What are the best use cases for machine translation?

Companies have a broad range of content translation needs. For some of it, like client-facing content, translation quality is the highest priority, but for others, like internal communications or chat-bots, quick delivery is the most important thing.

date iconNovember 9, 2022     tag iconTranslation

What if we told you there's a solution that makes multilingual communication and information sharing easier, even when there's a large amount of content to translate? Discover what machine translation services are all about.

What does machine translation mean?

In machine translation, texts are translated automatically with computer software so that a human translator does not directly participate in the process. The relationship between human translators and machine translation systems has been that the machine translation engine has been trained with translations created by human translators. The undisputed strength of machine translation is the speed of the translation process. Customers can get the translations they need in minutes.

The strength of human translators is still the quality of the translation. Machine translation engines can produce the same quality as a human translator for a few text types only.

Where can machine translation be used?

Today, machine translation works best in scenarios where a text needs to be conveyed in an understandable form in another language. The language of the translation is not necessarily error-free or fully logical, but it can be understood. The word order may be odd, or a single word may have been replaced with a strange synonym.

For instance, the translation of the word ‘volume’ may refer to sound volume, a quantity of space or an amount, regardless of the actual context. However, a reader with basic language skills can understand what the intended meaning of the text is.

At present, machine translation can well be used, for instance, for non-public, company-internal communication and information sharing, especially when the content of the text needs to be transmitted quickly but the text is not distributed to a large audience. It is also important that all parties are aware of the use of machine translation.

How secure is machine-translated content?

Data security often comes up when discussing machine translation. A machine translation engine dedicated to the company’s use is a safe option in terms of data security. In practice, the material to be translated is transmitted in an encrypted form between the client and the machine translation system.

The translated material only remains in the memory of the machine translation engine for a short time, and it is not used for any other purposes. This way, even texts containing business secrets can be translated using machine translation.

With free, publicly available machine translation services, there is a risk that the translated text will remain in the translation engine’s memory. Often, the party offering a free translation service withholds the right to use the translated material.

What are the best uses for machine translation?

Machine translation can be used in a large variety of situations. Below we go through some scenarios where machine translation can help you obtain fast and affordable translated content in as many languages as you need.

#1 Internal emails and other written internal communications

Machine translation can help in situations where speed is the most important factor. You get the machine translation almost immediately for your use. It's also a great benefit that machine translation can be used to easily translate texts that would otherwise not be translated at all, such as email messages.

If a company is operating in several countries or on several continents even, communication becomes more difficult to manage. The language skills of employees can vary a lot. Even if English was chosen as the company’s official language, not everyone may be able to use it, at least well enough. Many people would in fact prefer communication in their native language, which would decrease ambiguity. However, this is nearly impossible when the company has sites all over the world.

Machine translation can help decrease or even eliminate the language barrier in multilingual communications. A translation of the text can be obtained quickly and in a form that enables the recipients to understand the core content of the message.

Machine translation can be particularly important in cases where an acute issue needs to be communicated to a large number of people. When, for instance, a disturbance in production can be announced quickly to a large group of people, the problem can also be responded to quickly and effectively. In such a situation, the recipient can quickly and easily translate the original message into their own language, or the sender can take care of that.

And if you're worried about potential errors in machine-translated content, be assured machine translation quality has come a long way since its inception.

#2 Technical documentation and product instructions

Companies operating in different industries can accumulate considerable amounts of documentation on products, services and operating models. Often, this kind of technical content is structured and republished in multiple formats and channels.

Technical translation actually makes the perfect use case for machine translation: although technical manuals and other product documentation usually represent a high-volume of text to translate, as content is broken into short segments that can be translated independently whenever there's an update. Also, if the same segment is used across different materials, by combining machine translation with translation memory technology, the same translation will be used every time (unless it's altered or corrected in the translation memory).

You can see for yourself how machine translation works for manufacturing companies in our success story with a global leader in the manufacturing of forklifts and handling platforms.

#3 Texts with a short life-span

A good example of texts with a short life cycle is product review texts at online stores. When an online store is operating in multiple countries, using machine translation for translating reviews can be an excellent way to serve customers. Here, machine translation helps customers with their purchase decisions.

Machine translation systems integrated into an online store are often used in the travel industry and consumer products ecommerce stores. The reviews are typically translated into the language of the customer's web browser.

When the product catalog of an online store is extensive, machine translation is also quite commonly used for translating product information. In these cases, it's a good idea to classify products into different importance tiers, so that human quality assurance can be added for the translations of the most strategic product pages, if needed.

Machine translation solutions are also commonly integrated with collaboration and social media platforms, where the posts of users can be translated into the reader’s own language with a single click.

When better quality is needed: post-edit machine translation

The translation quality produced by machine translation is not sufficient as such in many situations. For example, if the content has humor or emotion attached to it (e.g. marketing content), or its accuracy is critical to people's safety or security, then we recommend post-edited machine translation or traditional translation by a professional translator.

In the translation process with post-editing, the source material is first translated into the target language with machine translation, and a human editor then reviews and corrects the text, making sure it's fully accurate and that the original's sentiment is still embedded into the translation. In addition, the end result of post-editing can be used to train the machine translation engine to further improve its future translations.

One of the benefits of this process is the delivery time – it's often shorter than with translation performed solely by a human translator from start to finish. However, the shorter schedule requires that the original machine translation output is of sufficiently good quality.

A good example of training a machine translation engine is a situation where a repeating error occurs in the translations produced by the engine, such as the English names of weekdays written in lowercase. Such systematic errors can easily be fixed by training the translation engine further.

For the translation of client-facing materials, marketing content and other public documents, a human translator is still recommended. A human professional can introduce deeper meanings and desired cultural nuances into the text. Only a human can interpret, for instance, the multi-level meanings of a journalistic or literary text. Machine translation is not fully replacing human translators, but it can help humans with texts that would otherwise probably not be translated at all.

In short

As we've said from the start, machine translation is not the right approach for all content types. When an understandable, useful and reviewed text is needed fast, the combination of machine translation and post-editing can be the right choice. When the best translation quality is called for, or the text type is complex for a machine translation engine to work with, then the language skills of human translators are the only solution.

date iconNovember 9, 2022     tag iconTranslation

Contact a language service expert

related articles