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Is machine translation worth the cost?

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In recent years there’s been a move by some translation companies to reduce or even eliminate the use of human translators on translations projects. Rather than trust their clients carefully crafted text to professional translators, they feed them in to machine translation software such as Google translate.

Global Lingo doesn’t think this is a good idea for the quality of the client’s translations and for the good of the industry.

A guarantee of translation quality

Since we opened our doors in 2006, we’ve always ensured that we use only the highest quality professional translators, proofreaders, editors and linguists. Global Lingo will continue to provide translation this way.

Machine translation cutting quality as well as cost

Machine translation clearly cuts costs for the translation agency, they’re not paying a translator for their work. But does the client get any benefit from this practice?

Well, the client also saves money on the initial cost of translation.

However, the translation hasn’t been carried out with any reference to the context of the original document: The tone of voice, where it’ll be used, by whom, any technical terms used in the document etc.

So the chances of it being an accurate translation, able to be read and understood, are greatly reduced.

Poor translation will cost money and potentially business

This could result in costly re-translation at the most basic level. A more serious consequence could be bad PR and a loss of business.

Quality is paramount

This raises the issue of quality. A big issue for buyers of translation services is that they aren’t the end users of the documents and may not be able to read the translations they have had created. So how can they gauge the quality of the translation?

  • If your customers read a bad translation, how many of them will feel the need to let you know and give you the opportunity to rectify the situation?
  • How many of them will just move and contact your competitors instead?

A good agency is able to help ensure this doesn’t happen by selecting linguists who have experience of the subject matter of the original document, they’ll source test translations so that the client can assess which supplier captures the tone correctly.

Good agencies will also request any existing glossaries, style guides and previously translated material.

Proofreading for all translations

Proofreading will also be offered. Translation is a human process, so a second pair of eyes is always vital especially if the translation is to be published. Its good practice for any communication to be proofread before it’s finally signed off, so why would translations be any different?

What all these processes have in common is that they all involve humans. Sure technology is used, this isn’t the dark ages. Software, such as translation memory, is there as an aid to the linguist not to produce the work.

Translation is a human process

Communication has always been a human process regardless of the technology used to convey information, from stone tablets to the iPad, it’s always been people who communicate and until the famous Turing Test is passed by a computer it will stay that way. So for that reason you can be sure that all the translations Global Lingo supply will be by humans not machines.

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