Why Is It So Hard to Find the Best Machine Translation?

The quality of machine translation can be very good or bad or most commonly something between. The problem isn’t that machine translation is always bad because they can produce high quality translation in certain cases. The problem is that there are so many translators available and that those translators can produce very different types of text on every situation. The challenge is to know which of the dozens of translators you should choose for your case. Continue reading Why Is It So Hard to Find the Best Machine Translation?

It Is Time to Stop Fighting Against Machine Translation and Start Finding Ways to Use It Most Efficiently

Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, BrusselsMachine translation is a hot topic all around the web. The tone of the discussion is often negative. Machine translation is argued to have such quality issues that the best it can produce are funny translation mistakes to laugh at. The jokes are amusing but overall we think that this kind of conversation has gone astray.

Machine translation is a tool for human beings. It is a machine to automate work that previously has been done by a man. It is created to make our lives easier. During the history there have been plenty of cases like this when a machine has been developed to ease the work of a man. Always there has been opposition against such innovations but when time has gone by these machines have found their places. This will happen to machine translation as well. And it is not a bad thing. Continue reading It Is Time to Stop Fighting Against Machine Translation and Start Finding Ways to Use It Most Efficiently

About Estimating the Quality of Machine Translations

Estimating machine translation quality is difficult.It is usually very difficult to estimate or evaluate the quality of automatic translations. The main reason for this is that typically the user translates a piece of text either from or to a language that he doesn’t understand good enough. (If he did understand, then he wouldn’t need to translate it.) Thus he cannot really know whether the translation contains errors or not.

The traditional way to get an understanding of the machine translation quality has involved comparing the machine translation with a translation made by a professional translator. This has been done mainly for research and development purposes by the developers of machine translation technology. However, this kind of method is not useful in real-life situations because usually there isn’t available any professional translation for material which needs to be machine translated.

There is definitely a demand for a technology for automatic estimation of the quality of machine translations. The general idea behind such a technology would be creating a system which would automatically tell the user whether some machine translation is good or bad or something between. This kind of technology would benefit us in several ways:

  1. With reliable machine translation quality estimates automatic translations can be used in more demanding situations. Currently machine translation is often used for translating information where translations errors would cause only minimal or no harm at all. This has seriously limited the use of automatic translation.
  2. Bad translations can be filtered out of a post-editing process. The post-editing can be made more efficiently because the post-editor does not need the spend time with useless translations.
  3. Deciding whether the machine translation is good enough for publishing will become easier.
  4. The system can be used to select the best among several machine translations. This will obviously improve the overall perceived machine translation quality as well as avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Lately we at Multilizer have made significant steps in estimating machine translation quality automatically. The quality estimation will be also one of the subjects in a scientific workshop about machine translation in Montreal at the beginning of June.


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In Machine Translation Post-editing Quality Can Be Traded for Productivity

In association with Kites, Finnish machine translation experts and enthusiasts have formed Special Interest Group for machine translation in Finland. In one meeting we handled a hot subject of post-editing machine translations. Post-editing means that a professional translator checks and edits automatic translations which are made by a machine. The interesting topic with excellent presentations (one made by Jukka Outinen of Lionbridge and another by freelance translator Tommi Nieminen) sparked a lively discussion.

Machine translation post-editing can be efficient.One of the ideas highlighted during the meeting was that in traditional translation by a professional translator, it does not make much sense to lower one’s quality requirements. It does not improve productivity. A professional translator cannot choose to “write bad translations”. With professional translators, the style and fluency of the text come together with the translation. However, the situation is different when post-editing machine translations.

In post-editing machine translations it can make sense to lower quality requirements because that indeed improves productivity. When the task is to post-edit an automatic translation, the translator can choose not to correct those parts of the machine translation that are correct but written in a clumsy language. Thus the translator saves some time at the expense of the quality. Therefore, in post-editing machine translations the quality can indeed be traded for productivity.

This naturally changes the translation market. Clients can now choose between lower and higher quality, depending on his requirements and budget. Affordable, quick and good enough translations made by a machine and a man together are fulfilling the scale of available translation services. An increase in productivity will enlarge the entire translation industry.


