.

Now compare the professional translator’s situation to auto-worker’s situation. What will happen to professional translators when machine translation is making their work more effective? Will the professional translators lose their jobs? Or will the same happen with translators as with auto-workers in early 1900, when more and more companies and even private persons can really afford to buy translation and buying translation is becoming so easy in internet?

Real-time Camera Translators Are Not Science Fiction Anymore

It’s amazing how fast machine translators are being developed. The quality of automatically translated texts is improving rapidly, which makes the machine translations more useful for several cases and situations. Constantly improving quality of machine translation has inspired people to invent some totally new and amazing translation technologies.

One of the most interesting new technology in the field of machine translators is a translator based on video. Camera translators are basically real-time translators translating the pieces of text shot with a video camera. Sounds weird, right? Well, it’s a bit difficult to really describe what these kinds of camera translators are, so it’s better if you just check this video representing one of those camera translators (called Word Lens):


Unfortunately there are still very limited group of languages supported in this new technology. English and Spanish seems to be working quite good already, but more languages are desperately needed to make this technology popular worldwide. Probably this will be changing but the pace of the development is a matter of crystal ball.

Have you already tried camera translators?

Electronic Translator For Man’s Best Friend

"I'm thirsty. Could you give me some water?"

Communication between two friends who don’t speak the same language can become quite a dilemma. While human friends can learn to speak each others languages, it is much harder to find solution to the communication problem between human and his best friend, dog.

Luckily there are plenty of Gadget Mans to invent amazing technologies to solve this kind of universal issue. There is already technology, which translates barking into human language, available somewhere on this Globe. To be fair, I am already looking forward to see next some translator from “human” to “dog”, because real communication requires two-way interactions.

What about you.. What kind of translator are you looking forward to see next?


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User Manual Is a Challenge, Foreign-Language User Manual Is a Nightmare

Let’s play with the thought of you having a fancy new technical equipment. It can be a digital camera, a mobile phone, a PDA or some other machine with many features. You have probably bought that ‘thing’ because you want to do something with it. Like almost always with high-tech, you may end up in a situation where you don’t have a clue how to do something you want with that gadget.

So what would you do when you don’t know how to use the new machine? Trying your luck by pushing different buttons is a potential option. I admit that this is usually the first choice for me. Sometimes it is the easiest way but the outcome of random clicking is unsure. No one wants to mess up or break a totally new tool. Thus it might be the best to just open the heavy user manual. Luckily nowadays those manuals are almost always available in digital format, like in PDF files, and ‘find’-command can be used to scan the document.

What would you do if the user manual ”sólo habla español” or “puhuu vain suomea”? Not an easy situation specially if you are in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. If the manual is digitally available in PDF format which is widely established format for product information, it could be reasonable to translate the PDF document with an automatic translator to be able to understand something from the manual. PDF translators are developing constantly, and more and more attention is given to the quality of machine translation. Even today the quality is good enough for understanding the meaning of the text. Thanks to global online markets, foreign-language manuals are more and more common.

Unfortunately, no matter how good the translation is, it doesn’t fully guarantee that you would be able to understand the manual. There is still the common user manual issue of too complex expressions and difficult sentence structures. User manuals have truly earned their reputation of not being so reader-friendly documents. Too often one would desperately need a translator from technical “engineer language” to spoken language, right?


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Watch Out For Muphry’s Law! – Proofreading Should Not Be Underestimated

Proofreading is probably the most annoying task when one is writing any piece of text. One reason for this might be that proofreading is usually the last task before the job is done. Other aspect is the uncertain benefits of proofreading; it can be totally pointless job if there’s nothing to fix or if you are blind for your own mistakes.

The oppressive feeling that if you do check the text properly then there’s nothing to fix, and if you just skim the text superficially then it will be full of typos and misspellings, can be incapacitating. Luckily there’s Muphry’s law to make it sure that this feeling won’t be wasted.

Muphry’s law ensures that if you write with a critical voice anything about proofreading, there will be some faults in your text. Muphry’s law is as versatile as its ancestor Murphy’s law which states: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Muphry’s law (according to John Bangsund) indicates at least four ways: (a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written; (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book; (c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; (d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent (source).

In spite of the fact that Muphry’s law is unfair and irritating, it’s somehow comforting that Muphry’s law exists. I mean that it’s nice to know that the phenomenon is so well known that it has a name. It doesn’t concern just me or you; it’s a common fact. In-depth proofreading, which is made preferably by someone else than the writer, is the strongest shield against this ruthless law.

Have you been a victim of Muphry’s law?