Preparing Your Content for Machine Translation

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It goes without saying that a machine translation of your content can be no better than the quality of the content that you put into it. But even the best-prepared content being fed through the most sophisticated translation engine will still not be perfect.

An important part of the work cycle of machine translation remains the use of human post-editors-trained in the language from which and into which you're translating, as well as in your industry's terminology-to give your content a final polish. "We make sure that translators are experts in the content type for whatever content we are working with," says MultiLing's Nelson. "We build teams to partner for the long term with our customers. And these teams are expected to be with content over course of its life span. When we take on a new client, we identify those translators and post-editors who are most qualified for their content, get them even more familiar with the industry, and, after a very short period of time, these folks are experts in the material as well as in the customer's style of content. The linguist is an important part of the cycle."

If history is any guide, the development of automated translation technology is likely to continue to grow in its accuracy and complexity. We've come a long way from the IBM/Georgetown demonstration in the early 1950s of a few pithy phrases translated from Russian to English on a paper printout. But language, in all its complexity, may remain outside of the grasp of automated technology for a long time to come-if it's ever truly mastered. And so, it will continue to be important for any company with an interest in having its content translated from one language into another (or into multiple other languages) to be mindful of the best practices it can employ to ensure a better output from its machine-translation provider. From style guides and glossaries to providing as many relevant past translations as possible, there are plenty of easy but important steps to take to ensure that the product you get from your translation is as good as it can be.

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For much of history, the primary obstacle preventing people from connecting with one another was distance. But in the mobile, social, always-on world in which we live today, distance is no longer the major challenge. Instead, our biggest challenge is the lack of a common language. It's the inability to understand one another that prevents us from making meaningful connections. Isn't there an app for that? Yes, there is. Machine translation (MT) hails from the discipline of computational linguistics and aims to help humans who speak different languages communicate with one another. And while MT is not actually an "app," many app makers are attempting to harness the power of automated translation by building MT into their products and services. But there are challenges.