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The Benefits of Automatic Translation Services

The global demand for accessible, high quality translation services has risen dramatically over the past decade or so. Whether you are expanding your business internationally, or connecting with new friends on the other side of the world, there’s no doubt that a reliable translation service makes the process much easier.

One of the most widely available services of this kind comes in the form of automatic translation. This type of service is available from many popular companies such as Google and Babelfish. There are also some browsers which now provide users with plug-in options, which allow for language detection and translation services for every website visited though them. Even social media sites such as Facebook are offering people an automatic translation of comments made in a foreign language.

These services are free, but of course one has to wonder about the translation quality; does the service provide enough accuracy for the translation to be of use? The answer to this question is not a simple, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For those who simply want a basic translation of a short article, these automatic translation sites can be incredibly useful. They provide instant access to material which would otherwise be unavailable to a person who does not speak the language. Provided the person reading the text is just looking for a general introduction to the topic, then machine translation services are perfect.  However, for those who require exceptionally accurate translation for the purposes of business or study, then the current automatic services may not be suitable.

It’s important to bear in mind that the technology used to in machine translation is constantly under development and updates are regularly made to sites such as Google Translate in order to ensure they provide as accurate a translation as possible.

One of the most positive aspects of machine translation is that is allows for the sharing of knowledge without the costs of hiring a professional translator. Those who cannot afford to pay for a person to translate an important document can now access that content free of charge, or for a very small fee, depending on what service they use.

Automatic translation services are also ideal for those who want their emails and documents translated without confidentiality concerns. For instance, if a business owner wishes to have a financial document translated, hiring a person to provide this service could create certain privacy breaches, depending on the nature of the information in the document. This isn’t an issue when one uses an automatic translation service.

Anyone who is running a company with international operations will know the importance of communication in creating a successful business. The same policies and professional goals of the company must be understood by all of the employees worldwide, regardless of the language barriers. For those whose business extends to multiple countries, automatic translations services can be invaluable, as they allow for the immediate translation of a document into any number of languages. Most human translators rarely speak more than four languages, and so may not be as useful to business owners who require instant translation of texts into several languages.


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5 Questions You Should Ask If You Have Problems With Automatic PDF Translation

This article is originally published at translation-blog.multilizer.com.

In a previous post we listed some challenges that PDF translators have to deal with. This post can be used as a check list if there are some issues when translating PDF documents automatically. Without further ado, here is a list of questions you should consider if you have any problems with automatic PDF translation:

1) Does your PDF file consist of text or images?

Sometimes PDF files have a lot of images in them. PDF translators cannot read text within any image or charts. However there usually is no problems with finding the actual text. This thing can be easily tested by selecting some piece of text. If you can copy any piece of text from the PDF document and paste it to word, for example, then the PDF translator should be able to translate it too.

2) Is you PDF file a scanned document?

PDF translators are not able to identify any text in a scanned file because those kinds of documents are like one huge image.

3) Is your PDF file written with special or less common font?

It can be that even if your PDF document is a high-quality file with “real” text in it, the file won’t be translated correctly. In this case the most probably reason is that the text is written with some special font. Some of the fonts are encoded in a complicated way in the PDF format and thus PDF translators don’t understand the text so that it could translate it. If you try to copy and paste the text it can become a bunch of strange characters in word. If this happens, you can most likely blame the font.

4) Is your PDF file secured or locked?

Some PDF documents are secured by the one who has created the file. This means that you cannot select any piece of text in the file and it cannot be translated automatically either. The owner has copyright and he has the right to secure his creation.

5) Is your PDF translator able to preserve layout and images?

If your PDF translator gives you a translation only as a plain text file, there’s probably nothing wrong with your file. The issue is most likely related to the PDF translator and its features. Some PDF translators are able to just translate the text and to produce a plain text file with the translation. More advanced PDF translators have an ability to create translated documents with same the layout and featured items (like images, charts and tables) as the original document. If the layout is important in understanding your documents, you should pay attention to the characteristics of the automatic translator.

These are the most common problems with automatic PDF translations. For more information read also our previous post about the challenges of PDF translators.

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