Although machine translation quality is improving all the time, the public opinion still seems to be that any translation produced by a machine will score low in the quality scale. While quality is important in translation, it is also very difficult to evaluate. Together these to properties make it easy to speak about quality problems when the real reasons behind negative attitudes are difficult to define.
Machine translation has come a long way during its relatively short history. Today it is possible to produce fairly good quality with a machine translator. The actual problem is not the quality anymore; it’s the lack of trust that causes opposition. Trust is a basic human feeling, and feelings are too subjective, impulsive and changeable for a plausible argument. Rationality is a good thing in our world and rational people want to justify their opinions with concrete things, like quality issues.
Or which one of these arguments is more credible to you?
“I tried machine translation once and didn’t like it. Never, ever translate anything with a machine!”
“I tried machine translation once and the output was awful. Never, ever translate anything with a machine!”
There’s always some risk involved with service business. With translations the risk is mostly related to the responsibility. Because the buyer cannot truly check the quality of the translation, there should be someone to blame if any problems occurs later with the translation. Professional human translators can answer for their actions while machine translators cannot be held responsible for your choice to use automatic translation publicly. When using machine translation one can blame only oneself for any possible mistakes. For some people the responsibility is too big to handle and they choose to hire a human being for the job to ease their own burden.
And all this has nothing to do with the actual quality of a machine translation. The quality of an automatic translation may or may not be good but the uncertainty is there anyway. The usability of machine translation will be remarkably better if (or when) the uncertainty and reliability issues have been solved.
What kind of innovation would make you trust the machine translation more?
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