4 tips for getting started with Machine Translation

by Dimitra Kalantzi , Linguist at Commit  

There is no doubt that Machine Translation (MT) is nowadays one of the major trends in the translation and localization ecosystem. Everyone is talking and debating about it in social media, blogs, newspapers and at conferences and almost everyone, including businesses, government bodies, translation agencies, technologists and even freelance translators, is trying their hand at it. If your business or translation agency is also considering getting on the MT bandwagon, you might find the following tips useful:

  1. Remember that MT is an investment and should form an integral part of your localization and overall business strategy. That is, unless you have your own IT/NLP (Natural Language Processing) department or are big enough to set up such a department, you’ll have to turn to the pros, in this case MT providers. With their experience, they‘ll help you determine what your needs are and how best to fulfill them in terms of system (rules-based, statistical, neural, hybrid), languages, types of texts, confidentiality, availability (onsite or in the cloud) and pricing, among other things.
  1. Make your market research as thorough as possible. You might be surprised, but as you’ll find out the market is rather huge with lots of alternatives on offer. Ask around and more importantly, ask from each MT provider you contact to provide you with a list of criteria they consider the most important in choosing an MT solution. This way, you’ll be able to collate the information you gather into a single list of criteria that are important to you and make an informed decision based on your own needs, capabilities and aspirations.
  1. Set realistic expectations. No MT system will work out of the box, no matter the amount of initial training it receives. You’ll have to invest time and money in order to reap the benefits of MT. In addition, be realistic regarding the adoption of post-editing by your freelance translators and beware of losing your most valued partners. Putting aside the gross generalisation that translators dislike MT and technology in general, many translators are indeed reluctant to take on post-editing tasks for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is the fact that because of the way they are currently practiced by some in the translation industry, MT and post-editing are often viewed as tools mainly targeted at lowering translation rates.
  1. Bring in the translators and/or agencies you work with from the outset, even before committing to MT and a particular system. Their collaboration and input might make all the difference to the success or failure of your MT venture. Bear in mind that although the role usually reserved for translators as far as MT is concerned is that of the post-editor, translators can also be of immense help in other related areas, such as MT evaluation and the maintenance and clean-up of translation memories (TMs) used in the training of MT engines.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in your first exploratory steps with MT. But remember, adopting MT is by no means obligatory and you’ll be able to review your circumstances and decision further down the road. And whether you decide to go down the rabbit hole or not, rest assured that your trusted Commit linguists are here to help you deliver your products and services, as well as market your brand in the local language, and who knows, accompany you on your MT journey.

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