I was watching TV the other night and an Amazon commercial came on. In the commercial, a Japanese craftsman proudly held a ceramic cat food dish while a voiceover said something like, “I’m pleased with the idea that cats all over the world will enjoy eating from my products.” This commercial was on TV in Japan, where I live, but if you live outside of Japan, make no bones about it, that man is thinking about your cats. I found myself thinking, “Is there a single business that doesn’t face the international market and all of its potential customers and competition!?” The answer is “probably not,” which is why I’m writing this article. There are 3 points every business, large or small, might want to know about machine translation and what it can do for growth and prosperity.
- Machine translation helps businesses grow and prosper
- Machine translation saves time and money
- Machine translation provides options
Machine translation helps businesses grow and prosper
Translating your content, whether it’s a website, blog, advertisement, or Instagram post can boost your brand recognition, introduce your business to new markets, and help improve sales. Most consumers prefer to get information from sources in their native language and buy from businesses that speak directly to them. Furthermore, the growing freelance market puts international talent virtually at your fingertips.
Machine translation can help you research foreign markets, and when you’re ready, enter those markets and be competitive. By helping you communicate with suppliers, retailers, customers, and even collaborators, machine translation can help you keep your business flowing and growing.
Machine translation saves time and money
The historical image of a translator is a scholar working at a desk with a stack of dictionaries performing the time-consuming, painstaking task of creating a perfectly nuanced turn of phrase. Thankfully, technology has evolved to provide a number of resources to help translators and those in need of translation. These days, machine translation can provide reasonably accurate translations of text in a fraction of the time and at a more reasonable cost.
Translating for informal purposes such as checking the news, reading a document, or reading or sending an email or text message? As long as you aren’t processing text of a sensitive or confidential nature, you can probably get by using publicly available solutions like Google Translate. The character limit may mean you need to translate the text in chunks, but you can do the job and it’s free. Be aware that the results of such translation may be awkward or incomplete depending on the complexity of the source text and the combination of languages being used for the translation. For example, depending on the language pair, machine translation may occasionally omit words or incorrectly transliterate or translate important words such as names. It may be a good idea to include post editing in the workflow to weed out such errors. Another issue worth considering is the fact that providers of free machine translation tools may be saving text and translation data and later using it for their service, which may expose your business to problems related to privacy and confidentiality. Remember, the internet is more of a sieve than a safe!
On a budget or working under a time crunch? Machine translation to the rescue. Whether the machine translation work involves a translator or a specialist such as a post editor (who edits the text output by machine translation), the bulk of the work will be performed by the machine translation tool. The translation itself will take much less time, which will save you money and help you make your deadline. Furthermore, longer translations that may have required multiple translators to perform the work may only require a machine translation tool and a quality check by a post editor. The smaller workforce necessary to produce the translation can also save time and money.
Machine translation provides options
Machine translation tools have evolved over the years. The technology is no longer so expensive or complicated that only governments and large organizations can afford to use them. I’ve already mentioned free options like Google Translate, but such options may not be suitable for your needs.
If you need to translate sensitive or confidential content, you will need a system with more security in order to prevent bad actors from stealing your data. Perhaps you want to create translation memory or termbase (glossary) data that can be used for future translations in order to reduce the work load, save time and money, and ensure consistent quality. If you are translating technical documents, for example, you wouldn’t want important terms transliterated into incomprehensible gibberish rather than words and phrases easily recognizable to the target audience. In these cases, you’ll want other options.
These days, language service providers, or LSPs, offer a variety of solutions. You may decide that purchasing a machine translation tool or service for in-house use is right for your business. You’ll be able to perform translations on-demand and according to your specifications. Purchasing or contracting such a product or service can help ensure security, and also allow for customization to suit your specific translation needs. LSPs often provide training and instruction materials to help you learn how to use the machine translation tool and provide regular updates and support.
Another option is to outsource the translation job to an LSP. This will allow you to ensure that the work is handled by professionals, and also help assure quality. Asking an LSP to perform the machine translation for you has a number of benefits. For example, the LSP may be able to handle languages that you don’t have resources for. As internet commerce spreads throughout the world, a number of lesser spoken languages and dialects are becoming valuable markets. The LSP may also be able to provide post editing services by native speakers of the target language to make sure that the machine translation output is natural and accurately conveys the intended message. Professional post editors are better equipped to find the types of errors and mistranslations that commonly occur in machine translation. They can also polish awkward phrases or sections to make text more readable and palatable to native audiences by making better word choices and correctly employing idioms in the target language. If your project is for professional purposes and needs to be of excellent quality, this option is a good one.
In addition, you are sure to find an LSP that can meet your cost and quality needs when it comes to providing machine translation. This technology is becoming ubiquitous and LSPs are working to develop and provide these services to prospective customers.
Machine translation is not a substitute for localization, which performs not only translation, but also adjusts for cultural differences and preferences. Machines are not yet capable of matching the cultural competence and sheer creativity of native human translators. If you think you need localization services for your products, branding, or advertising, contact an LSP and inquire about your options. That said, for much of what is required for business, machine translation offers simple and affordable solutions with a variety of options.
To be more competitive, embrace the possibilities that machine translation has to offer. Build a new customer base, acquire new collaborators and business partners, and make your presence known. If you still aren’t sure where to start, just contact us or another LSP for a description of services. Any LSPs with machine translation capability will be more than happy to discuss your specific situation and provide valuable insights and recommendations.